Since I last wrote to you, some positive things have occurred: I was charged with carrying 2219 which is a bill that supports the Community Action Energy Conservation program through a grant. They insulate homes for lower income people across the state and have been doing that since 2001. This action helps keep people in their homes and promotes a stable workforce. Greg Beck, a former student of mine at MayPort CG, has worked at this for years out of Dickinson, I believe. He and about 60 others who perform this service were delighted that we were able to move this legislation forward, but it still needs to get through the House. There was some discussion about making the money to fund this into zero percent loans that poor people could then pay back, but their income status keeps them from having any money left over at the end of the month, so the grant stayed in place.
We also were able to move Pre-Kindergarten legislation yesterday. Bill 2229 supports the idea of giving schools the ability to set up a pilot program for our 4 year olds to help them get ready for Kindergarten. My wife teaches Kindergarten and has all too many children show up who have not been read to or taught to hold a pencil or color crayon. Some cannot handle bathroom duties. This is not a good situation when the new national set of academic expectations called Common Core is pushing down demands all the way to our 5 year olds. Many children are simply not ready to match these new benchmarks and some argue that they are not developmentally appropriate. At any rate, the statistics overwhelmingly favor children who have spent some time in Early Childhood. Our children need it to compete with people from other countries (they outperform us in academics partly because they start earlier), other USA citizens that offer this service, not to mention our fellow North Dakotans – there are at least 47 school districts whose parents have demanded this. We just okayed $912 million for our state corrections system (well-run by a Hillsboro native, by the way). Almost a billion dollars for a state of less than 700,000 people. Programs like Pre-K and Headstart have a direct impact on school success that cuts down on the pipeline to prison and I know which part of that equation I would rather spend money on.
Congratulations to the locked out workers on the ND Supreme Court ruling. Unfortunately, I am afraid our legislature will pass a law that will clearly deny any unemployment compensation. To me, this is what should have happened – use the fund that the company pays into for unemployment instead of workers needing to go to our Social Services and depleting those funds. The majority party may even amend my bill -which will be heard today- to flip it on its head and turn it into a weapon to strip workers of their unemployment. I have asked them not to do that because, while legal, it is unethical to pervert an effort to help workers receive compensation. The majority party can do what they wish in others ways that are not disingenuous, but we will know by the time you read this. It is perfectly legal to slap your neighbor on the back and leave a “Kick me” sign there, but it is not the way to behave, and I hope that it does not go down that way.