Lawmakers in North Dakota have succeeded in their third attempt to pass a resolution that would put the future existence of the State Board of Higher Education before state voters, the Grand Forks Herald reports. The measure would replace the state board with a permanent three-member committee.
The vote was a close one. The resolution, titled House Current Resolution 3047, passed with a vote for 25 for and 21 against and will now be sent back to the House in order to reconcile it with the version passed by the state Senate. If it passes, it will be put on the ballot in 2014. The vote is required because the change involves amending the state constitution.
The state board has been involved with power struggles with the Legislature, which approves the North Dakota University System budget, as well as with presidents of individual universities. The board last year hired a new chancellor, hoping that Hamid Shirvani would be the strong leader the system needs. But his blunt style has led some in the Legislature to question his leadership and the work of the board.
The resolution, which underwent a large change in the Senate, is aimed to solve those problems.
The original wording would have done away with the board in favor of a governor-appointed director of the Department of Higher Education. The director would serve as a de-facto chief executive of the system without advisory council. The Senate-amended version will expand it to three full-time commissioners – who will still be named by the governor – but from a pre-approved list which will be put together jointly by the state lawmakers and approved by the North Dakota Supreme Court, the superintendent of public instruction and “a representative of an educational interest group.”
The original resolution was introduced by Fargo’s representative Al Carlson who has already expressed support for the Senate version and pledged to get the House’s approval.
Senators Gary Lee, R-Casselton, and Robert Erbele, R-Lehr, flipped their votes from last week, when the resolution failed on a 24-23 vote, to support the resolution. Sen. Spencer Berry, R-Fargo, voted against the resolution last week and was absent Monday.
Sen. David Hogue, R-Minot, carried the resolution to the floor in the third attempt to get it passed. He said the Legislature should not be afraid to let North Dakotans make the decision.
The current governance structure includes eight part-time board members, one chancellor and 11 university presidents, has too many layers, he said.