Theodore Roosevelt Presidential Library passes Senate vote

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BISMARCK, N.D. - Gov. Doug Burgum scored a major win in the Senate on Wednesday as the chamber voted 34-13 to fund the Theodore Roosevelt Presidential Library in Medora.

Of course, the House will have to agree for the proposal to go anywhere.

The bill calls for a $50 million endowment from the state to cover operating and maintenance costs. Of that $50 million, 15 is from the General Fund. But most of that is money returned to the state from when the project was going to be in Dickinson. $35 million would be a Bank of North Dakota loan. None of that money is available until private and other donors put forward $100 million. The vote split both parties into a fight over North Dakota's legacy.

“It doesn't matter how you cut it, it's a legacy project,” said Senate majority leader Rich Wardner, R-Dickinson.

Wardner led the charge Wednesday for supporting the Theodore Roosevelt Presidential Library saying regardless of how the money gets there, North Dakota benefits.

“We are going to see an uptick in tourism traffic into the state of North Dakota,” said Wardner.

After recent budget cuts, some Senators want more services for people.

“Maybe this should have been an initiated measure and ask the people to vote on this. If we want to do a Legacy for North Dakota, let's take care of our people first,” said Sen. Joan Heckaman, D-New Rockford.

Democrats argued over how the bill was brought forward.

“Why wouldn't we respect the legislative process enough to introduce a bill 69 days ago,” said Sen. Erin Oban, D-Bismarck.

“We're going to leave here in a few days and if we fail to act, we might have lost our opportunity to seize the moment,” said Sen. Larry Robinson, D-Valley City.

Some Republicans were uncomfortable with past statements toward Native Americans.

"Roosevelt called the General Allotment a mighty pulverizing engine to break up tribal mass. So he didn't have a good heart for the people that were here before him,” said Sen. Oley Larsen, R-Minot.

Nearly half the Senate stood up to make some sort of speech. Here's what some of the others said:

Sen. Janne Myrdal, R-Edinburg, says her constituents are nearly unanimously against the project in the north east corner of the state. She voted no.

Ron Sorvaag, R-Fargo, said something similar, but voted for it because we have to invest if we want opportunity to come to the state.

Freshman Senator Jay Elkin, R-Taylor whose district surrounds Dickinson, says his voters overwhelmingly came out against the project. He voted no. Elkin added the money to pay back Dickinson for moving the site and $10 million for Dickinson State's digitization are big benefits.