A North Dakota legislative committee voted Thursday afternoon to reinstate the tribal and judicial addresses that are traditionally held at the beginning of the legislative session, two years after lawmakers ditched the speeches amid the Dakota Access Pipeline protests.
The Legislative Procedure and Arrangements Committee voted unanimously to hold the two addresses during the morning of the first day of the legislative session, Jan. 3. Gov. Doug Burgum's State of the State address will be held that afternoon.
Indian Affairs Commission Executive Director Scott Davis said Friday morning he was "very excited" to hear the lawmakers had reinstated the address, which he said helps set the tone for tribal legislation and underscores the working relationship between the state and its five tribal nations.
North Dakota Chief Justice Gerald VandeWalle also welcomed the lawmakers' decision. He said the address gives the judicial branch an opportunity to update lawmakers on its programs and discuss funding or other legislative actions.
Legislators voted two years ago to cancel the tribal and judicial addresses during the 2017 session, citing the strain on law enforcement resources during the pipeline protests that were spurred by objections from the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe.
The chairman of another tribe called the decision a "dishonor" at the time. Davis arranged meetings between tribal and legislative leaders in place of the speech in front of the legislative assembly.
Senate Minority Leader Joan Heckaman, D-New Rockford, urged the committee Thursday to consider holding the addresses again.
"I think it's an opportunity for us to hear from all the people in the state," she said, calling the speeches "historical."
House Majority Leader Al Carlson, R-Fargo, raised concerns that holding all three addresses had taken up too much of the Legislature's time during the session, which is limited to 80 days.
"I think that we could better use our time to get our committees rolling," he said. "I know it was a tradition for many years. Nobody seemed to suffer too much last time when we didn't do it that way."
The committee ultimately decided to hold all three speeches on the same day to save time.