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Ethics Commission to focus on 'education'

Ethics Commission executive director Rebecca Binstock
Courtesy Ethics Commission
Ethics Commission executive director Rebecca Binstock

North Dakota’s Ethics Commission is asking for a significant increase in its budget for the upcoming two year period.

Its current biennial budget is $624,000. It’s asking for around $1.2 million for the next biennium.

"There's really one word that can summarize all of it, and it's 'education," said Ethics Commission executive director Rebecca Binstock. She told the state Senate’s Appropriations Committee the Commission spent the first years of its existence writing the rules and guidelines.

"One of the things that we've learned over the past few years is that there is a lot of misinformation, or notions, right or wrong about the Ethics Commission," Binstock said. "And we want to correct that."

Current Commission Chairman Paul Richard told the Committee after the Commission adopted its rules, he got a lot of questions about what is and isn't permitted.

"Some asked, ' Doesn't the Constitution say you can't do any of this?'" Richard said. "I'm talking about educational and social events — and that's not what it says."

Richard said what it does say is it wants to preserve the opportunity of North Dakota residents and public officials to interact with each other. He said there has to be an educational component to that.

"From our perspective, I think it's working," Richard said. "Obviously, people are doing it."

Richard said he hopes these kinds of questions will be cleared up, through the Commission’s educational process.

A Senate Appropriations subcommittee will now take a closer look at the Commission’s proposed budget.

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