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The budget is a big worry, but lawmakers have other issues on their minds

Published: Jan. 6, 2021 at 8:37 PM CST
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BISMARCK, N.D. (KFYR) - The 67th legislative session kicked off with speeches from state leaders on Tuesday, Jan 5.

On Wednesday, however, the real work begins as lawmakers head into committee meetings.

Although the state’s budget and bonding bills will be taking center stage this legislative session, many lawmakers have their eyes on other issues.

Lawmakers crowded into the chambers on Tuesday, but on Wednesday they moved into committee rooms. “Session is always exciting and this one is going to be historic,” said Sen. Dick Dever, R-Bismarck.

While a tight state budget is in the back of everyone’s mind, some lawmakers have hope there’s room in the budget for their proposals.

Sen. Mark Owens, R-Grand Forks, said educations is the second largest budget in the state, and he hopes to allocate as much money to schools as possible because COVID-19 changes have made it a difficult year for teachers.

“They’re stepping up to the plate with no extra money, no extra assistance, but they’re doing it. So we’ve got to find a way to help them in the classroom continue, so that we don’t have any children drop through the cracks,” said Sen. Owens.

Sen. Owens added an increase in per pupil payments is needed and possible, saying there was a tighter budget a couple sessions ago.

“There were cuts and it was really bad and schools were still held harmless at that point. They weren’t cut, but they were held at zero and zero. The budget’s tight, but it’s not that tight this time,” said Sen. Owens.

Sen. Dever is also hoping a bill he’s sponsoring pulls through. In a story of lobbyist success, he’s now supporting an effort to cap copays for insulin, a bill he once voted down.

“I initially voted no and some of the advocates called me and convinced me otherwise. The success of the bill will be based on the advocates and the advocates are not any organization, it’s a group of mothers with children with type 1 diabetes,” said Sen. Dever.

No matter what issues lawmakers are focused on this legislative session, it’ll be a battle to see which bills get passed. While lawmakers are working in committees both Wednesday and Thursday, no official business is gaveled-in until Friday, Jan. 8.

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