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Gov. Doug Burgum's intent to meet with lawmakers daily has been thwarted by ongoing response to pipeline protest activities — but that may change during the second half of the legislative session. 

“That’s been nearly a full-time job,” Burgum said of coordinating the ongoing response efforts.

Now that the protest camp has been declared cleared on Thursday and mitigation efforts to clean the land of abandoned materials is being ramped up, time with members of the Legislature is expected to increase after crossover. That accommodation will be made through more daily open office hours.

DAPL response dollars fight to continue

House Majority Leader Al Carlson, R-Fargo, says a “full-court press” is needed to push the federal government to reimburse North Dakota for its response to the months of protests.

A total of $33 million has been spent on law enforcement response to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers land where the majority of protesters had been camping. A number of state leaders have argued the onus is on the federal government to repay the state for its efforts.

The federal government will refuse reimbursement “the moment we pay this off in cash,” said Carlson, adding the state should let the loan money through the Bank of North Dakota sit, with interest, until the feds pay up.

Senate Minority Leader Joan Heckaman, D-New Rockford, agreed that the bills must be paid.

“We should look at having them pay their fair share,” Heckaman said.

Dems pulling double-duty

Democratic-NPL Party officials are emphasizing their efforts to have an impact despite their diminished numbers.

The Republicans have an 81-13 House majority after a net gain of 10 seats in November and a 38-9 Senate majority with a net gain of six. It’s the GOP’s largest majority in decades in both chambers.

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“In jest and in all seriousness, our members are working twice as hard,” House Minority Leader Corey Mock, D-Grand Forks, said.

Mock and Heckaman, the Senate minority leader, both are serving in committees this session due to their reduced caucus sizes in order to have at least one member on each committee — a rare move in the state’s history.

Heckaman said everyone in the caucus needs to have eyes open, ears listening and asking questions to ensure their voices are heard and they’re providing input.

Mock said he did thank the GOP leadership for one thing: going the extra mile to work with them despite their reduced numbers.

“They have been very forthright and cooperative in working with our members,” Mock said.

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(Reach Nick Smith at 701-250-8255 or 701-223-8482 or at nick.smith@bismarcktribune.com.)

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