WEEKENDERS VII

EARL WAS BACK, AND HE WON
Earl Strinden saved his best for last. Twelve years after closing out a 25-year career in the North Dakota Legislature, Strinden earned what is possibly, for him personally, his biggest legislative victory ever. He saved the Fighting Sioux. For the time being, at least, the Fighting Sioux will live to fight another day.

Operating mostly behind the scenes from Grand Forks, but making his grand appearances in Bismarck when needed, Strinden oversaw the effort to pass Legislation forbidding UND from dropping the Fighting Sioux nickname and logo, setting the stage for the next rounds of confusion, threats, lawsuits, whining and chaos in the seemingly never-ending saga of the University of North Dakota versus the National Collegiate Athletic Association.

The votes in the Legislature weren’t even close. Most Republicans voted for the bill. Don’t ask me why. The influence of Strinden? Perhaps. Most Democrats opposed it. Democrats are generally more sympathetic to the argument that a race of people should not be used as a symbol for athletic teams, or anything else, for that matter.

Interestingly, the most vocal opponent in the Senate was Strinden’s longtime Legislative leadership partner, Senator David Nething. It wasn’t often that the two floor leaders, during the 1970′s and 1980′s, disagreed. That’s how the Legislature got things done. Each could generally deliver their respective caucuses’ votes at the end of the session. Major decisions were made in meetings between the two in one or the other’s offices and taken to the caucuses for confirmation.

This year, through, the two parted company. Nething went so far as to take the unusual step of having his remarks printed in the Senate Journal, the only Legislator to do so. Nething, an attorney, concluded that the legislation violated both the state and federal constitution.

So, once again, after an all-too-long absence, Earl Strinden and David Nething provided one more good bit of theater in the North Dakota Legislature. Thanks to both of you.

PARTY AT THE RALPH
Speaking of UND, we learned from the Grand Forks Herald that the Ralph Engelstad Arena announced it will hold a free viewing party Sunday at the Arena if UND’s hockey team advances to the NCAA Regional Championship game. Parking and Arena admission free, discounts at the Arena merchandise store, $3 beer and hot dogs. Drawings for big door prizes. Pretty good party. Could draw hundreds. Thousands, maybe. Wonder how all the Grand Forks and East Grand Forks bar owners feel about that?

PARTY AT APPLEBEE’S
Speaking of bars, the North Dakota Senate defeated the bill this week that would have allowed minors to eat in bars. Supporters argued that there are some small towns that only have one place to eat, and it would be nice if mom and dad could take the kids out for burgers or brats once in a while. So now the people in the small towns will just go on doing what they’ve always done–take the kids out for burgers or brats once in a while. They might look over their shoulders a little more often, but common sense that did not prevail in the North Dakota Legislature will continue to prevail in our small towns. Meanwhile, Sen. Margaret Sitte, R-Bismarck opposed the idea due to the issues it would cause for law enforcement and what the exposure would mean for minors. Hey, Margaret, ever been to Applebee’s?

HYPOCRISY?
Speaking of Margaret, she had a memorable quote last week, saying that anti-bullying legislation was a “nanny-state run amok.” That from the woman who introduced the bill requiring married couples considering divorce to undergo mandatory counseling and wait a year before divorcing. Sheesh.

PARTY IN DENMARK

A whole bunch of Legislators and state officials took a trip recently to Denmark to look at a cellulosic ethanol plant. The Forum reported the trip cost the taxpayers a grand total of $10,400. Whooooeeee. I’ve got lobbyist friends who spend that much on a weekend right here in the good old U.S. of A. Turns out much of the tab was paid for by the people who want to build a cellulosic ethanol plant here. I’d be more comfortable if the state had picked up the whole tab. Just sayin’.

LACK OF DEATH PANELS DISAPPOINTING
Reg Henry is a columnist for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. One of his columns was reprinted recently in The Dickinson Press. Here are the first few sentences: “Wednesday marked the one-year anniversary of President Barack Obama signing the Affordable Care Act, if you support it — or ObamaCare, if you don’t. As one who supports the law but is disappointed in one aspect, I have a question: So where are the death panels already? No death panels are in sight, and some of us are dying to see them implemented. It just goes to show that Big Government can’t organize a booze-up in a brewery. What a disappointment. Sarah Palin promised they would come — on moose’s honor! — so I made a list of several pesky people I planned to refer to the local death panel when socialism was allegedly introduced. OK, I didn’t really wish to see those irritating people deceased; I just wanted them wrapped in red tape and tickled with an old-fashioned feather duster of the sort kept in government departments. This is harsh in its own way, yes, but sulking hasn’t worked on these people.”

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