Court Holds Higher Ed’s Future In its Hands (Opinion)

Tim Goral's picture
Tuesday, March 13, 2012

What started out as a quarrel over the Sioux logo now has become a major threat to the authority of the North Dakota Board of Higher Education. The Supreme Court decision, whatever it is, will have repercussions for years to come.

With the Legislative Council now hiring attorneys to challenge the authority of the board before the court, the Legislature is declaring a full-scale attack on the constitutional jurisdiction of the board. The use of tax money to pay for attorneys when it is not a party in the case may constitute misappropriations of public funds.

The leadership of the House is already scouting for new intrusions into the jurisdiction of the board, including threats to abolish the board. The attack has spread to other advocates of politicizing the board.

Some are operating from a seventh-grade understanding of government. The federal constitution may call for three branches of government, but state constitutions have the latitude to configure the functions of government any way the people choose.

In North Dakota, we have more than three branches of government. The Board of Higher Education has its own governing board and delegated powers that are above the authority of ordinary statutes passed by the Legislature. That makes it a fourth branch, regardless of what the national government looks like.

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