State Rep. Merle Boucher said planning meetings between witnesses and Industry, Business and Labor Committee Chairman George Kaiser may have violated North Dakota’s open meetings law, the Democratic-NPL Party announced today in a written statement.
Boucher was at Thursday’s IBL meeting in Bismarck, the second meeting for the committee to discuss how the federal health care reform will impact the state and what needs to change to meet new compliance standards. You can read more about the meeting – and how many details are still unclear – in a Bismarck Tribune story by Rebecca Bietsch.
The statement says Boucher, the House Minority Leader and Dem-NPL endorsed candidate to run for agriculture commissioner against incumbent Republican Doug Goehring, became suspicious when a witness at Thursday’s meeting repeatedly referred to "planning meetings." Boucher asked Chairman Kaiser what those planning meetings involved – because no Dem-NPL legislators were aware of them – and Kaiser said they were invitation-only, not made public and other legislators were not involved.
Here’s the rest of the statement he released today:
Representative Boucher, along with the Dem-NPL lawmakers, feel that that is a violation of the open meetings law, which is especially concerning considering that health care reform is a contentious issue in North Dakota. He said that all future meetings must be made public in accordance with the law and that the Dem-NPL lawmakers will be on notice for any future potential violations of the open meetings law.
"One concerning fact that came out yesterday was that the IBL Chairman, George Kaiser, had invitation-only preparation meetings with various presenters before the hearings. We believe that this is in violation with this state’s open meeting law. We have to be suspicious of these meetings because neither us nor the public were informed, and the Republican lawmakers and office holders in the state have stated their opposition to health care reform many times over the past year," said Rep. Merle Boucher, D-9.
"The open meetings law is an important part of North Dakota tradition and helps us to have a fair and open democracy. Any meetings planned involving state office holders about an issue concerning the public good should be open and accessible. I hope that Chairman Kaiser will uphold this valuable tradition as we move forward with implementing health care reform."