MINOT, N.D. — Folks, we may have a winner for the dumbest bill to be considered during North Dakota's 2021 legislative session.
And I say that having written, just yesterday, about a bill which wouldn't let North Dakota's governor say which candidates he likes in a given race.
Rep. Rick Becker, founder of the secretive Bastiat Caucus and anti-masking zealot, has introduced House Bill 1260. If passed, this bit of legislative doggerel would deny public officials their pay if "any action, executive order, mandate, or other legal action is imposed which temporarily requires reduced hours of business, reduced capacity of patrons, or closure of any business, or which is reasonably likely to cause reduced business or reduced income to the business."
Not just elected officials, either. The text of Becker's bill could also deny people like city managers, county administrators, and emergency response officials their pay during an emergency.
For months, during the COVID-19 pandemic, North Dakota and its various political subdivisions have had varying levels of restrictions on business activities. We've had everything ranging from a near-total lockdown to relatively light restrictions on the number of patrons who can be in a business, or when a business can be open.
Becker's bill, had it been in place over the last year, would mean that every statewide elected official (including people such as the auditor and the attorney general), not to mention nonelected people who head agencies such as the Department of Health and the Department of Transportation, would have been expected to work without pay.
Or they could resign, I guess, though who would replace them?
Who among you would be willing to take on that sort of job, with all of its responsibilities and scrutiny, for free? Why would anyone take those jobs knowing that, in some emergent situation demanding a curfew or other restrictions, they may lose their paycheck?
It's one thing to question the policies put in place to try and control the virus. I think we've all struggled with that one. On one hand, the virus has been terrible and has hurt a lot of people (including me).
On the other hand, business restrictions hurt people too. How many North Dakotans have lost their businesses in the last year? How many of their employees have lost their jobs?
The balance isn't an easy one, and I don't begrudge anyone their good-faith criticism of the decisions Gov. Doug Burgum and others have made.
Becker's bill, though, is senseless. Less policymaking than a stunt by an elected official who, in recent years, seem to care more about his status as a political celebrity than his duty to serve the public.
This bill might make a good topic for Becker's new television show, something he can preen about in front of whatever audience he's managed to attract so far, but it should be a nonstarter even for people who think the business restrictions of the last year may have gone too far.
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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.