ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

Port: Why did Sen. Ray Holmberg choose June 1 to resign?

There aren't any political implications for that date. Could it have to do with his state benefits?

rayholmberg.png
State Sen. Ray Holmberg, R-Grand Forks.
Kari Suedel / Energy and Environmental Research Center
We are part of The Trust Project.

MINOT, N.D. — Sen. Ray Holmberg announced on Monday, April 25, that he would be resigning from the state Senate.

He had already announced, months before, that he wasn't running for re-election this year, but after headlines about dozens of text messages he exchanged with a man jailed on child pornography charges, and the surfacing of a 2020 accusation of sexual assault, Holmberg said he was stepping down sooner to "lessen such distractions" for his legislative colleagues.

The timing of the resignation, though, was curious. "I shall resign my Senate seat effective June 1, 2022," he wrote in the emailed release announcing the news.

Why June 1? Holmberg said he doesn't want to be a distraction, and assuming that's true, why not resign right away?

If you're a distraction, why continue to be a distraction for another 37 days?

ADVERTISEMENT

There don't seem to be any political advantages for delaying.

In the release, Holmberg went on to note that this date "will give District #17 leaders enough time to go through the process and select a replacement." That's certainly true.

Under state law , legislative vacancies that occur more than 94 days before election day are filled by the local political party committee. June 1 is still 160 days out from the Nov. 8 election, leaving the NDGOP's District 17 committee plenty of time to name Holmberg's replacement.
They won't even have to deliberate. The D17 NDGOP has already endorsed Jonathan Sickler to run for the seat Holmberg will be resigning. He's currently running unopposed in the June primary.

They'll undoubtedly appoint him as Holmberg's replacement, at which point he'll be running for election to a full term in November.

But none of that explains why Holmberg would have chosen June 1.

Another reason could have to do with the benefits he receives as a lawmaker. In addition to a salary, lawmakers receive other benefits, the most lucrative of them being the same state health insurance policy North Dakota's public workers enjoy, which the state pays 100% of the bill for.

I spoke with Scott Miller, the director of the Public Employee Retirement System, the state agency which oversees public worker benefits. He can't speak to any person's specific situation, because of privacy policies, but said that when a state employee or lawmaker retires, their health benefits continue until the end of the following month.

MORE FROM ROB PORT
I'm just not seeing a constituency of North Dakota voters that Mund could appeal to that's large enough to lead her to victory. But, again, that's assuming that she's running to win, and not as a way to keep her celebrity alive post-Miss America.

Applying that policy to Holmberg's situation, by resigning on June 1, he would receive his health benefits until July 31.

ADVERTISEMENT

Had he resigned a day earlier, on May 31, he would have received them until only June 30.

Had he resigned immediately, his enrollment in the state's health benefits would have ended on May 31.

Lawmakers do have other benefits available to them through the state, though they're not nearly as lucrative as the health insurance.

Lawmakers cannot participate in the pension plans available to state employees, but they can participate in a deferred compensation program, flex plans for child care and health care and a life insurance program; dental/vision benefits are entirely paid for by the employees/lawmakers.

Miller couldn't comment on which of these optional programs, if any, Holmberg participates in.

Opinion by Rob Port
Rob Port is a news reporter, columnist, and podcast host for the Forum News Service. He has an extensive background in investigations and public records. He has covered political events in North Dakota and the upper Midwest for two decades. Reach him at rport@forumcomm.com. Click here to subscribe to his Plain Talk podcast.
What to read next
Something somewhat similar happened in North Dakota in 2014.
"A Texas jury ordered Alex Jones to pay $49.3 million for pain, suffering, and punitive damages for relentlessly smearing grieving Sandy Hook families as hoaxers. ... What kind of soulless cretin instigates that kind of trauma on already traumatized people?"
Well, as everyone knows, summer seems so fleeting here around Grand Forks. We love it. We hate to leave it behind.
Frustrated by the inability of the present two-party system to function, more folks are talking about the creation of a third party, thinking that would break the deadlock in Washington.