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LETTER: N.D. needs annual legislative sessions

EAST GRAND FORKS — North Dakota is one of only four states whose state Legislature does not meet every year. And while the current biennial sessions have worked well in the past, the operative word is “past.”

The face of North Dakota is changing at a rapid pace, and with that increased tempo comes a need for legislative and political action. In the May 6 issue of the St. Paul Pioneer Press, there is a front page story with a headline claiming, “Teen sex-trafficking running rampant in the Oil Patch.” Recent stories about increased drug and other crime activity in the state also have been reported.

There are many other issues associated with the rapid growth and activity in the state, including transportation, education, roads, water, sewage, building codes and other infrastructure changes.

It is not the 1880s anymore, and with the needs as stated above, it’s time to call the Legislature into session annually.

There are those who say this would grow government; but there’s no requirement for the new system to feature an 80-day session each year. Neighboring Minnesota has annual sessions, but the session during even-numbered years is shorter than the other. This also could hold true for North Dakota.

The organization, Options, for which I work, has supported some legislative action in North Dakota that was introduced, then studied until the following session and then passed and then enacted into law. This can result in a four-year lag after the initial intent.

And in some of the examples I mentioned above, the reaction time — to include infrastructural, organizational and budgeting — must be speeded up.

It would serve the state well to seriously consider this change. Many states have opted for annual sessions in recent years, and I don’t recall any states reversing that decision.

John Johnson

Johnson is an advocate/trainer at the Options Center for Independent Living.