North Dakota Legislature wraps work before mid-session break
BISMARCK — North Dakota lawmakers wrapped a bow on the first half of the 2019 legislative session Wednesday, Feb. 20, capping off a week that saw both chambers pass a slew of major proposals before adjourning for a six-day break.
Senate Majority Leader Rich Wardner, R-Dickinson, lauded his chamber’s smooth entrance into the crossover break, after which each chamber will consider bills passed by the opposite house.
“I’m really pleased with the caucuses. They’ve worked together well,” he told reporters after adjourning Wednesday morning, when the Senate passed a significant tribal oil tax compromise.
The House, which has twice as many members as the Senate and had more bills introduced this session, worked into the early evening to complete its work. In recent days, they considered major bills on gun seizures, infrastructure funding, sexual orientation anti-discrimination, sports betting and others.
On Wednesday, the House also passed a bill sponsored by Republican leadership implementing the state constitution's new voter-approved ethics rules in an 81-9 vote, sending it to the Senate. Republican Rep. Jim Kasper, of Fargo, called the bill an imperfect "good start" that could address any "ambiguity" over the requirements.
House Minority Leader Josh Boschee, D-Fargo, raised "potential constitutional conflicts" with the legislation and warned it could attract litigation.
The Senate passed its ethics implementation bill Tuesday. An effort to address November's passage of Measure 1 is expected to be one of the session's major initiatives.
Wednesday marked the 33rd legislative day. Lawmakers are limited to 80 days in regular session every two years.
House Majority Leader Chet Pollert, R-Carrington, commended lawmakers' efforts so far but shared a warning about the weeks to come.
"Period two will get tougher," he told his colleagues from the House floor.
Legislators are scheduled to return from crossover break Feb. 27 before receiving an updated revenue forecast in March that will help guide their budgeting decisions.
Senate Minority Leader Joan Heckaman, D-New Rockford, thanked Wardner for a collaborative approach to the session during a speech on the chamber floor. Still, she lamented several unspecified "lost opportunities" in the first weeks of the session.
"Let's remember that there are some things that we could have done better," Heckaman said.