Should the ND Senate Have Passed Department Merger?
It's fun to watch the biennial dog-and-pony show that is the North Dakota Legislature. I'm sure all 50 State Legislatures are a hoot to their constituents too. 2021 has definitely delivered it's share of wacky bills. Many were dead on arrival. Some faced slow death in committees. Some hot-button bills made it through the House and Senate and await their fate on Doug's desk. I think I covered that pretty well in this article from Tuesday.
But with only weeks left, and no free food from lobbyists, it's time to get the hard work done. That's where House Bill 1247 comes in. The Bill seeks to merge North Dakota's Health Department with the Department of Human Services. To add perspective to the merger, with around 200 employees, the Health Department is one tenth the size of Human Services. The Bill passed through the House with flying colors and faced more of an uphill battle in the Senate. But after some changes in the Senate, HB 1247 passed by a razor thin one vote margin and now goes back to the House to approve the changes. Which is pretty much automatic I would think. After that, it's off to Doug's desk!
It appears the merger will be gradual, and officiated by a consultant paid for with COVID cash. So what are the boots on the ground opinions of those that are employed by either of these agencies? Two "east coast" ND Republicans differed on the legislation...This from Prairie Public's Dave Thomas
Senator Judy Lee (R-West Fargo), the chair of the Senate Human Services Committee, told the Senate this measure would not result in immediate job cuts.
"It's important to let the good people who are working in those departments know that there's not this immediate guillotine hanging over their heads," Lee said. "We want them to be engaged in the process of making the change."
Sen. Ron Sorvaag (R-Fargo) argued to keep those agencies separate.
"They're more efficient because they're small," Sorvaag said. "It's transparency, and accountability."
Sorvaag said because on occasion, there's an issue between the two, they are better off standing alone.
I'm prone to think a watchdog agency like the Department of Health probably should be an independent arbitrator. DOH can swing a pretty big hammer- probably wouldn't be prone to use it on it's own department. That's speculation, not accusation. The Department of Human Services is also still reeling from a massive reorganization merging county and state positions.
I'd like to hear more insights from those directly involved in either department. It's always easy to say there will be no immediate job cuts. Not really sure how you define "immediate".