The 67th Legislative Session is off and running. Legislative rules require the wearing of masks on the floor of the House and the Senate. Masks are also required in committee rooms, if social distancing can not be maintained. Only legislators and legislative staff are allowed on the floor; no visitors can be seated beside us. And, some legislators are “virtually present” and “virtually vote.” The halls and galleries are close to empty.
I’d prefer to do things as in the past. But, for the most part, it is working and we are getting things done — thanks in large part to the diligent work and effort of Legislative Council’s IT staff.
The first day’s activities were consumed with the Tribal and State Relationship address, the State of the Judiciary address, and the Governor’s State of the State address.
The next three days were spent in committee meetings. On Friday afternoon the Senate went into session and we acted on 15 bills — 14 were passed, one was killed.
I’ve been moved from the Education and Transportation
Committees to the Appropriations Committee. I’ve always wanted to serve on that committee as it is the most powerful of Senate committees — they control “the purse strings.” And, we all know, what doesn’t get funded, doesn’t get done.
The Appropriations Committee meets five days a week. This past Wednesday through Friday we went over the budgets of the State Fair, the Information Technology Department, Veteran’s Home, the Department of Veteran Affairs, the Department of Financial Institutions, the ND Racing Commission, the Department of Career and Technical Education, and the judicial branch. By the time we got done, my mind was swimming in a plethora of numbers and programs.
Subcommittees were (or will be) assigned to each of those bills. I’m on a committee of three dealing with the Veterans’ Home and Veterans’ Affairs. I know I’ll be assigned to other subcommittees as we will have somewhere near 30 budget bills.
I’ve received a number of e-mails on the Governor’s Executive Orders and State of Emergencies. So far, I’m aware of one bill already introduced in the Senate. I’m sure the House will also have a bill or bills.
SB 2124 as introduced would limit the Governor’s declaration of a state of disaster or emergency to 30 days. It can be extended for an additional 30 days if the governor calls a special session of the legislature to be held between the 31st day and the 60th day of the original declaration. If the disaster or emergency terminates, he may not declare another one of the same kind.
The governor may not issue an EO that restricts the use or expenditure of any money appropriated by the legislative branch. I’m told that provision was inserted when I reminded them about foundation aid being withheld from schools.
Another provision of the bill allows for a virtual special session during the emergency or disaster.
SB 2124, and others that will be introduced, is the first step in the process. The final product will evolve in the next several months.
What we want is a “veto proof” bill. We don’t want it to be about personalities but rather about what is best for the state of ND.
Since we have no idea what the future holds with regards to disasters or emergencies, we certainly don’t want to tie the Governor’s hands so he can’t do what is necessary for the state. A year ago, no one had even the slightest clue of COVID-19, what it was, or how it behaved.
It is a great privilege to serve in the legislature. Thank you, District 2, for that opportunity. Should anyone in District 2 want to contact one of us, the best way is through email. Addresses are as follows: email@example.com, bertanderson@ nd.gov, and firstname.lastname@example.org.
(Editor’s Note: Space for Capitol Views columns are provided by this newspaper as a public service.)