I woke up last night thinking of how to explain what goes on in the ND Capitol during the legislative session. Not that you growers are lacking in intelligence in any way, but one does need to be there for a while to grasp the nature of that whirlwind. Starting out these first two weeks in January as another set of eyes for your benefit leads me to say that it is certainly different than my last six years in the Senate. Your Legislative Director, Scott Rising, does try to be just about everywhere to try to figure out what impact bills might have on our producers should they become law. Both of us are aware of how unintended and sometimes unforeseen consequences can become chaotic reality. In one of my first two blogs I mentioned how he divines meaning in many bills that would not seem at first glance to be impactful. Finally he said to me last week “What does the Legislature do that is not of consequence to our members? They are citizens.” Okay then.
Anyway, it occurred to me that one way to think about this process is like the old saw about not seeing the forest for the trees, and even vice versa. If one thinks of individual bills as trees, it is very simple to get hung up studying that tree as in the case of HB1126 which deals in big changes with the PSC and elevators. That tree has a lot of branches; one for insolvency – which leads to many other smaller branches, then another for inspection, another for bonding, etc. And how much of the tree is out of view in the root system, so to speak? That seems analogous to the unintended consequences that could occur. With over 500 bills being dropped by the ninth legislative day and probably a few hundred more to come soon, it is also possible to see only the forest – to be overwhelmed by all the trees and not be able to focus properly.
While in the Senate, I focused on my priorities, accepting or rejecting the opportunity to work on various bills brought to me in a deluge of people and policy. In this job, I have to try to sort through that same forest with Scott as we spend time going over each one when we can get together, deciding who goes to which committee and what to look for. The lobbyists can advocate, whereas Scott and I try to look at all sides and talk to people about what could be good and bad, to ask the questions, attempting not to take a position but to make all interests aware.