Lawmakers confirm talks with governor about special session

Updated: Jun. 22, 2021 at 3:29 PM CDT
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BISMARCK, N.D. (KFYR) - Legislative leaders held another meeting on what to do about a special session this fall. The state’s Emergency Commission recently decided it would delay approving more than $1 billion in federal aid to avoid triggering a session.

A few hours later, more than 40 lawmakers met in Bismarck to pass aid that was approved last week and attempted to work out what to do in the meantime.

This morning, a select committee made the rules that will allow them to get their extra work done more quickly.

But the time saved may not be enough to avoid a special session.

And now, legislative leaders are confirming talks with the governor to call them back in a few months.

The state constitution gives the legislature 80 days to finish its work, but monitors in the chambers say they’ve only used 76.

That gives them four days in their back pockets, but lawmakers say they’ll need at least five days to redistrict.

So, they’re left with few options.

“A reconvened session would be four days, and we’d be done. A special session has no limit. Not that I’m out there urging us to meet for two weeks or anything like that, but that’s just the way the cookie crumbles when it comes to a special session,” said Sen. Ray Holmberg, R-Grand Forks.

By going with a special session, the legislature saves those four days so they can be used on other issues later.

However, lawmakers are already expecting to cover a few topics during the November session.

“We’re going to keep it down to a minimum. We’re not going to let anything come in. We’re going to sit down and visit about what’s important and bring it forward,” said Senate Majority Leader Rich Wardner, R-Dickinson.

It’s not uncommon for a special session to cover more than one issue.

The session for redistricting was lumped in with natural disasters and federal funding.

Those topics will likely be on the docket this year as well.

Lawmakers have said there’s a possibility that the law causing this bottleneck could be changed, but they can only change it when everyone is in Bismarck. This means they would need to have a special session in order to avoid a special session.

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