Lawmakers pass final bill, finish legislative session

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BISMARCK, N.D. - In the North Dakota political arena. The 65th Legislative session came to an ended Thrusday night. Lawmakers balanced the budget by spending $13.6 billion, passed justice reinvestment, responded to the Dakota Access Pipeline protests, took over county social services, and more.

Even though lawmakers are headed home, they still have some lingering partisan issues, starting with the state of the budget.

"I guess some of the things that we're very pleased about is that we're able to balance the budget without raising taxes and while we're facing a lot of decline in revenue," said Senate Majority Leader Sen. Rich Wardner.

"This legislative session produced a budget that is unsustainable. It is, it created irresponsible cuts it is unfair to many North Dakota families and it is truly unsustainable," said House Minority Leader Rep. Corey Mock.

Despite their differences party leaders praised the issues they were able to work together on. Leadership worked together to pass medical marijuana legislation and justice reinvestment aimed at reducing the states incarceration rates.

"We took a measure that did not properly do their homework and they did not decriminalize it and we turned it into something where it will actually help those people that have those particular ailments that are listed in that measure," said House Majority Leader Rep. Al Carlson..

"That is not any new spending but will ultimately save the tax payers across this state by reducing costs of incarceration," said Sen. Joan Heckaman, D-Senate Minority Leader.

One other major sticking point, the takeover of county social services and what it means for your property taxes.

"They will see their property taxes going up because of the budgeting decisions made by the republican majority party," said Rep. Josh Boschee, D-Fargo.

"The takeover of county social services took a long time to get done but that is true property tax relief. We put into a pilot program and the Senate agreed with what we did," said Carlson.

The legislature missed their self-imposed deadline of 70 days going 77, but they still have three days in their back pocket should they need it.

Lawmakers used money from many of the state’s rainy day funds to balance the budget, but will have to look elsewhere for cash in the next biennium if commodity prices don't bounce back.