I'm not sure why HB 1505—the Legislator's Lunch Money Bill—failed so spectacularly in the North Dakota House last week. In a Legislature where arrogance and obliviousness are commonplace, this 6-85 vote indicated actual self-awareness. I couldn't be more stunned if scientists discovered that raspberry Jell-O is sentient.
After all, our lawmakers regularly concoct bills so out of touch, the sentence, “Hold my beer”, has to be involved. For example, this session has produced a bill to legalize drunken horseback riding and another to exempt folks from having to put license plates on the front bumpers of $100,000 sports cars. Pressing issues, indeed. While we're at it, let's toss in some unconstitutional abortion and Bible bills and hold the line against LGBTQ rights. (Why are Republicans so opposed to consonants?)
The bipartisan Lunch Money Bill was a reaction to Measure 1—the Ethics Bill—which has some legislators caterwauling like mournful puppies abruptly weaned from the Oil Industry teat. No more Buffalo wing buffets, Beanie Weenie futures are down, and as palatable as ethics may sound, they have no nutritional value. The upside is, the scarcity of free drinks may have resulted in enough clarity for lawmakers to realize that the timing and optics of the bill were awful.
In the long run, though, we should be talking about legislator compensation, because most people can't afford to serve. You have to be rich, retired, or both. That's why the Legislature looks like a bus from the nursing home crashed into the yacht club. It's surprising we don't see more bills involving prostates.
Folks with lake homes can't relate to the paycheck-to-paycheck challenges today's families face. Most breadwinners simply can't stop working for a three-month stretch, so you get what we've got—statewide and nationally—affluent lawmakers dealing with rich guy problems like estate taxes and making sure their Maseratis are aerodynamically sound.
Now, Howard Schultz, the billionaire barista, may throw his hat into the ring—and a wrench into the works. Sigh. We've long ago learned IQ points aren't awarded by the million. For the record, I don't oppose wealth, I simply encourage its responsible use. In fact, I'm currently negotiating a compensation package with the Lord Almighty. If she makes me a billionaire, I'll promise not to run for president.
That would leave loopholes, however. With enough cash and an R behind my name, I could buy statewide office, and then things would change. If I were elected governor, the first thing I would do is switch the whole state over to Apple computers. Trust me, Al Jaeger ain't gonna know the difference. And there would be no grandstanding. I'd use my paycheck to fund an animal rescue ranch in Wing, N.D., so wingless chickens could live out their lives in quiet dignity. And after they die (of natural causes), I'd turn them into McNuggets to feed starving legislators. I'd totally reinvent chicken.
In Congress, 51 percent are millionaires. Is that how it's supposed to work? Government by the rich for the rich? Meanwhile, Republicans mocked Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez for being too broke to afford an apartment. Elitist much? She's the economic norm. Washington is expensive, and $174,000 doesn't go that far. Kevin Cramer famously slept in his office and hired family members to make ends meet. But that's better than those who magically become multi-millionaires while holding office. That said, I won't support Cramer's reelection, because if he becomes a multi-millionaire, it will indicate corruption. If he doesn't, it means he's inept.
Let's make our representative government truly representative with real people from the real world. End this system of legalized bribery. Pay citizen lawmakers a living wage. Enact term limits.
And let's get rid of front license plates altogether.