Burgum calls special session for redistricting, COVID aid
BISMARCK (AP) — Republican Gov. Doug Burgum on Friday called a fall special session to deal with a limited agenda that includes legislative redistricting and the approval of a spending plan for federal coronavirus relief aid.
The Nov. 8 special session approved by the governor through an executive order has no time restriction and may last indefinitely, though legislative leaders said they hoped it would only last five days.
Republican Senate Majority Leader Rich Wardner and GOP House Majority Leader Chet Pollert have been meeting with Burgum in recent weeks to discuss the possibility of a special session. They joined the governor at the Capitol in announcing the special session Friday.
The North Dakota Constitution limits the Legislature to 80 days of meetings every two years, and last spring’s regular session used 76 days. That means if the GOP-led Legislature had called itself back into session, lawmakers would have had to shoehorn the redistricting job, coronavirus spending and other proposed legislation into just four days.
Each of those subjects would take a minimum of three legislative days to be approved by both chambers of the Legislature.
The GOP leaders said all of the Legislature’s pending business could have been accomplished during a reconvened session though they preferred the special session.
“We’re thankful for a special session and not reconvened,” Wardner said.
Pollert said the special session would be “efficient but expedited.”
Had the Legislature called itself into session, a two-thirds vote in the House and Senate would be required for the new redistricting plan and other legislation to take effect quickly. Any legislation during a special session could take effect immediately upon being approved by a majority vote.
More than two dozen bills have been submitted ahead of the session, though details of the legislation, and sponsors, won’t be revealed until the bills are approved for introduction, which would happen shortly ahead of the special session.
Legislative leaders and other lawmakers have signaled that some of the bills are aimed at preventing vaccine mandates and banning the teaching of certain concepts of race and racism, known as “critical race theory.”
Legislative leaders said none of the bills reflected Burgum’s plan to use some of the state treasury’s surpluses to offset income taxes, despite the governor continuing the pitch on Friday.
Any bills that are introduced will have to first win the endorsement of the House’s or Senate’s delayed-bills committee. The bipartisan panels both have five members and are controlled by the Legislature’s GOP leadership.
Former Gov. Jack Dalrymple called a special session to deal with redistricting in 2011, and John Hoeven did so in 2001.
Legislators make $189 daily while in session. Each day they are in a special session costs taxpayers about $64,000.