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North Dakota lawmakers reach session's midway break

North Dakota lawmakers reach session's midway break

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Jerry Mozer, front left, sergeant at arms for the House of Representatives, walks past Rep. David Monson, R-Osnabrock, back left, and Rep. Mike Nathe, R-Bismarck, as the House chamber breaks for lunch at the state Capitol in Bismarck on Wednesday. Both the House and Senate chambers spent the week finishing voting on bills before Friday's crossover deadline.

North Dakota's House of Representatives recessed late Wednesday afternoon for its midsession break after acting on all of its bills, covering everything from state agency budgets to free speech on college campuses to election changes.

"Members of the assembly, you have done yeoman's work," Speaker Kim Koppelman, R-West Fargo, told the House after the body finished its bills.

The Senate finished its first-half work on Tuesday morning. Lawmakers in both chambers will resume their work on March 3 after what's known as the "crossover" break, taking up the opposite chamber's bills. 

House Majority Leader Chet Pollert, R-Carrington, said the session at times has been rewarding, frustrating and challenging, but "a lot of hard work's being put in by everybody."

The House had 538 bills and resolutions introduced; the Senate had 359. The House finished work on 129 of its bills on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Lawmakers in March might move to ease the Legislature's coronavirus pandemic-related mask rule. In December, the House and Senate adopted a joint rule requiring everyone in spaces of the Legislature to wear a face mask or shield covering their nose and mouth.

Most lawmakers have worn face coverings, such as cloth and surgical masks, and also clear plastic face shields and mouth spit guards.

But some lawmakers pull down their mask, pull up their face shield or wear no covering at all. At times, Koppelman has reminded the House to comply with the rule. 

The House Rules Committee met on Tuesday to discuss the requirement. Pollert will visit with Senate leaders about continuing to require masks.

North Dakota's Legislature has 80 days every two years to write new laws and budgets. So far, 35 days have been used. The 2019 Legislature used 76 days.

Lawmakers will receive their $186 daily pay during the break.

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

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