MINOT, N.D. — Rep. Rick Becker, a Bismarck-area Republican lawmaker and founder of the controversial Bastiat Caucus, is angry at Gov. Doug Burgum.
Burgum organized a largely successful political campaign to defeat Bastiat-aligned lawmakers in the Republican primaries earlier this year, something Becker described to me, with a tone falling short of eloquence, as "crap."
As retribution, Becker attempted to organize a write-in campaign for fringe gubernatorial candidate Michael Coachman, a very nice man, by all accounts, whose earnest though not vigorously prosecuted campaigns are frequently a pawn in misguided attempts to manipulate electoral outcomes.
The effort belly-flopped, and Burgum won big. His election-day margin was smaller than the vote share he enjoyed when first elected in 2016, but about typical for statewide Republican candidates.
After that uninspiring episode of political impotence, an undeterred Becker is apparently on to his next project, which is a resolution aiming to strip Governor Doug Burgum and his administration of the emergency powers invoked in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Becker has been touting the resolution to his Republican colleagues in the Legislature, though he hasn't shared a copy of it with many lest a certain "blogger in Minot get his hands on it," as one lawmaker told me.
This Minot-based blogger did get a copy of the text, which you can read below, and while the impulse behind the proposal is not without merit, the details are atrociously misguided.
As I wrote in a recent column, we invoked emergency powers for our executive leaders in local, state, and national government back when the COVID-19 outbreak was an emergent situation. But the virus has been with us for months now. The decisions being made have life-altering ramifications that go far beyond the confines of public health. It's time to start making those choices through our normal political processes, with all of its debate and scrutiny.
But Becker isn't promoting that sort of rational shift in pandemic-era policymaking.
He's out for blood.
The lengthy text of the resolution (see below), which I obtained from multiple legislative sources, seeks to "prevent further harm to the State of North Dakota and its great Citizens," a situation which is supposedly so dire it calls on lawmakers to "install interim leadership and protocols" until the resolution can be implemented.
I'm told Becker's plan would be for the Legislature to call itself back into session — they have four session days of the 80 days allotted by the state constitution for this two-year cycle — and pass his resolution.
What would it implement?
Among many other initiatives, it would replace Governor Doug Burgum's leadership with "an interim 5 member board of representatives" made up of two Republicans and two Democrats from the Legislature with an appointment from the state's judiciary serving as chairperson.
This "Council" (that's how the resolution refers to it) would then create an "Independent Review Board" made up of North Dakota health practitioners who would, among other things, "Temporarily replace the North Dakota Department of Health, as well as the North Dakota Department of Human Services until internal investigations can be completed."
That's a lot of new bureaucracy to be proposed by someone like Becker who fancies himself a promoter of limited government.
The resolution calls for an "immediate disbanding of all COVID-19 related Task Forces."
It would "immediately end all mass COVID-19 testing" and "end immediately all contact tracing."
The resolution would have the state government stop telling people to wear masks or get a vaccination, demanding an end to "all advertisement campaigns statewide across all platforms of media, regarding masking or vaccination."
It would also have North Dakota "immediately withdraw from the national vaccination programs for COVID-19" even as multiple pharmaceutical companies have announced breakthrough vaccines with effectiveness rates over 90 percent.
The resolution would, "immediately remove all existing mandates, quarantine orders or guidelines throughout the State implemented through proclamation or Executive Order or Order from the State Health Officer, and take in good faith that the citizens of North Dakota will rise to the occasion and be allowed to truly take Personal Responsibility for themselves regarding not only their choice of usage of PPE, but to retain their personal choice regarding vaccination and use of biologic agents."
The resolution doesn't just seek to stop these things in the here and now. It would require this new Council "to hire a panel of no less than three Constitutional Lawyers from different firms, to thoroughly review the North Dakota Century Code and Administrative Code, to ensure that the conditions created within the current North Dakota State of Emergency can never be enacted again, for the protection of all Citizens of North Dakota."
The proposal seems like a non-starter.
For one, Becker doesn't have the political sway to get this done. His Bastiat Caucus is more known for embarrassing antics on Facebook, including a recent threat of physical violence, than any meaningful policy accomplishments.
For another, even if Becker got this resolution through the House, there are enormous constitutional issues here. He is proposing the appointment of lawmakers to wield executive branch authority during the pandemic. I'm pretty sure the courts aren't going to go for that.
The Legislature can't just unilaterally replace the governor.
There is plenty of consternation with Burgum among the ranks of the Legislature these days, but if Becker thinks those attitudes are going to translate into widespread support for his bandwagon of revenge, I think he's in for another disappointment.
I attempted to contact Becker multiple times via telephone and text message, but he did not respond to my inquiries.
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Rob Port, founder of SayAnythingBlog.com, is a Forum Communications commentator. Reach him on Twitter at @robport or via email at email@example.com.