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North Dakota Legislature marches toward midsession break

North Dakota Legislature marches toward midsession break

Capitol in frost

Frost blankets the state Capitol grounds in Bismarck.

North Dakota’s Legislature is in its last week before its midsession break, and lawmakers are finishing up committee work and considering remaining bills in their respective chambers.

Many of the major spending bills are still being considered this week in House and Senate appropriations committees as the session heads to “crossover.”

The break takes its name from the fact that Senate bills “cross over” to the House during the session's second half, and vice versa.

More than 900 bills and resolutions have been introduced in the session that began in January.

Monday will be the Legislature’s 33rd day of meetings. The Senate is expected to finish its first-half work on Tuesday. The House is expected to wrap up on Thursday.

Republicans wield supermajority control in the North Dakota Legislature and hold every statewide office. GOP majority leaders say both chambers plan at least two floor sessions daily until they break.

When the session reconvenes on March 3, votes in both chambers take on more significance because they often represent the Legislature’s last review of a new state law.

Lawmakers will still get their $186 daily pay during the break. House and Senate floor leaders and committee chairmen are paid extra. When lawmakers are in session, they get their daily pay seven days a week.

North Dakota’s Constitution says the Legislature may meet for a maximum of 80 days every two years, not counting special sessions and meetings held to impeach a public official. The constitution does not require biennial sessions.

North Dakota is one of four states where the Legislature still meets every other year. Lawmakers for decades have consistently rebuffed attempts to hold annual regular sessions. A bill to hold annual sessions was narrowly approved Friday in the Senate, by a vote of 24-23, with Lt. Gov. Brent Sanford, the Senate president, casting the deciding vote. One senator was absent. But the bill still requires House approval after the crossover.

The Legislature ended its longest session ever in 2013, when it logged the maximum 80 days allowed. Lawmakers met for more than 20 hours straight on the last day of that session.


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