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Special Session vs. Reconvening explained

Published: Oct. 4, 2021 at 4:35 PM CDT
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BISMARCK, N.D. (KFYR) - Lawmakers will have a full plate when they return to these empty chambers on Nov. 8. It’s no longer a question of when state lawmakers will meet in November, but there are questions about how.

Each option has different advantages and disadvantages, but they also have different costs.

Lawmakers can return to Bismarck one of two ways: Reconvene or a special session.

When the session in spring ended, they had four unused days. The assembly can call itself back in and use those whenever they want. But they only have four days.

The other option is a special session, which has to be called by the governor. If they do it this way, they save the four days and have unlimited time to accomplish their tasks.

If lawmakers get called in, they get more time to debate issues not originally planned. Issues like mask mandates or copying the Texas abortion bill. But legislative leadership doesn’t want to spend too much time in the chambers.

“We’re going to move just expediently as we can. I love my legislative members, but not that much I want to be here for a month. So, we’ve got to get done in a short period of time,” said House Majority Leader Chet Pollert, R-Carrington.

With only one month until the November session, lawmakers are still negotiating with the Governor’s Office on who will call them into Bismarck.

Meanwhile, those same parties are negotiating the federal funds which sparked the debate.

“It’s key that these would go out now to be involved in the bidding this winter for the 2022 construction season. So, the timing, I think, is very good. It’s been very thoughtful in terms of getting us where we are today,” said Gov. Doug Burgum, R-N.D.

But, the cost of the session is also being monitored. A normal legislative session costs the state roughly $81,000 per day. But, with fewer committees and days, there will be fewer employees hired.

According to the Legislative Council, the November session will cost taxpayers $64,000 per day. Whether it’s a special session or a reconvened session won’t change that $64,000 figure, but it will affect how many days they use.

If they reconvene, they’re capped to four legislative days which would be more than $250,000. If they are called into a special session, the four-day limit is lifted, and they can spend as much time as they want. But the cost will increase.

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