Have you ever had a moment in time you wish you had back? I know I have more than once in my life.
Last Thursday found me at exactly one of those points in time during the debate on SB 2279, the anti-discrimination bill for sexual orientation. The bill in its entirety would have provided protections for employment, housing, credit transactions, jury duty and public accommodations.
There had been an amendment presented in committee that would have pulled public accommodations from the bill. I railed against this amendment and was successful in getting the committee to agree that the state is really in no position to start picking and choosing when it is okay to discriminate. As a matter of policy, the state can remain silent and essentially promote a climate of “don’t ask, don’t tell,” or it can provide a pathway to accountability for discrimination cases – but picking and choosing is inconsistent at best and a damaging precedent at worst.
Because the amendment was defeated, the bill arrived on the floor in its entirety. However, the Minority Leader elected to divide the bill to see if employment and housing had a chance of passage on the floor. So, my moment of regret came from this parliamentary process.
While Division A, related solely to public accommodations, was being debated, I had it firmly in my head we were debating whether to divide the question at all – a move I was not in favor of. Clearly, a case of not “seeing the forest for the trees.” I had been so focused on the floor debate that I had failed to see the bigger picture of where we were in the process. I realized my mistake within seconds of the key closing for the vote on Division A, but alas, by then it was too late.
This bill was so important; I felt it necessary to clarify why this had occurred. While I’m proud of the fact I was able to be a strong advocate in committee and floor actions, this thorn is a tough one.
In other works at the Capitol, we continue to plow through innumerable bills. Public hearings and committee actions are completed, and as the final days move forward, we find ourselves involved in various conference committees, where we work to arrive at consensus with the Senate on bills we disagree with. In addition, Appropriations Committees are busy slicing and dicing the myriad policy bills sent their way. The struggle to keep funding for essential programs will be intense.
In the next few weeks I’ll focus on summarizing bills introduced in the 2015 Legislative session that may be of particular interest. Successes, defeats – and “to be continued” – or, the good, the bad and the ugly… depending on how you see it! Wishing you a little sunshine and spring in your week!
District 20 Representative
680 166th Avenue NE
Cummings, N.D. 58223-9540