MINOT, N.D. — Rep. Jeff Hoverson, a member of the Bastiat Caucus from Minot, has had exactly one legislative victory this session, and it came yesterday when the state House and Senate overrode Gov. Doug Burgum's veto of his bill banning statewide mask mandates.
I wonder how Hoverson's constituents in District 3 feel about their representative introducing 11 bills this session, and only two of them even made it past a House vote?
Does that sound like the resume of an effective policymaker who is serving his community well?
Hoverson's only accomplishment this session was House Bill 1323, the ban on state mask mandates.
Burgum was correct to veto the bill. As he explained to me on an episode of Plain Talk Live yesterday, the conservative position on masks is that they should be a tool available to help head off public health crises like the COVID-19 outbreak. If we turn resistance to masks into a partisan political cause, what do we accomplish? Other than to exacerbate public health impacts to the degree that they incur more costs for the government.
Since when are conservatives for bigger government?
"Sen. Oley Larsen, R-Minot, summed up the sentiment of many bill supporters, saying the state must power the bill into law to "protect the individual liberties of North Dakotans," Jeremy Turley reports, describing the floor debate on the veto override vote. "He noted that the restrictions and mandates imposed on them throughout the COVID-19 pandemic are an overreach by government."
Except, Hoverson's bill doesn't stop the government from issuing mask mandates. "A statewide elected official or the state health officer may not mandate an individual in this state use a face mask, face shield, or other face covering," his bill states.
Local elected officials, people like city and county officials, are still, thankfully, free to issue mask mandates. All the Legislature has done is spend a lot of time advancing a policy that only stops the statewide executive branch from issuing a mandate.
If you believe masks are an affront to freedom and liberty (they aren't), is the argument that they're less of an affront if it's a city commission or a school board that mandates them?
What a colossal waste of time and resources. But at least Sen. Larsen's largely incoherent ramblings about important concepts like liberty are a step or two up from his commentary on "snail trails."
Content warning: Once you've watched this protracted allusion to Meat Loaf by the chairman of the Bastiat Caucus, you'll have never not watched it.
We have to remember that for many lawmakers, generally, and the members of the Bastiat Caucus, specifically, making good policy isn't the point. They don't have constituents. They have audiences. They titillate those audiences with salacious political commentary and provocative, though often meaningless, political stunts.
The 15 members of the Bastiat Caucus I can identify in the House (remember, these paragons of civic virtue keep their membership in the caucus a secret) have introduced 123 bills this session and saw less than 22 percent of them passed.
A rough, back-of-the-envelope estimate of the cost of that enormous waste of time? About $861,000.
Yet these people posture themselves as the protectors of conservatism in the Legislature.
What a joke.
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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.