Shameful: ND House Votes Down Local Government Transparency Bill


Rep. Blair Thoreson has been a real champion when it comes to fighting for government transparency here in North Dakota. Back in the 2009 legislative session Rep. Thoreson introduced and got passed a bill creating an online database of all state government spending (you can see it here). Since then Rep. Thoreson has been trying to get another bill passed to create a database of local government spending (counties, townships, cities, schools, etc.).

He failed in the 2011 session and, today, his bill introduced in the current session was voted down by the House as well. Here’s the floor debate:

Rep. Kim Koppelman accused the Office of Management and Budget of “death by fiscal note” after they calculated that the cost of the database over the next two bienniums would be just over $1.4 million. Maybe that figure is inflated a bit (it’s fair to say that state IT projects are almost always way over budget), but even if it is are we really saying that a database where citizens across the state can search their county, municipal, township and school board budgets isn’t worth $1.4 million over four years?

That’s less than North Dakota State University will spend on flying higher ed officials around in a private airplane over the next four years.

The other argument against the bill, from Democrat Rep. Ben Hanson, is that it would be too confusing and duplicative for local governments to send their budgets into a central location. Even if that were true, and it’s hard to imagine emailing in a spreadsheet or a PDF is prohibitively time consuming, so what? Isn’t transparency worth a little more time and effort?

Apparently not for a majority of our state House members.

What’s really stomach-turning about this is that the groups who have lead the charge against these accountability efforts like the North Dakota Association of Counties, the League of Cities and others, are funded by membership dues paid with our tax dollars. Meaning that these groups used our tax dollars to lobby against transparency for how our tax dollars are spent.


On a related note, North Dakota Democrats are going to be making a lot of noise incoming weeks about a raft of government accountability measures they’ve introduced. It’s going to be hard to believe that they’re really looking for accountability, and not partisan fishing trips, when most of the Democrat House members helped vote down this bill.

Update: I’m having YouTube problems. If the video above isn’t working for you, click here then under the Agenda tab click on HB1256.

Rob Port is the editor of 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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  • Guest

    Video down

    • Rob

      Yes, I’m having YouTube issues. it should be working soon.

  • John_Wayne_American

    This whole legislative session has been pathetic, Al Carlson should resign, its time to start some major changes in the state while they hold the majority and they are pissing it away.

    • Guest Observer

      A bunch of imbeciles!! Most if not all should go!!

  • RCND

    Hall of Shame for every House Member who voted against this

  • Camburn

    It is beginning to look like the ND Legislature should only meet every 4 years. From this bill, to the water skiing bill which tells me that I can’t wind surf on a well moonlit night or break the law is nuts.
    Some of us CAN think. It looks like the 2013 Legislative Session is extremely light on “thinking”

    • WOOF

      is that all boats or just windsurfers? Even if you have lights on your board/mast?

  • jimmypop

    first, at the VERY least the law seems poorly written…. far too simplistic and too broad. would it be as simple as submitting a link? do we need a .pdf? do you need an editable spreadsheet? what software do you need to use (maybe the century code says microsoft windows version 7.1)?

    regardless, evil cass already has this online…. to those that don’t, all you have to do is ask your board or commission to start doing it. its actually that easy. we don’t need laws for every act of common sense.

    on a side note; i still cannot figure out why government have to publish checks and things like that in the newspaper. web link on the town/ school/ county website should be more than enough. plus, its instant and forever.

    • Rob

      When people like you saw a law is too broad or simple, I usually just assume you haven’t read it and/or can’t figure out any actual arguments against it.

      The need for this law is a need for a central database of spending. Kudos to Cass County for putting theirs online. Why not require the same of the rest of the state?

      Also, funny what a Fargo chip on your shoulder you have. This issue has absolutely nothing to do with Fargo specifically, yet you manage to make it that way.

  • RCND

    Those arguing against this (on the floor and in committee) pulled so many strawmen together that entire farm communities are without their scarecrows.

  • Ray Seltz

    Also, Thoreson has clearly been the champion being first in line at the cafeteria.

    • $8194357

      Thats all you got huh Ray ray…
      Personal attacks and no facts…

      • Ray Seltz

        DC, good morning! Hows the sheople grazing going today? You leftists must be drooling at seeing your minimum wage going up? Are you all set for Christ, yet?

        • $8194357

          Mornin Ray ray…
          As usual delusion becomes you.