Representative Dan Ruby Not A Fan of Sub-Districts
“I can support the re-districting bill, even though I don’t like everything about it, but I can accept it. But I won’t support it with the sub-districts,” said Representative Dan Ruby (R-Dis. 38, Minot) in a recent interview with The Dakotan. Now Rep. Ruby is unsure of the path of the re-districting bill because of the special session called by Governor Burgum on Oct. 29.
Originally, if the legislature had needed to use their 4 remaining days from the 2021 session, if they were to pass the re-districting bill, it wouldn’t go into effect for 90 days, according to Ruby, “unless we put an emergency clause on it so it goes into effect when the Governor signs it, and that takes 2/3 vote.” At this time Rep. Ruby believes this would not happen. “So we’ve heard people say that it needs the emergency clause; otherwise it doesn’t go into effect until mid-February.”
Those who back the emergency clause for the re-districting bill think it important to give county auditors time to set up the precincts, and to give the local districts time to re-organize. Rep. Ruby responds, “A lot of the time the district meetings aren’t until late February or March anyway. There’s still plenty of time, there really isn’t any rush to do that. The counties know where the lines are going to be, so I think it was a bogus argument.”
“As far as sub-districts, you either do it for all, or do it for none. I don’t see the sense of it.”Rep. Dan Ruby, R-Dis. 38, Minot
But that all changes when the legislature is called into a special session. “They just put an effective date on [the re-districting plan], and it goes into effect on that date,” says Ruby. “It looks like they might be using a special session to get around that 2/3 vote, but in reality, there are probably enough people on board to pass the bill with or without the sub-districts.”
Ruby is hoping there is a chance to divide the bill and remove the sub-districts. “As far as sub-districts, you either do it for all or do it for none.” Ruby points out that it does change things in a district with one representative being assigned to each sub-district. “I don’t see the sense of it, I don’t see how that is important. I don’t think it guarantees that they are going to have Native Americans represent them in the legislature, if that is their goal,” according to Rep. Ruby.
“We have until 2024 to spend [ARPA] funds, and the authorization of those funds could instead be taken up in the 2023 session.”Rep. Ruby
Rep. Ruby added that the governor indeed wants to spend all the ARPA (American Rescue Plan Act) money, “but there is an additional $413 million that the governor wants to spend, too, with at least half of that amount going to tax relief in 2021 and 2022.” And there is a plan for the rest of the excess funds to be used. “Yeah, they’re definitely going to spend it all down, and put it to work, as they say” adds Ruby. “We have until 2024 to spend those funds, and the authorization of those funds could instead be taken up in the 2023 session.”
The special session, in Rep. Ruby’s opinion, will allow things to be slowed down so legislators can look at some of the line items “and ask just what is included in that allocation.” As an example, Rep. Ruby says he thought the 2021 legislature funded the Peace Garden the way it was expected, but he noted there is a line item of an additional $3 million to the Peace Gardens for capital project. “What do they need now that they didn’t get before?” questions Ruby. “What’s necessary in those that we didn’t take care of last time?”
“How many toes are we stepping on with taxpayer dollars?”Rep. Ruby
Representative Ruby is not opposed to spending money on infrastructure but notes there are some consequences attached. “One of the projects, and it looks to be gaining momentum, is a natural gas pipeline for cities that do not have access to natural gas right now.” Ruby continues, “But this is government money, and what effect does supplying natural gas have on the propane dealers in those cities who may have built all of their supply chain with their own private dollars? So you have to wonder if we are giving an advantage to one or the other? How many toes are we stepping on with taxpayer dollars?”
“If we pass a bill and [Gov. Burgum] ends the special session, he will still have time to veto the bill, and we won’t have time to override it. Then what happens?”Rep. Ruby
“Once we’re in special session, it can go as long as it takes,” according to Ruby. “I don’t understand why they needed a special session. We come in, both [chambers] gavel in and we count it as one day. But if we come in and neither side gavels in and we go to committee, it’s not counted as a legislative day. We’ve done that several times during the regular session.”
And there are even more questions. “If we pass a bill and [Gov. Burgum] ends the special session, he will still have time to veto the bill, and we won’t have time to override it. Then what happens?” asks Ruby. “Potentially could we call ourselves back into session with one of our days?” Rep. Ruby didn’t know the answer to that question.
“Separation of powers would suggest legislative business cannot be limited by any other branch of government.”Rep. Corey Mock, D-Dis. 18, Grand Forks
Other legislators feel that the executive order might limit the ability to hear delayed bills, including the controversial vaccine and mask mandate bills that are destined for the special session. Rep. Corey Mock (D-Dis. 18, Grand Forks) says, “The [Executive Order] is limiting and could be argued that anything else passed would be unconstitutional.” But Mock doesn’t really agree with that argument. “Separation of powers would suggest legislative business cannot be limited by any other branch of government. There is no legal precedent in ND to make it a clear answer.” Mock continues, “It would take a lawsuit to challenge our authority to consider any bills during the session.”
Bob Paulson (R-Dis. 3, Minot) ultimately shares the same perspective. “If the governor calls us in, we’re in.” Regarding delayed bills, and specifically his bill dealing with vaccine mandates, Paulson added, “Given the vaccine mandates, we need to ensure the liberty of North Dakotans to be able to choose what they do and don’t put in their bodies. That should be equal in priority to spending their money. [The vaccine mandate] issue needs to be addressed, however we address it, whether it’s my bill or not. We want to come up with the best solution we can to protect North Dakotans.”