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Legislative Report District 13: A North Dakota success story

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Last week, it was demonstrated once again that government can work, if people come together and apply a little common sense.

Recently, it had come to my attention that a highly qualified teacher was having trouble with what should have been a simple matter - getting licensed to teach in North Dakota.

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Originally from our state, this teacher had obtained an excellent education and qualifications in her subject area and was recognized as highly qualified in other states where she had taught. When she and her husband decided (as they'd always planned to do) to come home to North Dakota, however, she began experiencing needless regulatory burdens and red tape from state government.

The teacher was told - much to her surprise and despite credentials widely recognized elsewhere - that she wasn't highly qualified at all, according to a bureaucratic interpretation here, and that she'd have to take needless additional course work, unrelated to her field of expertise, over a long period of time, to be qualified for permanent North Dakota licensure.

Aware of legislation passed to avoid this very type of problem, we began investigating and concluded that the problem might be a misapplication of an obsolete regulation and that there should be a reasonable solution. After our research, we invited the teacher, the chairman of the House Education Committee (who was also the sponsor of the streamlining legislation), and the agency had to appear before the Administrative Rules Committee meeting in Bismarck.

Koppelman is Chairman of the Administrative Rules and Constitutional Revision Committees and Past Chairman of the Council of State Governments (CSG).

The principle function of this statutory Legislative panel is to ensure that regulations (the purpose of which is to implement state law) comply with those laws and with Legislative intent.

The result was a "breath of fresh air" and an example of what can actually get done, when people look at problems with a desire to solve them and apply common sense solutions to government.

At the end of the day, we took stock in what had been accomplished: a North Dakota teacher was relieved to learn that her problems would be solved and that she could teach, in a discipline much needed in our state; a state employee learned that there were relatively simple ways to solve what had seemed to be an insurmountable problem; government red tape was avoided, and immediate solutions were found.

What's more, the taxpayers and the teacher saved money by avoiding lengthy, costly, unnecessary processes, and highly qualified teachers (much needed here) who come to our state to teach our children, in the future, will know they can do so without needless regulatory burdens they wouldn't face elsewhere. North Dakota just became a more welcoming place.

Government can work effectively and efficiently, if we work together and apply common sense. It was good to see that fact demonstrated and put into practice.

Your legislators appreciate hearing from you. You may reach us by mail, e-mail, or telephone: Sen. Judy Lee (jlee@nd.gov; 282-6512); Rep. Alon Wieland (awieland@nd.gov; 282-9470); Rep. Kim Koppelman (kkoppelman@nd.gov; 282-9267).

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