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Vindictive casino proposal born of vengeance

By Staff | Mar 10, 2017

The proposal of House Majority Leader Al Carlson (R-Fargo) to launch six state-operated casinos is the most vindictive piece of legislation I have seen in 60 years of legislative tracking.

While some folks may be deceived into thinking that this proposal is genuine, it is obviously a thinly-disguised effort to punish Native Americans for their resistance to the Dakota Access Pipeline construction.

With a straight face, Carlson has claimed that the new casinos are needed to raise money for a state teetering on the brink of bankruptcy with $4 billion in a Legacy Trust Fund. If you believe that, I will find you some Macy’s stock for sale.

His motives become more transparent when we look at the rationale involved in the proposal.

In the first place, North Dakota has a glut of gambling business. With casinos on all reservations, charitable gambling in most cities and a state lottery, everybody with a yen for risk-taking already has plenty of opportunities.

In the second place, we don’t need the money. Carlson may have the citizenry fooled but North Dakota is not broke. This is a fabrication that was created before the money in the state treasury was even counted.

Third, if Carlson really wanted to get the state into a profitable business, he would have proposed to expand the Bank of North Dakota with branches in the major cities. The Bank of North Dakota has been rolling in profit.

Fourth, the idea of expanding state-owned industries is abhorrent to the Republican Party and there is little doubt that the Republican Party controls the Legislature so the outcome is certain.

For these reasons, Representative Carlson is smart enough to understand that such a proposal would be dead on arrival. Neither house of the Assembly will approve it because all legislators know it is a political stunt not worth the hassle back home.

It is true that the demonstration against the pipeline got out-of-hand and unnecessary violence occurred. At the same time, Native-Americans deserved an extra mile in complying with white man’s processes for approving public projects.

We have a very formal pattern in our proceedings; Native-American governance is more informal and arbitrary. What we saw was a clash of management paradigms that required negotiation.

There are many morally driven issues introduced in the legislative process. As Rep. Kim Koppelman (R-West Fargo) once said: “We must maintain a moral society.” And I agree, even though the definition of a moral society varies with believers and is difficult to determine.

With the Carlson proposal on the table, I will go beyond Koppelman and say that it is time for our policy processes to manifest the moral values of Christian compassion, patience and justice. A moral society goes beyond Blue Laws, Sunday opening and gender identification.

Here we have a whole society claiming to be a “nation under God” using political processes and power to throw “have nots” under the bus. The term “Christian” has become meaningless practice.

From outside the secular power struggle, Pope Francis offers an objective view and comes to the conclusion that it would be better to be an atheist than a Catholic hypocrite. That same judgment should be applied throughout Christendom to all denominations.

We are told that we can identify Christians by their fruit. Well, if we go through the orchard of Christendom made up of Catholic trees, Lutheran trees, Main Stream church trees and Evangelical trees, we would find that all of the trees are bearing the same fruit, especially when it comes to legislation.

It is time to reconcile belief and action.

Omdahl is a former lieutenant governor and former political science professor at UND.

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