In 2003, I went up to the North Dakota citizen legislature and lobbied on several bills as a citizen lobbyist. Depending on your perspective or who you ask, I’m either “terrific” or “insignificant” or “uppity” or “a nightmare”, but there ain’t no middle ground, chillen.. I’ve been going up and lobbying on bills on behalf of The People (ie., us ITI) or the environment (we only get one, after all) or sometimes, people-in-general, since my C’annunpa (Holy Pipe) first took me there in 1997. It has been quite an education.
I missed 2007 because I was in deep mourning for my sweetheart, who had been killed Memorial Day weekend, just 3 days shy of a year of delightful togetherness. I had no heart for putting up with the antics that occur too often during the Session in ND.
In 2003, a bill had come up late in the Session that would have “sent a message to Washington”. Such bills are – or used to be – called “gimme bills”. These are bills that are said to have no ‘real’ impact on ND life in specific or sometimes, in general. In the case of any bill, that isn’t true, in my view..
The bill would have “sent a message to Washington” that, “according to businesses in ND, the Legislature concurring, Affirmative Action and the Americans with Disabilities Acts were no longer needed, and in fact were too expensive to comply with, and actually worked a hardship on ND businesses”. Kinda makes you tear up, doesn’t it?
The then-President of what is now the ND Chamber of Commerce testified that his group “represents every business in ND) and every business in ND wants this bill passed”. That was such blatant hogwash, I could barely sit still in my seat. When he finished testifying, the Chair asked if anyone wished to add anything or to rebut anything, and my hand shot up. The Chair bit off a smile, I believe, and said, “Ah, Miss Two-Eagle. You always bring us such refreshing new perspectives. Please speak to us.”
I thanked him and the Committee and told them that the President of the Chamber mis-spoke when he said that he / the Chamber represented “every” business in ND and that every business in ND wanted this bill passed”. In fact, I and my businesses, which in total are smaller than the period at the end of a sentence, along with a laundry list of far larger businesses in ND, not only did not want this bill passed, but we refuse to join NDCC because we object to the “good old boy-ism and general bigotry endemic in the organization” and we figure we can better use the annual membership fee to fight legislation such as this and not have to spend time explaining ourselves to our customers about it.
I also told them that on the one hand, these people decry their tax loads and the cost of welfare, while on the other, they pay slave-labor wages resulting in ND having the largest number and percentage of heads of households in the entire nation holding two or more jobs in order to survive and feed, shelter, and cloth themselves and their children. This is untenable.
I pointed out that the NDCC represents about the largest 10% of businesses in ND, not “every” or even “most of” the businesses in ND, and if anyone doubted that, they could easily check this out.
I said, “People with handicaps, whether born that way or who acquire them, are told by this bill, “You can’t commit suicide and we won’t kill you, either, but you aren’t fit to have a decent job and we don’t want to give you assistance (welfare). You aren’t welcome in society or business and your problems are yours, not ours.” What an insult! These are people who live behind the 8-ball, and how they got there is immaterial. If they aren’t welcome in the world “and” they aren’t fit to die, what are they supposed to do? This is the only world we have. The people who want this insulting bill cannot have it both ways. Isn’t there something in those Commandments your people are always stuffing at the rest of us about that? I should think..”
I pointed out that my businesses are known to the Legislature and so is their size. Their total size is smaller than the period at the end of a sentence, yet I, with no ‘war chest’ to speak of, can and do plan to incorporate AA and ADA compliance in the businesses I head, therefore the rest of business in ND, particularly the largest 10% with their far bigger war chests, can do so hugely more easily. The reason they don’t is common greed. In my People’s Way, such people are called “washichu”, which means “a greedy, ungenerous person, an opportunist, someone who acts as if they have no relatives.” It is a major insult.
I ended with, “This bill is heinous, and never should have seen the light of day. Please do everything you can to kill this insulting bill, starting with giving it a unanimous “Do NOT Pass” recommendation. Thank you. If there are any questions, I’ll do my best to answer them.”
The room was dead silent. Surprise, surprise.
