Week 12 Legislative Report, Senator Murphy
Who do you trust? Is it your seed or fertilizer vendor or used car salesman? Your significant other? We all learn hard lessons in life concerning the people in whom we choose to confide, love or spend our money with. When I was first selected from the eight applicants for the Senate back in 2010, the retiring Senator, Elroy Lindaas, came to visit me to discuss what my new job entailed. One of the strongest memories of that conversation was the about lobbyists. He explained that they are necessary and very helpful as well as professionally friendly. And that he trusted some but not others. When pressed for details, he said something to the effect that I would have to find that out on my own. Of course, he was right about that. An election and a few sessions later, I feel like it might be fun to compare notes with him. What a citizen can hardly understand without serving out here is how important lobbyists are. They are hired by clients to put the best shine possible on their position and with hundreds of issues in play, could easily mislead or fool while making their case. Their association warns against that type of behavior, but the temptations have to be powerful. There are a couple things working to keep them honest: One is that the other side’s lobbyist is going to reveal what might be false or disingenuous. Another is that if a legislator feels betrayed, the lobbyist that foisted a falsehood upon the lawmaker has a deep hole to climb out of if they wish to have influence again. However, lobbyists in our state are intrinsic to keeping legislators in the game, not only by keeping them informed, but also by helping to fund their increasingly expensive campaigns. They represent interest groups that donate to caucus fundraisers as well as to individual legislators when they are up for election. I find the interaction with them to be fascinating – a tremendously insightful window into human behavior which has an equally intriguing component found in the actions and motivations of my fellow legislators.
The latest report from Moody’s Analytics came out looking down a bit from the January forecast. That gives any legislator looking to say no to an interest searching for money an excuse. All the old-timers around here say it was a lot easier back in the day when the state had no money, though I doubt they would like to go back to that. Because of the new extreme volatility in revenue, it makes sense to me that we should put some sort of triggers on big spending bills so that if the level of money coming in rises, it automatically is placed into amounts building towards those in the Governor’s budget. That budget was formulated when oil prices were holding fairly steady between $90 and $110 per barrel or so. Today West Texas Crude, our benchmark here in ND, is about $48.