New rules for public hearings on special session bills

Published: Nov. 1, 2021 at 4:51 PM CDT
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BISMARCK, N.D. (KFYR) - North Dakota’s state legislature will begin their special session next week.

Until recently, lawmakers were preparing for a reconvened session. But with the switch to a special session announced on Friday, the legislature needs to switch some of the procedures.

Now there are concerns over what kinds of bills will be discussed and who has a say in what’s voted on.

Every special session is different.

The last one was three days in August of 2016 after then-Governor Jack Dalrymple called everyone back to deal with emergency budget cuts.

This time, it’s opposite: emergency spending.

And there are new rules for the new circumstances.

There are 26 bills unrelated to redistricting or the billion ARPA dollars.

Going with a special session gives them more time to debate the issues, but leadership still wants to be quick.

“There’s an old adage that work expands to meet the time allotted for it. So, I appreciate the concerns we’re hearing, the calls to be efficient with our time, and I agree with that. So, I’d like to see it completed in one week, but we’ll see how that goes,” said Speaker of the House Kim Koppelman, R-West Fargo.

Under a normal session, every bill is heard and given a vote.

This time, that’s not the case.

The 26 bills submitted will have to be approved by a small and select group of leading members.

If that “Delayed Bills” Committee approves the bill, then it can be considered by the legislature.

“There’s a lot of things going on in the country, and yes there might be some things we may have missed last session. My contention would be if we didn’t do it last session and can wait until next session, we probably should,” said Senate Delayed Bills Committee Chairman of the Sen. Jerry Klein, R-Fessenden.

During a session, there are many committees which discuss the different bills brought forward. This time, there will only be one committee to hold hearings. And that has some lawmakers speaking out about the chosen procedures.

“I am concerned about the timing of not fully engaging the public in the process in which we are about to go through without having policy committees discuss it completely,” said Sen. Erin Oban, D-Bismarck.

Some lawmakers have also voiced concerns the types of bills they approve during the special session, because they could set a precedent for future special sessions.

The special session starts at 8 a.m. on Monday November 8th. The Delayed Bills Committee will meet shortly thereafter to approve or reject bills. Legislative leadership said they expect to work late into the night all week to complete their business by Friday night.

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