Jerry Seinfeld, your name being spelled wrong on a Starbucks cup, slipping on a banana peel. What do these things have in common? They make you laugh.
But a conflict of interest — is that funny? At the state Capitol, the answer is yes.
Last week, during a vote on whether to allow retailers to open on Sundays, Rep. Marvin Nelson (D-Rolla) asked to recuse himself.
“I’d like to declare a conflict of interest,” he said. “My wife and I own a retail establishment affected by this law that doesn’t require any more hours to be open, and I ask to be excused from voting.”
Then, instead of saying “Yeah that makes sense, sit this one out,” Speaker of the House Larry Bellew responded, “You can vote, Representative Nelson.”
This comment elicited laughter among House legislators. Why was it funny? Apparently it’s because Bellew didn’t follow proper procedure before letting Nelson vote.
“The speaker should have taken a vote but the members consented through their laughter without objection,” Nelson later told Mean Read.
Indeed, legislatives rules say that the House should have voted on whether to let Nelson vote.
322. Procedure in excusing member from voting. When a member asks to be excused, or declines to vote, the member shall be required to state the member’s reasons. Upon motion, the question must be put to the House, “Shall the member, for the reasons stated, be permitted to vote?” which must be decided without debate. These proceedings must occur before the taking of the vote.
Speaker Bellew skipped this step. We asked him to comment but didn’t get a response.
Anyway, who cares? It’s only a conflict of interest, which in Bismarck is a laughing matter.