North Dakota House fails to override veto of school voucher bill
On Tuesday, House lawmakers fell short of the two-thirds majority needed to override the governor’s veto of House Bill 1532, which would set aside $10 million for an educational reimbursement program.
BISMARCK — Despite North Dakota House Republican leadership voicing disappointment with Gov. Doug Burgum’s veto of a bill that would offset the cost of private school tuition for some families, an attempt to revive the bill failed on Tuesday.
House lawmakers fell short of the two-thirds majority needed to override the governor’s veto of House Bill 1532, which would have set aside $10 million from the state’s general fund for an educational reimbursement program.
The House voted 52-41, with one member absent or not voting, which sustained Gov. Doug Burgum’s Friday, April 21, veto. It takes 63 votes to override a veto in the House.
On the House Floor on Tuesday, House Majority Leader Mike Lefor, R-Dickinson, said he was disappointed in the veto, which was Burgum’s sixth of the session.
“I’m getting sick and tired of vetoes,” Lefor said. “I feel our branch has been disrespected — we’re not asking for a lot here.”
In Burgum’s veto message to House Speaker Dennis Johnson, he wrote that while his administration supports school choice, the bill is “not the comprehensive solution we need.”
“It falls short of meaningfully enhancing school choice — especially in rural areas far from any existing nonpublic schools — and lacks incentives to expand nontraditional options in K-12 education,” Burgum wrote.
“I find the governor’s message weak,” Lefor said on Tuesday. “He said it’s too early, I’m saying it’s too late. Let’s get in the game.”
House Bill 1532 was introduced as a school choice bill by Rep. Claire Cory, R-Grand Forks. Supporters of the legislation say it would make private school more affordable, allowing more families to choose where they send their children to school. Opponents say families already have a choice of where their child is educated, and oppose the use of public funds for private institutions.
Throughout the legislative session, the bill garnered hundreds of testimonies both for and against it. The North Dakota House debated the legislation for more than an hour earlier this month before voting 51-41 to send it to Burgum’s desk. The Senate previously passed the bill 27-19 .
As written, House Bill 1532 would have established a program in which the North Dakota Department of Public Instruction would pay private schools for tuition costs no more than 30% of the state determined per-student pay rate. Parents would apply to participate in the program and the school would request funds to cover a student’s education expenses. The dollars would be paid directly to private schools.
It also included a means test for families applying for the money to send their child to a private school and would require a family’s gross taxable income to be under the 500% federal poverty level. For a family of four to participate in the program, its gross taxable income would have to be less than $150,000.
Rep. Pat Heinert, R-Bismarck, who carried the bill, told the House floor he was disappointed to be speaking on the bill for a third time.
“We are leaving behind kids in this state who deserve to have something better than what we are offering them,” Heinert said.
In his veto message, Burgum said the bill “lacks public transparency and accountability standards for the actual use of the proposed tuition offset payments,” but said the veto was not related to the cost of the bill.
“Simply put, HB 1532 does not go far enough to promote competition and expand choice in K-12 education,” Burgum wrote. “If not done correctly now, this bill could impede our ability to expand school choice in a meaningful way in the years ahead.
Burgum suggested lawmakers use the interim session to research school choice, competition and innovation in education to inform a “more comprehensive policy that empowers parent choice, improves outcomes for students and provides a greater return on investment of taxpayer dollars.”