Time is running short for the 2013 North Dakota Legislative Session and the work of Conference Committees to resolve differences between House and Senate versions of bills, where possible, continues.
Friday marked the Legislature's 70th day, leaving only 10 session days remaining before its Constitutional limit of 80 days. While it appears unlikely that everything will be completed this week, the early or mid portion of next week is probably a good guess--or at least a goal--for the wrap up date for the session.
Important issues remain to be resolved. At last glance, spending in bills still in the mix is hundreds of millions of dollars above what is available to be spent. It's at times like this that the words of a former Majority Leader, warning that "we're raising the bar" (and may not be able to sustain these levels of government spending in the future) echo in my mind.
To be fair, some of the spending initiatives are "one time spending" for needs such as roads, flood protection, projects, buildings on college campuses, etc. Even so, some of those needed initiatives will also require future spending for items such as maintenance, staffing, etc. What's troubling, however, is that recent years' prosperity has unearthed "one time spending" now coming back for the second and even third time.
Fiscal responsibility, therefore, should be a major objective, as the session winds down to its conclusion. I know that Rep. Wieland (who so ably represents us on the Appropriations Committee, where I once served) will be working very hard to do his best to keep our spending under control and ensure that it is responsible.
Please remember, as this inevitable, difficult decision-making occurs, that you may hear false alarms about spending "cuts" (only in government is a reduction in a requested increase called a "cut"). In actuality, even as budgets are balanced, my guess is that all budgets will be substantially larger than previous spending levels and, therefore, actual "cuts" will be few and far between, if not nonexistent.
The final days will see final touches on very important public policy legislation, as well, including some that I've sponsored and worked on, as chairman of the Judiciary Committee. I'll be touching on those developments in future reports.
In the meantime, let me thank you for the many emails and other communication I've received from so many of you. Hearing from constituents is extremely important, as we weigh our decisions on various important legislative issues. I've worked hard to represent the interests--and the pocketbooks--of the people of West Fargo's District 13. I hope that you'll continue to let me know your thoughts on issues that are important to you, as the session comes to a close, and even after it's completed.
Your District 13 Legislators appreciate hearing from you. You may reach us by email, during the session, as follows: Rep. Alon Wieland (firstname.lastname@example.org); Rep. Kim Koppelman (email@example.com); Sen. Judy Lee (firstname.lastname@example.org).