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Legislative leadership is charting a course with the hope of completing 2017 session work sometime during the week after the Easter holiday with the goal of saving six to eight legislative days, if needed, over the interim.

The Legislature will not gavel in on Tuesday, providing members time to meet, meet and meet some more all day to begin clearing as much of the backlog of conference committees as possible.

House Majority Leader Al Carlson, R-Fargo, gave freshmen lawmakers a pep talk during Friday morning’s floor session on bringing their work to an end.

“Just because it says 80 days does not mean we have to sit here for 80 days. We’ll do it if we need to do the job right,” Carlson said. “Unless it’s a medical emergency, we expect you to be in conference committees. We expect you to defend the House’s position.”

Carlson said those not on a conference committee should be attending ones that involve bills in their committees to learn the process and help when possible.

“We need to up the game. Go in there with a plan in mind,” Carlson said.

Carlson said saving 10 days of the 80-day limit would require them to adjourn by Good Friday next week — which is not realistic. To work the following week and save as many days as possible is the new goal.

Lawmakers will have conference committees in the morning and gavel in for floor sessions on Good Friday.

Sixty-three legislative days had been used prior to Friday. Prior to Friday, there had been 54 conference committees assigned to hammer out differences on bills, according to the North Dakota Legislative Council.

This was up from 48 conference committees assigned through the same period in 2015 and 46 in 2013.

However, there were fewer bills remaining overall for the session to-date through Thursday.

A total of 172 bills remained active prior to Friday’s floor sessions, with 31 of those having cleared both chambers and are waiting to be sent to the governor.

This was ahead of the 2015 session pace, when there were 213 bills remaining, 22 of which were waiting to be sent to the governor.

In 2013, the total number of bills was at 236, of which 21 were waiting to go to the governor.

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Senate Majority Leader Rich Wardner, R-Dickinson, said the best scenario would be to keep eight days.

The major bills that will come down to the end include the Department of Human Services budget, higher education budget and the proposed state takeover of county social services, according to Wardner.

The social services legislation Senate Bill 2206, was recently changed into a study by the House. The bill is expected to be put back in committee on Monday and a framework for a compromise worked out between both chambers.

“We’ve studied it for four years,” Wardner said. “The ball’s in their court.”

The Senate also expects to concur later next week on House amendments to Senate Bill 2344, the hotly debated medical marijuana legislation introduced this session to fix what some lawmakers and state officials say was a flawed ballot measure passed in November.

One last addition to the health department budget is also being made in connection to SB2344. Language will clearly spell out the requirement in statute that, for a seven-year period after passage of a ballot measure, it will require a two-thirds majority vote in both chambers to amend the medical marijuana law.

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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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