We published an article earlier today about a conference for state lawmakers that took place last month in Puerto Rico. It was put on by The Council of State Governments (CSG)— a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization that helps lawmakers shape public policy. According to documents obtained from Legislative Council, the cost thus far to North Dakota taxpayers is nearly $50,000. And that’s not counting the $188,000 in membership dues that we pay to CSG.
In all, there were 14 state lawmakers from North Dakota who attended in Puerto Rico. They were as follows:
Sen. Brad Bekkedahl (R – District 1)
Sen. Kyle Davison (R – District 41)
Sen. Dick Dever (R – District 32)
Sen. Jim Dotzenrod (D – District 26)
Sen. John Grabinger (D – District 12)
Sen. Ray Holmberg (R – District 17)
Sen. Janne Myrdal (R – District 10)
Rep. Thomas Beadle (R – District 27)
Rep. Kim Koppelman (R – District 13)
Rep. Corey Mock (D – District 18)
Rep. Chet Pollert (R – District 29) ***Majority Leader
Rep. Brandy Pyle (R – District 22)
Rep. Shannon Roers Jones (R – District 46)
Rep. Dan Ruby (R – District 38)
In addition to the Puerto Rico trip, we also linked back to an article we published, which detailed a legislative summit that took place in Nashville back in August. The makeup of the group attending there was 20 legislators (15 Republicans & 5 Democrats) and 9 staff members from Legislative Council. The overall cost for that summit was nearly $90,000— over $81,000 of that was covered by tax dollars.
In both cases, North Dakotans are left to wonder whether lawmakers attend these things with state business on their mind, or if they treat them more like a vacation.
An illustration of why some of us ask such questions can be found in this Facebook post from Puerto Rico attendee, Rep. Thomas Beadle (R – District 27):
As you can see, Rep. Beadle posted this on December 5th. The CSG conference was held from December 4th – 7th. His wife confirms their location in Puerto Rico with this response to a comment on the post:
Keep in mind that Beadle’s lodging ($1,029.40), airfare ($640.40), and per diem ($740.00) were all paid for. There was also the conference registration fee ($445.00) and some miscellaneous expenses ($264.04) to boot. That’s a total of $3,102.84. By the way, it’s only fair to mention that the average cost per person, at this point, was $3,536.36. So, Beadle came in under that.
You can decide for yourself which expenses you think were fair for the taxpayers to pick up. But at the end of the day, would it be unfair for some folks to view this as taxpayers subsidizing — at least in part — the Beadle’s anniversary trip to Puerto Rico? After all, would this have been their chosen destination had there been no taxpayer funded legislative conference there?
Now, let me be clear. I’m not saying that Thomas Beadle did anything illegal. He didn’t. Some may not see a problem with this at all. But at the very least, we should understand why some question whether lawmakers attend these things with state business on their mind or like something more of a vacation— at the expense of taxpayers.
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