No special session to fix auditor’s bill, legislators vow to work over the interim

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BISMARCK, N.D. - Senate Majority Leader Rich Wardner, R-Dickinson, says the full legislature won’t be called back to Bismarck to remove sections from the State Auditor’s budget that makes them check with the legislature before conducting performance audits.

Instead, legislators say they’ll work over the interim to make sure the Auditor’s Office isn’t negatively affected by the legislation. The move has led to citizen effort to refer the legislation and follow up with a constitutional initiative to protect the Auditor’s powers.

Wardner was joined by Senate Minority Leader Joan Heckaman, D-New Rockford, House Majority Leader Chet Pollert, R-Carrington, State Auditor Josh Gallion, community members and local media.

Gallion says he’s requested an Attorney General opinion into what audits would be affected. Gallion says the office switched how they do audits in 2000, which he fears could mean every audit would have to be approved by the Legislative Audit and Fiscal Review Committee.

That committee hasn’t met since October 2018. Pollert, Heckaman and Wardner all said they want the committee to meet more frequently going forward.

Pollert, who joined via conference call, said he wants more communication between the Auditor and legislature.

Some lawmakers say they’ve been caught off guard finding out about audits in the news. Gallion says when audits are complete, they go public and his office won’t hold back on any information.

Charles Tuttle, who is involved with the referendum effort, says that process and the constitutional initiative will continue.