Rep. Jim Kasper, R-Fargo, center, leads a conference committee on Monday morning at the state Capitol dealing with House Bill 1521. Rep. Kasper also chairs the House Ethics Committee. Seated at left is Rep. Scott Louser, R-Minot, and Rep. Corey Mock, D-Grand Forks, right.

Two bills to implement voter-approved mandates for North Dakota state government ethics are nearing their endgame, with one likely edging ahead.

A conference committee looked over one of the bills Monday. Sen. David Hogue, R-Minot, led fellow conferees through Senate amendments and other proposed changes to the comprehensive legislation restricting lobbyists and setting up an ethics commission from an initiated constitutional amendment passed by 54 percent of voters in 2018.

The conference committee will meet again Tuesday, the same day the House Ethics Committee is to take action on the other ethics bill. Rep. Jim Kasper, R-Fargo, who leads the House Ethics Committee, said he can't say if the two bills -- one from each chamber -- will be melded or joined in the end.

Hogue said he thinks that the House legislation, brought by Republican majority leaders, "is going to be the bill."

"I think the House kind of has the leverage because they're holding both bills now," Hogue told reporters. "They're kind of bringing us a little closer to their position and we feel we need to get something done, and they're agreeing with us on 90 percent of what the Senate is asking for."

The bill as passed by the Senate includes an interim study and lays out a complaint process for violations.

As an ethics bill conferee and House Ethics. Committee member, Rep. Corey Mock, D-Grand Forks, said he also sees the House bill reconciled and ultimately passing, with the Senate bill potentially amended for a study or "anything additional."

"They won't be duplicative or conflicting in any way," Mock said. The bills have differences, mostly "technical or mechanical," he added -- but there are "substantive disagreements" to settle as well, such as definitions. Hogue said compromise is possible.

Both House and Senate ethics committees have pondered a variety of provisions in the bills related to the ethics commission and lobbyist restrictions from Measure 1, including sanctions, autonomy and transparency for the public.

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Reach Jack Dura at 701-223-8482 or jack.dura@bismarcktribune.com.


Capitol Reporter