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North Dakota State Capitol, Bismarck, North Dakota, USA. (Photo: Bobak Ha'Eri via Wikipedia)

Number of ND bills already filed is below average

BISMARCK, N.D. — The number of bills filed before the start of North Dakota’s upcoming legislative session — on topics from tax reform to requiring ginseng growers to be registered to lowering penalties for possession of drug paraphernalia — is below the long-term average, the head of the Legislature’s research arm says.

Lawmakers, state agencies and legislative committees have already filed 279 bills and 13 resolutions ahead of the Legislature’s Jan. 6 start, said Legislative Council Director Jim Smith, whose staff includes attorneys and budget analysts who help lawmakers with research and bill drafting.

The number of pre-filed legislative measures has averaged about 395 since 1981, Smith said. A record 543 legislative measures were pre-filed ahead of the 1987 Legislature, data show.

A total of 254 legislative measures were filed before the start of the 2013 Legislature. There were 842 bills and 76 resolutions ultimately introduced during the 2013 session, and Smith said he expects the number of bills in the upcoming session to be similar to the last.

“It will be fast and furious in the first week or so,” Smith said.

Gov. Jack Dalrymple signed 41 resolutions and 503 bills into law last year after the Republican-led Legislature took the entire 80 days allowed by law to finish its work.

Around the halls of the Capitol leading up to the session’s start, most lawmakers — including Sen. Dwight Cook, R-Mandan, chairman of the Senate Finance and Taxation Committee, said Dalrymple’s proposal to change the formula used to distribute oil and gas production tax revenue in favor of oil-producing counties likely will be the most debated measure of the session. The fund currently sets aside 75 percent to the state and 25 percent to local governments; Dalrymple is pushing a 60-40 split in favor of local governments in the oil patch to address rapid growth.

Last year, North Dakota’s Legislature passed some of the nation’s strictest abortion laws, including one that bans the procedure when a fetal heartbeat can be detected. At present, there have been no abortion-related measures filed, Smith said.

Legislative leaders from both parties have told The Associated Press that lawmakers probably don’t have the appetite to undertake additional measures to curb abortion anytime soon, after voters in November booted a pair of the most vocal anti-abortion lawmakers in North Dakota.

In related news, Dalrymple’s budget hopes to help oil patch growing pains.

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