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Tyler Axness: To improve life in N.D., elect more Democrats

Tyler Axness

FARGO—A lot of people have watched John Oliver's segment on North Dakota and our elected leader's lack of reasonable oversight regarding oil development. The show criticized our leaders' inadequate response and lax attitude towards changing realities.

Oliver urged North Dakotans to "be angry (please)" at state government's failure to properly address worker safety, environmental protection and unethical behavior.

Undoubtedly, there are North Dakotans who are angry about these issues. And that's their right. But better than being angry, North Dakotans should be active in holding their elected leaders accountable.

Take, for example, the 2015 legislative session. The makeup of that Legislature was 15 Democrats and 32 Republicans in the Senate and 23 Democrats and 71 Republicans in the House—2-to-1 Republican majorities. Solutions to some of the points Oliver made in his segment were offered by North Dakota Democrats:

▇ Rep. Corey Mock, D-Grand Forks, offered HCR 3060 to ask the voters of this state to vote on and create an Ethics Commission. That failed in the House, 25-68.

▇ Rep. Ben Hanson, D-West Fargo, sponsored HB 1253 to make it illegal for elected officials to use campaign donations for personal use. That failed in the House, 26-65.

▇ Sens. Mac Schneider and Connie Triplett, both Democrats of Grand Forks, introduced SB 2366 to separate the roles of promoter and regulator of the oil industry in the Department of Mineral Resources. That failed in the Senate, 15-32.

▇ I introduced SB 2342 that would make the elected officials of the Industrial Commission—the governor, agriculture commissioner and attorney general—publicly vote on fine reductions rather than avoiding responsibility and hiding behind an underling. That failed in the Senate, 17-30.

All of these sensible solutions were defeated almost entirely on party lines by the Republican supermajority.

Voters now are rightly questioning why these bills were defeated. What are elected officials hiding? Why are they scared of transparency? Were they putting politics over common sense simply because these bills were introduced by Democrats?

Regardless, North Dakotans deserve better than what they've received from Bismarck.

If Herald readers are going to "be angry (please)" as Oliver suggests, I urge them to direct that anger at those who refused to pass common-sense solutions. But anger alone won't address our state's challenges in a way that lives up to North Dakota's opportunities. Instead, we should take that anger and be active (please). Vote them out next November

Axness, a Democrat, represents Fargo in the North Dakota Senate.

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