Discussions being had for September Special Session

Published: Aug. 30, 2021 at 3:05 PM CDT
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BISMARCK, N.D. (KFYR) - State lawmakers are preparing to reconvene for a one-week session in November, but they may be meeting for much longer and much sooner.

There are discussions within the Capitol to bring in lawmakers for a special session in September.

North Dakota has some pressing matters in the coming months. But how pressing are they?

We’ve known for months that the special session in November would have a few more issues covered, but now it’s becoming more and more likely they won’t have enough time to get everything they want done.

When lawmakers finished the 2021 session four days early, the original plan was to use those saved days to draw new legislative lines.

Now that lawmakers have Census data, they can start drawing the new lines for the legislative districts. But that’s not the only thing that’ll be discussed when they meet again.

“There are a lot of issues that come before us. Everybody wants certain things, and there’s a bunch of people who want the opposite… It’s kind of interesting out there in the public right now,” said Sen. Majority Leader Rich Wardner, R-Dickinson.

Among the other topics: fixing recently passed laws and one billion dollars sitting in the Bank of North Dakota thanks to the American Rescue Plan.

Wardner, Majority Leader Chet Pollert, and Gov. Doug Burgum, R-N.D., have discussed the option of calling a special session in September specifically for the infrastructure money. But leadership says September is too soon.

“The appropriators gotta take a look at that thing, and I firmly believe that. So they need to have their voice in this thing... I have a hard time believing we’re going to make it,” said House Majority Leader Chet Pollert, R-Carrington.

Some in the legislature say any amount of time in a special session won’t be enough to spend the billion, and want to hold it until the next full session in 2023, but they don’t know all the rules and deadlines yet.

There is no decision on if a September or even October session will happen. All members of leadership say this is just an option on the table with varying popularity.

Burgum said discussions are ongoing, but added there’s a chance the legislature reconvenes twice in the next six months.

“That’s the citizen’s dollars. It’s not the legislature’s dollars. It’s not the state’s dollars, because that was federal government stimulus that was meant to get out to the people with certain guidelines. So, I think it’s important that we act on our responsibilities to invest those dollars wisely,” said Burgum.

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