Lawyers in the North Dakota Legislature By Kylie Blanchard, Clearwater Communications When the 66th North Dakota State Legislature convened in January, seven lawyers were among those representing the citizens of North Dakota in the state’s lawmaking body. The Gavel interviewed the lawyers* serving in the state legislature and below are their thoughts on the decision to run for office, how a law degree impacts their service, and issues facing the state today. SEN. DAVID HOGUE District 38 Majority Caucus Leader President Pro Tempore Serving since 2009 University of North Dakota School of Law – 1987 Why did you decide to run for the State Legislature? I decided to seek election to the North Dakota Legislature because I thought I might enjoy drafting and debating public policy issues that affect North Dakotans. It’s been a rewarding experience from that perspective. The older I get and the more I travel outside North Dakota for business or pleasure, the more I appreciate the quality of life we have in North Dakota. How does your law degree help you in your legislative work? I genuinely believe having a law degree is a significant advantage for legislators. Aside from writing budgets for state agencies, the vast majority of legislative bills relate to amending the North Dakota Century Code. Lawyers deal regularly with the language of the Century Code and policy behind the relevant statutory provision. Lawyers are advocates too. Being successful in the legislative arena requires advocacy skills as well. What do you think are the most important issues facing North Dakota today? First, our inadequate workforce is holding our economy back from reaching the next level of its potential. We have more than 13,000, and perhaps as much as 30,000, jobs permanently unfilled. We have employers who have stopped looking to fill the position because they regard the search as futile. Second, our initiative measure process, with respect to constitutional amendments, is flawed and should be fixed. The members of the bar should review this process and speak out. We are seeing a parade of out-of-state interest organizations hire petition signature gatherers to get their pet measure in our constitution. This is a fundamental threat to our self-governance that should be restrained. 4 THE GAVEL SEN. MIKE DWYER District 47 Serving since 2019 University of North Dakota School of Law – 1977 Why did you decide to run for the State Legislature? I’ve done legislative advocacy my whole career and I am now retiring. This was a way I could continue to represent my state. This gives me the opportunity to work to improve the economy and quality of life for our state. It’s a way to serve in an area I am comfortable with and it’s what I’ve done my whole career. How does your law degree help you in your legislative work? In the Senate, there are only two attorneys this session, and I am serving as vice chairman on the Judiciary Committee. My background and training will be very helpful. What do you think are the most important issues facing North Dakota today? Everything goes back to budget. There are important needs and the areas of infrastructure, education, behavioral health, and long-term care are examples of priority needs. REP. LAWRENCE KLEMIN District 47 Speaker of the House Serving since 1999 University of North Dakota School of Law – 1978 Why did you decide to run for the State Legislature? I have always been very interested in the legislative process and represented many legislative clients in the 20 years of my law practice before I was elected to the legislature. I have served in many leadership positions in the legislature, such as committee chairman and vice chairman for several standing committees. This year, I was elected as Speaker of the House. It is an honor and also carries great responsibility. Since 1999, I have been appointed by the legislature to represent the North Dakota House of Representatives as a commissioner on the National Uniform Law Commission. I am also chairman of the North Dakota Uniform Law Commission (ULC).