The then-President of the Chamber asked to correct his testimony, and said that he had unintenionally mis-spoken; that the Chamber represents the largest 10% of businesses in ND, and would the Committee please accept that.. along with the urging that “that largest 10% of businesses in ND still want this bill”. The Committee accepted his correction. Then they voted without discussion – and recommended Do Not Pass, which effectively kills a bill here.
The then-President came to me later and apologized, thanked me for the eloquence of my correction, and said that the incoming President was “a great guy, you’ll love working with him”. Then he told me the guy’s name. I managed to keep a straight face and said, “I’m sure it will be interesting”. He left, a happy man for the moment. Forty-five minutes later, the incoming Chamber President came up to me.
First he was warm and fuzzy. He said, in his gravelly voice, “Carel! You’re such a powerful speaker, and so effective! But you have to learn to get the approval of your business superiors before you express your opinion on bills like this.”
I replied, “Dave, it’s so kind of you to say I’m such a powerful and effective speaker. But I Carry a Holy C’annunpa, and no one can tell me how to Carry It, therefore no one can tell me what I can or cannot say. Besides, I haven’t asked, “captain, may I?” since I was about 10, and now that I’m a grandmother, I’m certainly not about to start. In the Indn Way, we grandmothers rule the roost, and we don’t ask anyone’s permission to do or say anything. Everyone thanks us for sharing our wisdom and perspectives. So I have no superiors of any kind, and that includes in business, and you and your cronies will just have to get used to it. Besides, this was an embarrassing shameful bill. It would have made North Dakota and North Dakotans look bad. It was not good legislation.”
He instantly changed from warm and fuzzy to growly and threatening, and he snarled, “Then we’ll burn you out! We’ll starve you out! We’ll see to it that you’re never going to be a success in business in North Dakota! Or anywhere else!”
As luck would have it, two state patrol officers came by just then, on their patrol of the Capitol building. They heard him and they instantly came to us and said, “Miss Two-Eagle, is there a problem here?” Dave said, “Careful, Carel!..” I said, “Yes, officers, there is a small problem with terroristic threats.” They nodded and asked what I wanted done.
Dave said, “You’re digging your grave…” and I wish I had a picture of the officers’ expressions..
I said, “You might escort Mr. MacGiver out to his car and explain to him that this is not how we play in the sandbox here in North Dakota.” They said, “That’s all??!?” I said I thought it should be enough to be escorted out of the Capitol by state troopers. They gave me skeptical looks and said, “OK..” and began to lead Dave away.
They got about 25 feet and he spun around and snarled, “You’re dead! You’re dead! You’re dead in business in North Dakota!” The officers grabbed his elbows so hard, I think he must have had bruises. They asked what I wanted now, and I said, “Please escort Dave to his car, explain how we don’t play in the sandbox, and bar him from this building for the next 4 working days.” They stared. Obviously didn’t think that was enough, but said, “OK..” and took him away.
They were almost to the doors when he spun around again, and really snarled the 2 speeches at me again. The officers grabbed him so hard, his feet came off the floor. He threatened them with loss of their jobs, and they giggled. (Cops’ giggles sound just like bells..) Then they asked, “What now?”
I said, “Escort him to his car, explain how things are and aren’t done here, and bar him from any part of the Capitol campus for the next 7 working days. If you can bar his phone calls from coming in, please do that, too. The same for messages to legislators. If he says anything, you can do whatever you like, and I’ll sign the papers.” They weren’t thrilled with that, either, but when Dave squealed, “But I have big bills coming up! You can’t do that!”, they said, “You should have thought of that before you threatened someone like her. She does a lot of good up here, and she does it on her own dollar.” He didn’t say a word and they took him to his car (etc.).
I may not have any temporal power in the way that he and his cronies do, and heaven knows I don’t yet have any amount of money worth mentioning, but apparently I am worth something, because I have since been told by 2 state Senators that I’m “not welcome here” – while they stood under a huge banner that read, “WELCOME NORTH DAKOTA CITZENS! TO YOUR NORTH DAKOTA CITIZEN LEGISLATURE!”, and there have been a variety of harrassments brought to bear on me.
And some people claim “one person can’t change anything” or “one person can’t affect things in any significant way”.. And now, as the announcer says, you know the rest of the story. That part of it, at least.