Making laws is NOTHING like making sausage…maybe

We’ve heard the quote so many times, but do you know who first coined the famous political policy making phrase? And can you quote it exactly?

Laws are like sausages, it is better not to see them being made.

 – Otto von Bismarck

Bundesarchiv Bild 146-1990-023-06A, Otto von Bismarck.jpgSo who was Otto von Bismarck? According to my research staff Wiki P. Edia (tongue in cheek), here’s the official entry: Prince Otto Eduard Leopold von Bismarck, Duke of Lauenburg (1 April 1815 – 30 July 1898), was a German aristocrat and statesman, the Prime Minister of Prussia (1862–1890), and the first Chancellor of Germany (1871–1890). Nicknamed the Iron Chancellor he is noted for his laconic remarks.

The Iron Chancellor also has a connection to our state. In 1872, the North Dakota state capitol was named Edwinton, after Edwin Ferry Johnson engineer-in-chief for the Northern Pacific Railway.  But it wasn’t too long before some folks wised up, or in other words, sucked up. Just one year later in 1873, however, the Northern Pacific Railway itself renamed the city Bismarck, to recognize the renowned German chancellor in hopes of attracting German investment.

So it is quite apropos that it was Otto himself who has been attributed to this famous laws/sausage quote. The man after which our Capitol City is named. Especially during this highly energized legislative session.

With 141 moving parts and a couple of administration controlled handles, this legislature certainly takes on the characteristics of a sausage grinder. On Feb. 11, the Chamber chartered a bus of Willistonians (my made up word) to Bismarck to see if in fact laws are as hideous to watch being made as a Johnsonville bratwurst.

Let’s compare:

Federal sausage making is even uglier than state level sausage

Initial ingredients:
Laws=beginning ideas and first bill drafts
Sausage=raw ingredients

Mixing process:
Laws=Committee hearing process,input from public, debate, amendments
Sausage=spices, additives, fillers

Grinding process:
Laws=floor debate and action, sometimes messy process
Sausage=all final ingredients mixed together

Finished product:
Laws=something that won’t make everyone 100% satisfied (it’s called compromise)
Sausage=something that not everyone will enjoy, but will still sell

Our State Legislature recently passed Senate Bill 2103, the surge funding bill that provides immediate funding to local governments in Western North Dakota to catch up with the ‘surge’ of people moving there. The bill, seemingly supported by everyone including the Governor, was quickly passed through the Senate. However when it got to the House side,which should have been the final casing and flavoring for the bill, the law-making grinder hit a bone and got stuck.

Questions were asked of local officials, ‘do you really need the money now that oil prices have dropped?’ ‘What do you need now, that can’t wait until oil prices increase?’ ‘Every part of the state could use extra infrastructure funds.’

Other ingredients are being thrown into the mix from state agencies and other areas of the state; all looking to add that one last spice before it goes to the final grinding. Once the gear jam had been cleared, and these last few ingredients added in to the House version, the finished product rolled out of the process on Friday, and awaits the Governor’s signature as we post this. And yes, the finished product isn’t exactly how drafters first envisioned, but in a politically charged, east vs west type of debate, it was the best outcome possible.

As Otto pointed out:

Politics is the art of the next best

The merits of the legislation aside, the legislative process is not for the faint of heart, and can even frustrate a veteran participant. I suspect working in Sheboygan, Wis. making Johnsonville brats might be easier as the formula never changes, and neither does the process. In law making, the ingredients, the players, and even the process can alter the finished product.

The Chamber of Commerce is just part of the law/sausage making process, but we think the ingredients we bring to the process make everything taste just a little better.


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One thought on “Making laws is NOTHING like making sausage…maybe

  1. wndchamber says:

    The Governor did sign SB 2130 Tuesday afternoon. The next battle will be House Bill 1176, commonly referred to as the ‘formula bill.’


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