Today’s Ask Your Government

Dear readers,

One of my blog readers asked the following:

“I understand anyone can get the e-mail addresses of everyone who’s purchased a hunting/fishing license through North Dakota Game and Fish. Friends of mine have been included in spam mail as a result. Is that true, and why would a state agency be allowed to do that?”

Here’s what Kim Molesworth of Game and Fish said:

“Most North Dakota Game and Fish Department information is subject to North Dakota open records laws and available to the public upon request. However, the department is able to protect an individual applicant’s email address and has established a policy to not release this information.”

I had a legislator suggest I use my column to explain legislative lingo since not everyone understands their jargon. Here are some frequently-used terms:

Hoghouse amendment: John Bjornson of Legislative Council explains this is an amendment to replace the entire context of a bill with new text. A regular amendment has line-by-line instructions to make changes in the bill.

“Generally, hoghouse amendments are discouraged because it’s difficult to discern the changes in the bill because everything is new again,” Bjornson said. “But sometimes they’re actually preferred because they can improve the clarity for the reader as well.”

Sen. Tim Flakoll, R-Fargo, also provided some terms and definitions:

Putting lipstick on a pig: You can try to amend the bill to make it better, but it is still a bad bill that only appears to be OK.

Camel’s nose under the tent: It might start with only a little program or amount, but it will grow and grow.

Death by fiscal note: Good idea, but too costly.

Sen. Curtis Olafson, R-Edinburg, defined this term:

Sometimes you have to shoot your own dog: When a legislator votes against a bill that he or she introduced.

Rep. Corey Mock, D-Grand Forks, provided these terms:

Conference committee: A committee of six legislators: three House members and three Senate members (two from majority party and one from minority party in each chamber). A conference committee is assembled if the House and the Senate pass different versions of the same bill to reconcile the differences.

Verification vote: A method of voting in the chamber where members use the electronic voting system, but a formal record of the vote is not kept and members may not see how individuals voted.

A verification vote may also be called a “black board” vote because you cannot see how members voted during this procedure.

Do you have a question for a state government official or agency? Send us your question, and we’ll do our best to find an answer.

E-mail (Subject: Ask your government).

You may also write to Teri Finneman c/o Forum Communications, Press Room, State Capitol, Bismarck, N.D. 58505.

Please include your name, town and a phone number to reach you for verification.