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Theodore Roosevelt statue

A bronze statue of Theodore Roosevelt in the uniform he wore as a U.S. Army officer stands outside the town theater in downtown Medora.

North Dakota's Senate may vote Wednesday on a proposal for Gov. Doug Burgum's vision of a Theodore Roosevelt Presidential Library — but after some considerations. 

The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee on Tuesday gave the library proposal a 4-2 "do-pass" recommendation after shuffling unrelated legislation between two bills, essentially housing the library in one bill with its previous legislation moved to another. 

Sen. Jessica Unruh, R-Beulah, who chairs the committee, said the bill may reach the Senate floor on Wednesday.

The bill, built from amendments brought by Senate Majority Leader Rich Wardner, R-Dickinson, proposes funding from a variety of sources, but not the Legacy Fund earnings as Burgum proposed. 

"It was a lot of negotiations with the governor's office and with others to get to this point," Wardner said. 

Instead, the $50 million from the state would comprise $15 million in an endowment from $9.7 million returned from previous funds allocated for the library project and $5.3 million from the ending fund balance of the 2017-19 general fund. The bill also authorizes a $35 million loan from Bank of North Dakota. 

That money, for operation and maintenance, must be matched by $100 million in donations to build the library.

And $10 million of that $100 million would be endowed for the digitization of President Roosevelt's documents at Dickinson State University's Theodore Roosevelt Center and a scholarship program.

Wardner said that "is only fair." Also, $300,000 would go to the city of Dickinson for previous work related to planning the library before it moved to Medora, a decision that ruffled feathers.

"This project was hijacked right out of our city," Wardner said. "I still have a little bur under my saddle from that."

Lawmakers have been pondering how to insert the library proposal, which also came in on an amendment to the 2019-21 legislative budget bill. But Wardner said the budget bill proposal won't work for House concurrence.

"It's very difficult to bring a budget bill up, concur, divide the question and have an up or down vote on just the library," Wardner said.

House and Senate budget writers also considered the state Department of Commerce budget for an amendment on the library.

House Majority Leader Chet Pollert, R-Carrington, said he appreciates the maneuver to give the library a House vote, but added he doesn't expect the House vote to offer "overwhelming" support for the library. 

"There's no way it's an 80-85 percent vote of approval. I don't see that happening, not on the House side," Pollert said. 

Burgum has made the library his greatest push this legislative session, testifying twice on the proposal and hosting legislative receptions with guests, such as Theodore Roosevelt V, a descendant of the 26th president.

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

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