Lawmakers await revenue forecast, and paper chase has begun

BISMARCK (AP) — Lawmakers settled in for North Dakota’s 66th legislative session at the state Capitol in Bismarck last week, highlighted by Gov. Doug Burgum’s vision for the state. A look at the week just past and the one ahead:
BUDGET FORECAST
Lawmakers remain nervous about prices for oil and farm commodities, and are set to get new revenue projections on Monday from their own economic consultancy.
A bipartisan panel of lawmakers voted unanimously in late 2017 to hire Colorado-based IHS Inc. The aim is to give the Legislature a second opinion on state revenue forecasts that have missed the mark by hundreds of millions of dollars in recent years.
Burgum presented his preferred spending plan the Legislature last month. Lawmakers will use the governor’s blueprint and its revenue forecast to craft their own budget.
TRIBAL FLAGS
Gov. Doug Burgum surprised most everyone with his announcement at last week’s State of the State address that the flags of North Dakota’s five tribal nations would be posted outside of his office at the state Capitol. The governor said he did so as a sign of respect.
Sen. Richard Marcellais, a Democrat from Belcourt and a member of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa, has four times unsuccessfully sponsored legislation to display the flags at the Capitol. Marcellais said he was surprised and grateful for Burgum’s action, but he also will probably introduce legislation this session so the flags are permanently displayed.
North Dakota’s American Indian tribes are the Standing Rock Sioux, Spirit Lake Sioux, Three Affiliated Tribes, the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa and the Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate.
BILLS, BILLS, BILLS
Legislative Council Director John Bjornson says his staff has drafted about 850 bills for lawmakers, many of which are expected to be filed in the coming days.
That’s down about 200 from the same time two years ago.
Every bill that’s introduced gets a hearing. Lawmakers passed just more than 400 bills last session.
SESSION CALENDAR
The session is limited to 80 days, which would take it through April 30. Leaders want to make sure they have extra time to handle any emergency matters that might pop up, so they are hoping to finish within 75 days or less — which would take the session to April 23.
The Legislature ended its longest session ever in 2013, when it logged the entire 80 days.