North Dakota lawmakers OK $99M attorney general budget; 13 new full-time workers included
At the start of the legislative session, Drew Wrigley made a budget request of $110 million, including 26 additional full-time employees and additional space and equipment at the State Crime Lab.
BISMARCK — North Dakota lawmakers in the final week of the 2023 legislative session approved an attorney general budget some $11 million lower than originally requested, but it’s one Drew Wrigley says represents cooperation between his office and the Legislature.
“We didn’t ask for five of anything we needed three of,” the attorney general said. “I’m very pleased with how the Legislature responded to our requests.”
Wrigley at the start of the session put forth a budget request of $110 million, about 29% or $24.6 million higher than the previous biennium. That request included 26 additional full-time employees and additional space and equipment at the State Crime Lab. The approved 2023-25 budget total is just short of $99 million.
It provides for a $5 million litigation fund to pay attorneys hired on a per-case basis to represent state agencies. About $3.2 million of the pool will come from the gambling and excise tax allocation fund and be transferred by the Attorney General’s Office to state agencies.
The new budget includes 13 additional full-time employees. It provides for two firearms testers, two latent fingerprint scientists, and one scientist in each area of DNA, blood and drug testing at the State Crime Lab. Three BCI agents will assist other law enforcement in understaffed areas near American Indian reservations.
The budget also provides for two additional IT employees, four BCI cybercrimes investigators, additional attorneys in the Medicare Fraud Unit, and a number of support staff. The State Fire Marshal Division and its eight employees — now under the AG's office — will move to the Insurance Department.
The budget also includes a proposed interim study to examine whether the State Crime Lab should be kept administratively separate from the Bureau of Criminal Investigation, a division of Wrigley's office.
Wrigley at the start of the session asked legislators to change a state law that states the lab must be administratively separated from BCI. He said the move would streamline both organizations and reduce testing backlogs at the lab. Opponents said BCI oversight could call the lab's credibility into question. The Senate killed an amended version of the bill — which would have added a managerial position separate from the lab director — in a 2-44 vote.
Also included in the budget:
- $1.1 million for grants to organizations that provide prevention and treatment services related to human trafficking.
- $400,000 in resiliency funding for mental health and wellness support for current and retired correctional and law enforcement personnel.
- An attorney general salary of $179,300 through June 2024 and $186,400 after that. Wrigley's current salary is $165,800.
- $2 million in justice assistance grants from federal COVID-19 funds