ND Attorney General Rules NDSU Planned Parenthood Funding Legal

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North Dakota Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem has ruled that the law which some claimed prohibited North Dakota State University from accepting a grant to partner with Planned Parenthood isn’t valid:

BISMARCK – The state law behind North Dakota State University administrators’ decision to freeze a $1.2 million federal grant was “completely invalidated” by a 1981 court ruling and wouldn’t bar plans to offer a new sex education program, Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem said Thursday.

Stenehjem was formally asked to look into the issue two weeks ago after weeks of uncertainty and questions of academic freedom behind the decision to freeze the three-year grant, made available through the Department of Health and Human Services, to provide voluntary comprehensive sex education to Fargo-area teens ages 15 to 19 with parental consent.

Accepting the grant may be technically legal, but it’s certainly inappropriate given that the state legislature turned down acceptance of the grant, which came through Obamacare, last session.

NDSU has a duty to respect the wishes of the legislature. Sadly, and this is something that speaks to our fundamental problem with higher education in North Dakota, the university system usually doesn’t feel any obligation to pay more than lip service to the wishes of the legislature.

Which is just another reason why the independence of the university system should be ended.

The legislature’s response to this is clear. If NDSU wants to accept grants the legislature has specifically turned down, then NDSU’s budget can be reduced by the amount of that grant.

Update: The ND University System has already announced that NDSU will go forward with accepting the funds:

Chancellor Hamid Shirvani said the legal opinion allows the professors to move forward.

“We are pleased the Attorney General has provided his guidance on this matter in such a timely manner,” he said in a statement. “It is good news that our concern about our faculty being in violation of the law has been removed, and they will be able to accept this generous grant and begin the work intended for these funds.”

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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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