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​Legislator Profile: Q&A with ND State Rep. Pamela Anderson

News | January 14th, 2015

The North Dakota Legislative session is underway and the High Plains Reader will be covering it throughout its duration. This week, we profile freshman legislator Rep. Pam Anderson, D-Fargo, who shocked the state’s political world by upsetting longtime Rep. Bette Grande, bucking the trend of many Republican victories across the state.

While in the minority, the retired banking executive has many goals she hopes to accomplish in her first session, and she even plans to introduce a medical marijuana legislation bill after prompting from a constituent. We spoke to her about those goals and how things are going in the early weeks of the session.

High Plains Reader: What are your priorities for the session? What do you hope to accomplish?

Pamela Anderson: My priorities are what I campaigned on, which was low interest student loans from the Bank of North Dakota, early childhood education and Head Start, permanent flood protection for Fargo and property tax reform.

HPR: How are things going so far early on, on those priorities?

PA: I’ve got a bill drafted for the no-interest student loans, getting some signatures on that. I am working with a couple other legislators and senators doing a universal pre-K bill. Although, I will say, I was absolutely delighted that the governor’s budget included funding for pre-K kids, which is phenomenal. The bill that I am looking at, with some of the others, is going a little bit further in the funding. Right now, the governor’s budget would fund it 50 percent, and if our bill to fund a little bit more doesn’t go anywhere, I guess I’ll support the governor’s bill, which I am delighted about. It’s the first time ever that the governor has pre-K funding, as well as Tim Flakoll too. He’s one of the prime sponsors of the bill. So that’s a good thing.

HPR: I know there’s been a lot of discussion about the price of oil. How much of that are you following and how much of that is going to affect what the state legislature can and can’t do there?

PA: I think it’s going to affect what we can and can’t do. I’ll be honest, I don’t know to what extent yet. The Appropriations Committee, they are meeting every day on some of these issues. I do think some of the one-time funding that the governor had in his budget -- for instance the permanent flood protection for Fargo -- that’s something that Representative Al Carlson, he called a press conference two weeks before the election and said he was going to be putting in a bill for additional money for Fargo outside of the diversion. I haven’t seen the bill yet but I will certainly support that.

But some of the things we are talking about in the Legislature right now are one-time funding, and I think we’ve got the funds to do those. It’s just some of the other ongoing ones over the next couple of years. Maybe we can have bills that trigger once the price of oil gets X: you know this will be funded, or we can further fund this or we can work on that particular project. So I certainly wouldn’t vote at this point to reduce income tax and corporate income tax to nothing. Some of those bills have been floating around, or they say they are going to be floating around, and I think given the price of oil at this point, I think it would be pretty irresponsible for us to totally get rid of income and corporate income taxes. We’re still a low income tax state; we’re not a no income tax state, but we’re a low income tax state.

HPR: Also, I saw that you are going to introduce a bill to legalize medical marijuana. Is that true?

PA: Yes, and that wasn’t anything I campaigned on. I had a constituent that sent me an email. That’s what I love about this process. He’s in my district, District 41. He said in his email, and I visited with him on the phone, that he’s older than average and he suffers from neuropathy, and he really feels that medical marijuana would be a benefit to him health-wise because the prescription drugs -- oxycodone, morphine -- can be hard on people.

I have had so many people emailing me and calling me that are very positive about this medical marijuana bill -- parents that have children that have seizures, people with multiple sclerosis and glaucoma. Montana has medical marijuana and Minnesota has medical marijuana. So I am just working through the process now; what I would be introducing would be similar to what Minnesota has, which would make sense because of service providers between Minnesota and North Dakota along the Valley would certainly make sense. And I believe in medical marijuana, so I was OK to tell the constituents that this is a constituent bill and I would sponsor it and go through the process. We’ll have a hearing and people will vote on it and we’ll see what happens.

HPR: Anything else interesting you want to add about the early part of the session?

PA: I just want to thank the voters of District 41. It’s a great honor to be out here.

Stay tuned for more coverage of the North Dakota Legislature in the weeks to come in the High Plains Reader.

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