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Legislature overrides veto of lawmakers' spending control

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — The North Dakota Legislature on Wednesday overrode Gov. Doug Burgum’s veto of a bill that would give lawmakers more oversight on how federal funding is spent.

Representatives voted 75-11 on Wednesday to override the second-term Republican governor. Sixty-three House votes were needed to provide a two-thirds majority. The Senate voted unanimously late Tuesday. Thirty-two votes were needed in that chamber.

The override votes came as North Dakota Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem said the bill may not survive a court challenge. Stenehjem told The Associated Press that the governor was “well within his constitutional authority” to veto the bill and that he thought the new law would be difficult to defend “from a constitutional aspect.”

Burgum said in his veto message Tuesday that the bill “clearly violates the separation of powers doctrine” and would be unconstitutional.

The Republican-led Legislature passed the bill after the state received $1.25 billion in federal coronavirus relief funding last year. The North Dakota Emergency Commission, headed by Burgum, largely determined how the money would be spent. North Dakota is expecting more than $1 billion in additional federal coronavirus relief after the Legislature adjourns.

The measure limits spending to $50 million by the panel during each two-year legislative cycle. It requires the governor to call a special legislative session for expenditures above that.

Burgum said that would risk violating the North Dakota Constitution by having the Legislature meet for more than the 80 days it’s allowed every two years.