ND Legislature Hall Of Shame Week 3: Rep. Bob Skarphol


This week’s Hall of Shame honoree is Rep. Bob Skarphol of Tioga. Skarphol is the sponsor of HB1189, which would seek to target out-of-state drivers with larger speeding fines than in-state drivers while rewarding law enforcement agencies who target out-of-state drivers over in-state drivers with the revenues from the tickets they write.

Here’s the text:

Not withstanding any other provision of law, if an operator of a vehicle is stopped for a violation of section 39-09-02 or equivalent ordinance, the operator is the registered owner of the vehicle, and there is evidence that the operator is gainfully employed in this state, the fee for the violation is the higher of the fee in section 39-06.1-06 or equivalent ordinance, or the highest fee, fine, or bond for a speed limit violation at any speed and location in the home state. The superintendent of the highway patrol shall provide a schedule of the highest fees, fines, or bonds for other states every two years and make the schedule available to police officers. A determination of the highest fee by the superintendent is deemed to be the highest fee. If the fee, fine, or bond in the other state is higher than in this state, the difference is assessed as a special fee for deposit in the state treasury. The state treasurer shall distribute monthly the special fees deposited in the state treasury for a citation issued by a county police officer to the sheriff of the county in which the violation occurred and for a citation issued by the highway patrol to the operating fund of the highway patrol. All fees deposited in the state treasury under this section are appropriated on a continuing basis for distribution as provided in this section.

To say that this is parochial pandering is an understatement. Angst in western North Dakota is running high what with the influx of oil activity, oil workers and commerce that have made formerly sleepy communities busy and crowded. That has bred some resentment, and Skarphol seems to be aiming to fan the flames of that resentment with legislation targeting the much-maligned “out of staters.”

But it’s not just rank pandering that makes this bill bad. It’s that it would provide incentive for uneven application of the law. Rewarding law enforcement agencies for targeting one group of people over another is bad policy.

Plus, it’s almost certainly unconstitutional. Virginia, at one time, had a law which did the reverse of Skarphol’s. It actually raised speeding fines on in-state drivers, leaving out-of-state drivers alone. The Virginia Supreme Court ruled it illegal, a violation of the equal protection clause of the Constitution.

“A ‘dangerous’ driver is a ‘dangerous’ driver, whether he or she is a life-long resident of Virginia or simply passing through on his or her way to another state or county,” Judge Archer Yeatts wrote in the decision. “The court rejects the speculations postulated by the commonwealth, and mindful of its obligation to do so, has exhausted its speculation quotient in trying to conceive of any others that would be a rational basis for the distinction between resident and non-resident ‘dangerous drivers.'”

For these reasons, Rep. Skarphol is our week three Hall of Shame inductee.

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.

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  • ec99

    In Grand Forks they arrest prostitutes.

  • spud

    Too bad some of these bills can not be pulled from the docket under the theory of common sense thinking.

  • Roy_Bean

    Even if it was constitutional, can you imagine the confusion for the officer writing the ticket? We only allow our idiots to think up stupid ideas for 5 months every 2 years but many states have these people there all the time. That means that the fee schedule would have to be updated on a weekly, if not daily, basis to keep up with the whims of the various legislatures in the other 49 states. Would he propose that if an illegal, I mean undocumented, person was stopped for speeding, that the fine should reflect what it would be in his/her home country? What about Canadians? And this was introduced by a Republican from out west, Lord have mercy……

    • two_amber_lamps

      Sounds like a clear violation of the 14th Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause.

      • ec99

        Of course it is, but based on a whole host of numbskill bills introduced in the ND legislature over the years, it’s clear a number of members are blithely ignorant of the Constitutiojn.

        • two_amber_lamps

          Who’s fault is that?

          We the electorate put these cretins in office….

          Exhibit A….


          • ec99

            True, but you can only vote for those on the ballot (write-ins are not effective). And those on the ballot are the product of the party machines.

          • two_amber_lamps


          • Hal414

            Wow! That should be viewed in every civics class in the country.

  • ec99

    I’m wondering if this dolt can conceive of the consequences of the sort this precedent this will set: a lower blood alcohol level, different sentencing standards, etc.

  • Waski_the_Squirrel

    It’s a little scary when we view a certain group as a cash cow. In this case it is out of state drivers. Other examples are smokers, drinkers, and the obese.

  • DelawareBeachHouse

    Well, at least he’s not a RINO!
    Seriously, just an attack against the constitution. Bad.

    • http://sayanything.flywheelsites.com Rob

      I changed the name of this weekly “honor” after your criticism.

      • DelawareBeachHouse

        All good. Your criticisms are always (OK, 90 percent) on the mark. RINO? Oh, maybe not. Dope? Definitely.

        • camsaure

          Aren’t most RINOs dopes in the first place?

  • opinion8ed

    How do brainless dimwits like this get elected? What good does he think a law like this does? Does he not see that there will be less patrolling and more hiding. In a state flux with so much money that we want to subsidize daycare in a state that is now ranked 7th in personal income. That we would build low income housing for police, firefighters, and teachers because they are the chosen ones. And now the grand scheme would be to target out of staters for driving violations. If this is all the legislatures have to deal with maybe they should meet for a week then go home before they become rum dum.

  • Thresherman

    How about we set higher fines based on skin color? It can argued that minorities create a greater burden on state finances than whites so what is the difference? Well except even an idiot can see that higher fines on minority dirivers is unfair but it seems an idiot cannot see that higher fines on out of stater drivers is as well.

  • Don Quixote

    Hold on folks. This is a bill not a law. Besides, this law, if enacted, sets the fine at the higher of either the home state or ND. If you go to a state with higher fines, do you pay those higher fines if you are ticketed? Of course you do. Does the Virginia Supreme Court decide what is constitutional in North Dakota? I would say that our Supreme Court might have to determine the bills constitionality if passed but, again, it has to be passed first. I suggest that you contact your representatives and senators and express your views and urge them not to vote for the bill. Complaining here doesn’t do any good.

    Opinion8ed you are. Logical you aren’t. Those houses you are complaining about are being built because there isn’t anyplace for those firefighters, police, and teachers to live. How does that make them chosen ones? Would you take a job where you have no chance of finding living accomodations? In addition I don’t see how Skarphol’s bill relates to the oil boom problems.

    • http://sayanything.flywheelsites.com Rob

      I really don’t think you understand what’s going on here.

      First, nobody is saying this is law yet.

      Second, of course Virginia doesn’t decide for North Dakota.

      Third, that different states have different penalties is not the issue. The issue is whether or not a single state can pick and choose how a law the criminal code is enforced based on something like residency.

      That’s almost assuredly unconstitutional.

  • Lynn Bergman

    I see the bill sneaks in the provision that a city ordinance can charge more than state law does for an offense. Not only do the sponsors NOT understand the concept of “not favoring one group over another”… they have also included the smoke screen of the “out of state driver issue” to cover up the main intent… which is to let Fargo charge whatever it wants for offenses.