By Emmery Mehlhoff, NDFB Public Policy Liaison
NDSU students asked me to speak on campus during Ag Week, a week dedicated to celebrating agriculture, about how a bill becomes law and how agriculture fits into the process. A couple dozen students sat in a large classroom in Minard Hall, eating pizza and attentively listening to me explain how the North Dakota legislative process works.
College students are my favorite age to talk to. They are like sponges, soaking up information. On the verge of independence, they are deciding what they think and believe. Many are still contemplating their career path and looking for direction. It’s the perfect time to talk about how politics will affect every aspect of their life.
Not many people think “fun” and “legislative process” belong in the same sentence but I do. During my presentation, I not only explained how a bill is introduced, amended, debated, and signed into law, but I also shared stories from my ten years of experience in the legislative process.
I wanted students to understand how important and fun the legislative process is. From speed limits to water drainage, parental rights to road funding, laws shape the way we live our lives. Getting involved in the process is not only enjoyable and rewarding, it ensures your voice is heard. When a bill is introduced that could help or hurt you, a good relationship with a well-respected legislator is your best defense.
Students were surprised by how much goes into the legislative process. Not only is there a substantial vetting process for each bill, most N.D. legislators are a lot friendlier and nicer than the media makes them seem.
The students were particularly interested when I shared how much legislators like it when the average Farmer Joe comes to testify on an issue. Legislators do rely on organizations like NDFB to provide facts to help them make a decision but when a rancher shows up to support a bill that will help the ranch or a mom testifies against a bill that will hurt her children, legislators listen. These industry “experts” make the story come to life.
North Dakota’s small-town nature gives everyone a unique opportunity to participate in the legislative process. Driven by agriculture and energy, our state is still primarily rural and legislators want the best for their people back at home. This is not a reality for all states.
One student asked me what I thought the future of politics would be in North Dakota.
I jokingly said if I knew that, I would get paid more. But in all seriousness, I said, “The future of politics and agriculture depends on you, the students, who took time out of your busy day to sit in Minard Hall and learn about politics in North Dakota and spark your passion for the legislative process.”
There are many opportunities to get involved in the political process. Here are just a few!
– Campaign for a candidate. (Great way to build relationships!)
– Get involved in the district’s political party.
– Work as an intern or staff member during the legislative session. (This is temporary work from January-April. Great opportunity! Many college students get hired working these jobs).
– Get involved in NDFB’s policy development process.
– Run for office.
For more information about political opportunities in North Dakota, contact Emmery Mehlhoff at firstname.lastname@example.org.