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Jim Shaw: Lawmakers get just two 'A' grades

Well, North Dakota lawmakers have wrapped up their session, which means it's time to grade their performance ... Taxes and Spending: When oil prices collapsed, the lawmakers reacted responsibly. Yes, that meant funding for important projects had ...

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Well, North Dakota lawmakers have wrapped up their session, which means it’s time to grade their performance …

  • Taxes and Spending: When oil prices collapsed, the lawmakers reacted responsibly. Yes, that meant funding for important projects had to be slashed. 

Changes in the oil taxes are a gamble, and unlikely to lead to increased production. The biggest factor in production is the price of oil. Good to see reductions in property taxes, but was hoping it would be more. Cutting the already low income and corporate tax rates was unnecessary. The state would have been better served with that $123 million going toward infrastructure or education, or further reducing property taxes. The legislators approved reasonable and affordable spending increases. Most importantly, the lawmakers have left the state in good fiscal shape without raising taxes. Grade: B.

  • Health and Public Safety: Never seems to be a priority for the lawmakers, and this session was no different. Studying railroad safety, medical marijuana, raising the very low cigarette tax to discourage smoking, and increasing the lowest speeding fines in the nation all suffered major defeats. The Legislature also failed to address mental health needs, the increasing problem of distracted driving, and the high fatality rate of drivers and passengers not wearing seat belts. At least they passed bills requiring doctors to notify patients when a mammogram detects dense breast tissue and allowing patients to try experimental drugs not approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Grade: C-.
  • Civics: Love the new law that mandates high school students pass a test on how our government works, or they don’t graduate. Grade: A.

Pre-kindergarten: The state will provide up to $3 million in grants to low-income children in pre-kindergarten programs. A good start. Grade: B+.

  • Equality: There’s simply no excuse to allow gays and lesbians to be discriminated against when it comes to housing and employment. Despite many homosexuals testifying about their horror stories, lawmakers said the law is not needed and homosexuals are already protected. They’re not. Grade: F.
  • Distractions: The lawmakers have learned their lessons that issues such as the University of North Dakota nickname and “personhood” are quicksand. This time, they wisely stayed away from them. Grade: A.
  • Ethics: The Legislature has a huge problem here, and seems to have its collective heads in the sand. The bar needs to be high when it comes to elected officials. The lawmakers badly need some rules when it comes to keeping campaign contributions for personal use, receiving contributions from foreign countries, free meals, free trips, sending sexually explicit pictures, and dealing with their colleagues who break the law. The legislators seem to like the current system because it benefits them, but that system flunks the smell test. At least lawmakers can no longer be anonymous when seeking public records. Grade: D-.

Shaw, Fargo, is former WDAY TV reporter and former KVRR TV news director. He can be heard Fridays, 10 to 11 a.m. on WDAY AM radio. Email jimshawtv@gmail.com

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