North Dakota House members have followed the Senate in voting to override a veto of Gov. Doug Burgum on legislative authority.
The House voted 89-3 on Friday morning on Senate Bill 2055, which the Senate "immediately messaged" to the House Thursday after its unanimous override.
The bill seeks to outline or clarify authority of the Budget Section, a group of 42 lawmakers who meet between sessions to approve or reject funding requests, transfers and expenditures of state agencies.
Burgum vetoed the bill, calling it "fundamentally flawed" in the Budget Section acting as a "mini-Legislature."
Republican majority leaders brought the bill after a North Dakota Supreme Court ruling in 2018 found both the governor and the Budget Section overstepped authority in several disputed vetoes and provisions on appropriations in some spending bills, respectively.
"Senate Bill 2055 was drafted ... to codify the powers and duties of the Budget Section and to provide criteria that the Budget Section is required to consider when evaluating state agency requests," said House Majority Leader Chet Pollert, R-Carrington.
With the House override, Burgum's veto is defeated and the bill is made law.
In a statement, the governor called the bill "a missed opportunity to move forward in the spirit of collaboration and to follow the Constitution."
“The Legislature can have a Budget Section, and the Legislature can place conditions on spending within the four corners of a bill," Burgum said. "But what’s clear in the Constitution – and the Attorney General agrees – is that the authority to carry out that spending and meet those conditions rests with the executive branch, not a mini-Legislature."
Meanwhile, John Olsrud, director of Legislative Council for 25 years until 2007, said the dispute of Budget Section authority is a classic one of separation of powers that could eventually be taken to court again, if not changed by the Legislature.
"The Supreme Court said that when the Legislature delegates to the Budget Section the authority to approve appropriations and some other things, it's a violation of the separation of powers doctrine of the Constitution," Olsrud said. "To me, this is not heavy constitutional law. It's political science 101."
Lawmakers have said they need the Budget Section to approve agency requests, such as to receive federal funding, between sessions, rather than call for special or annual sessions. North Dakota's Legislature meets for up to 80 days every two years to set new policies and budgets.
"The Legislature has made its decision," Olsrud said. "They want to continue doing what they've been doing, and they will add some conditions, they'll put in something and if it goes through the courts, the conditions aren't going to fool the judges. I think our judges are smarter than that. They can see through it."