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North Dakota State Capitol (Photo: Bobak Ha'Eri via Wikimedia Commons)

ND Legislature mulling bills from mansions to annual session

BISMARCK, N.D. — North Dakota’s 64th legislative session is well underway and lawmakers are set to consider measures that range from holding sessions annually to monitoring pipelines that carry oilfield wastewater. Here’s a glimpse of what’s expected to come up this week:

SALTWATER PIPELINE MONITORING

Democrats have promised to file legislation by Monday afternoon’s deadline that would mandate additional monitoring and safeguards for pipelines that carry briny oilfield wastewater. The pledge comes after the largest saltwater spill of North Dakota’s current oil boom, a 3-million gallon leak near Williston.

Democrats said the legislation might be similar to what a Republican pushed two years ago but was defeated 86-4 after resistance from oil companies that argued the additional monitoring would be too expensive. State regulators said such safeguards are ineffective on small holes because the leaks would not be strong enough to be detected.

Related: Exxon gets $1 million penalty for Yellowstone River spill

BILL COUNT

The number of bills filed this session is close to what was filed two years ago. Data show 805 bills — 474 from the House and 331 from the Senate — were filed last week. Lawmakers considered 842 bills during the 63rd legislative session.

CIVICS TEST

Arizona has beat North Dakota as the first state to require high school students to take the same test that immigrants must pass to become a U.S. citizen. But North Dakota should be a close second. The measure already sailed through the House in an 85-1 vote and it’s expected to get similar support in the Senate.

First lady Betsy Dalrymple has been a big supporter of the bill and said her husband likely sign it sometime this week.

NEW DIGS FOR ND GOVERNOR?

Speaking of the first family, bipartisan legislation is slated to be considered this week to buy them — and those who come after — a new home. Sen. Jessica Unruh, R-Beulah, is the primary sponsor of the bill that would appropriate $5 million for the construction of a new governor’s residence on the state Capitol grounds.

Gov. Jack Dalrymple has not endorsed the idea. A similar bill that would have funded a new governor’s residence failed two years ago.

North Dakota’s present Governor’s Residence was completed in 1960 and is an example of prairie-style architecture. A major renovation was completed in 2000. The home is the second official residence that has been built for North Dakota’s governors. The original Governor’s Mansion, built in 1884, is located a few blocks south of the Capitol.

ANNUAL SESSION

North Dakota is one only four states — along with Montana, Nevada and Texas — where the Legislature doesn’t meet every year. Two proposals are being considered this week that would bring lawmakers back to the Capitol annually.

A House bill, sponsored by Rep. Keith Kempenich, would hold a 20-day session in even-numbered years and 60-day session in odd-numbered years. A Senate bill, sponsored by Sen. John Grabinger, D-Jamestown, would hold a 50-day session in odd-numbered years and 30-day session in even-numbered years.

Lawmakers have debated holding annual sessions for years. But North Dakota’s increasing reliance on the whims of oil tax revenue has made crafting two-year budgets more difficult in order to meet spending needs brought on by the state’s explosive growth.

The North Dakota Legislature ended its longest session ever in 2013, when it logged 80 days — the maximum allowed by the North Dakota Constitution. Lawmakers met for more than 20 hours straight on the last day of that session, after approving two spending bills that completed work on the Legislature’s record $14 billion, two-year budget.

 

This article was written by James Macpherson from The Associated Press and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.

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