Interview: Rep. Todd Porter Defends Conservation Board

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State Rep. Todd Porter told me in an interview that he didn’t feel a bill to create a state conservation board, funded with oil tax dollars and empowered to make grants to local governments and non-profits to promote conservation, wasn’t a response to a similar measure that would have been on the statewide ballot in November were it not for petition fraud, but he did point out ways in which the legislative proposal is better.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IYnfGhN63hM&w=560&h=315]

Porter makes salient points about the legislative version of this idea being superior to the ballot version. The legislative would cap funding for the board at $30 million per biennium, whereas the the petition version would have allowed potentially hundreds of millions of dollars in revenues flow to the board. The legislature allows the governor, and the State Industrial Commission, to exercise oversight over the grants made whereas the petition version wouldn’t have allowed any oversight from any elected officials. The legislative bill would prevent funds from being used to encumber land use for more than 20 years, and wouldn’t allow any funds to be used for lobbying whereas the petition version contained no such limitations.

Porter pointed out, specifically, that the measure creating the state tobacco prevention board in 2008 gave that government organization free rein to lobby and engage in other political activities. Porter and his co-sponsors on this bill don’t want that to happen with conservation.

Those are all good things, but when I asked Porter if he was afraid about the legislature giving away its spending authority to a board of bureaucrats, he seemed unconcerned. “We’ve already given away our spending authority lots of times,” he told me.

But does that really mean the legislature should keep doing it?

Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com. In 2011 he was a finalist for the Watch Dog of the Year from the Sam Adams Alliance and winner of the Americans For Prosperity Award for Online Excellence. In 2013 the Washington Post named SAB one of the nation's top state-based political blogs, and named Rob one of the state's best political reporters. He writes a weekly column for several North Dakota newspapers, and also serves as a policy fellow for the North Dakota Policy Council.

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  • http://Sayanythingblog.com The Whistler

    Probably the best thing this plan has is heading off a future campaign by the greedy greenies to get themselves the uncontrolled commission they want.

    • http://sayanythingblog.com Rob

      There is that.

      I think it’s unnecessary, but ND voters have proven themselves willing to cast their ballots for some very silly things.

      • http://Sayanythingblog.com The Whistler

        Look at the all the money and autonomy that the anti smoking nazis got from the voters.

        • http://sayanythingblog.com Rob

          That’s very true, and a valid point.

          But this group will get millions of dollars per year – undoubtedly $30 million per biennium while oil is still booming – that they’ll feel obligated to spend.

          It seems to me that if we want to fund that sort of thing, the legislature should do it. This seems like a shortcut to do things the legislature wouldn’t normally approve.

          • http://Sayanythingblog.com The Whistler

            I agree with your last paragraph, but it still might be better if they pass a bill along these lines.

          • http://sayanythingblog.com Rob

            This is sort of why I’m down on the initiated measure process right now. We shouldn’t have to pass bad policy in the legislature to head off even worse policy coming from the ballot.

  • maddog

    Why in the HEdouble hockey sticks are groups like NDGA and NDFB cowering to the gov on this issue?

    • http://sayanythingblog.com Rob

      They got some concessions, like the restrictions on easements and the like. But i think for the most part they’re all afraid of what might pass on the ballot.

  • opinionated

    Would this be the self-appointed Rhino down the street from me?

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