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Democrats seek special session to address western ND needs

By: Mike Nowatzki, Forum News Service, INFORUM

BISMARCK – Democratic-NPL Party lawmakers asked Republican Gov. Jack Dalrymple on Monday to call a special legislative session to address infrastructure and other needs facing counties and cities in North Dakota’s Oil Patch.

“We cannot wait until the 2015 session to address these challenges,” House Minority Leader Kenton Onstad of Parshall and Senate Minority Leader Mac Schneider of Grand Forks stated in a letter sent Monday morning.

The letter also was signed by Sen. John Warner of Ryder, who with Onstad represents District 4, which is affected by oil and gas development.

The three legislators contend that current state funding is failing to keep up with the pace of development.

“The affected western counties do not think that the current funding level is adequate to meet the demand for services they are facing,” the letter stated. “Impacted cities are reaching their bonding limits and are increasingly frustrated with lack of assistances to adequately fund development projects. … If present state funding levels do not change, many local leaders and residents fear that western North Dakota may never catch up to the pace of oil and gas development.”

Onstad said in the news release that Democrats don’t take their request for a special session lightly, but that the state doesn’t have any other choice.

“There are many in western North Dakota who are afraid that their communities and counties are reaching the breaking point,” he said. “If we don’t act now, we’re jeopardizing the financial solvency of many western counties, cities and school districts and we’re putting future oil and gas development at risk.”

A call to the governor’s office for comment wasn’t immediately returned.

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