MINOT, N.D. — A group of North Dakota lawmakers have sent Gov. Doug Burgum a letter asking him to rescind certain executive orders related to quarantines and other restrictions issued in response to the COVID-19 outbreak.
"While recognizing Executive Branch authority to act in the time of a bona fire emergency within the bounds of the North Dakota Century Code, the North Dakota Constitution, and the United States Constitution, as members of the Legislative Branch, we are concerned primarily with protecting our state citizens' rights to life, liberty, and property," the letter reads. "As you have said, the state of North Dakota is at less than 1% of hospital capacity. The stable and low number of new COVID-19 cases per day in the state as reported by the ND Department of Health underscores this fact, and removes any perceived need to continue select executive orders."
Here's the full text, which was provided to me by Rep. Luke Simons, R-Dickinson, who is also one of the signatories:
The letter goes on to ask Burgum to rescind, or at least allow expire, the following executive orders:
- 2020-14 - This is related to the state health officer's ability to order quarantines
- 2020-21 - This is an order for self-quarantines for people who test positive for COVID-19 and their friends/family
- 2020-21.1 - This is an extended order for self-quarantines
- 2020-06 - This is the order closing the state's bars, restaurants, and other businesses
- 2020-06.1 - This is an expanded order closing more businesses like salons and tattoo parlors
- 2020-06.2 - This is a renewal and expansion of the previous orders closing businesses
"It is imperative that North Dakota businesses be allowed to open their doors while encouraging them to implement safeguards to protect their employees, customers, and themselves," the letter continues. "Failure to do so will likely result in man more businesses closing their doors and people losing their jobs."
I understand what's motivating this letter. The shutdowns ordered here in North Dakota, and elsewhere across the nation and the world, are causing real economic harm. There's no doubt about that.
But the problem with citing North Dakota's relatively low rates of infections from the COVID-19 virus is that we may very well be enjoying those low rates because of the very restrictions these lawmakers want lifted.
What if we lift these restrictions and we see a big breakout in infections? Something that would harm a lot of people, in terms of health, and also likely prompt a return of restrictions that would be much more severe than what we see now.
We're all hurting from this shutdown. It's terrible. It should end just as soon as it can end.
I'm just not sure that time is now, though I'm happy these lawmakers — all members of the conservative Bastiat Caucus in the Legislature — are willing to engage in that debate.
The lawmakers who signed the letter are:
- Rep. Dan Ruby (R-District 38)
- Rep Larry Bellew (R-District 38)
- Rep. Rick Becker (R-District 7)
- Rep. Tom Kading (R-District 45)
- Rep. Luke Simons (R-District 36)
- Rep. Aaron McWilliams (R-District 20)
- Rep. Bob Paulson (R-District 3)
- Rep. Jeff Hoverson (R-District 3)
- Rep. Sebastian Ertelt (R-District 26)
- Rep. Kathy Skroch (R-District 26)
- Rep. Jeff Magrum (R-District 28)
- Rep. Matthew Ruby (R-District 40)
- Rep. Nathan Toman (R-District 24)
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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 firstname.lastname@example.org.