NDHP denied money for drones, legislators concerned over ND Supreme Court ruling

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BISMARCK, N.D. - The North Dakota Highway Patrol would like to get drones to help with accident reconstruction and search and rescue efforts.

It's usually a standard request; all the legislators we spoke to supported the Highway Patrol's idea. But a recent state Supreme Court decision scared them from going forward.

Highway Patrol superintendent Brandon Solberg requested $45,000 so Highway Patrol could get two types of drones, one for search and rescue and one for accident reconstruction.

“I feel like we're behind the times operationally as far as having equipment like this. It wouldn't take a lot for us to get up to speed and get operators trained. We're talking about six drones,” said Solberg.

But the vote was 18-16 against his appropriation. Some members of budget section were concerned a recent state Supreme Court ruling removed the committee's ability to make spending approvals or changes. Legislators don't agree on the interpretation.

“They have the money in their budget, it's not a new appropriation. All we're doing is giving them the authority to go ahead and spend that, and so I think that is specific to the jobs we can do,” said Sen. Joan Heckaman, D-New Rockford.

“There is no authority within the North Dakota Constitution for the legislature to delegate that decision making process to a subcommittee like the budget section,” said Sen. David Hogue, R-Minot.

Highway Patrol will have to wait until the next legislative session to get approval for the drones.