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Legislative Report District 13:Conference committees important part of remaining process

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By Rep. Alon Wieland

The Legislature is now about 75% of the way through the 2013 session, with a very important part remaining -- conference committees.  Within 10 days, the bills that have survived both houses in one form or another will be reviewed by the six person conference committees and referred back to each body for one last vote, except those that passed both houses in exactly the same form.  Those bills have or will be forwarded to the governor for his signature, veto, or he can just not sign them and after a time become law without his signature. The governor has already signed some bills, including the $620,000,000 infrastructure package passed by both the House and Senate back in January. Most vetoes are late in the session, or even after the session has ended.

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For those who do not know the conference committee process, each house appoints three people, two from the majority party, and one from the minority party, and they will meet to settle the differences as each house passed the bill. There are different people on each bill, and they can meet every day and sometimes several times in one day.  Sometimes the differences are minor, and they can and will be settled easily and maybe with one meeting.  It takes four of the six people to agree to settle a bill. Others have serious differences, and it can take a lot of meetings to agree. If the differences cannot be reconciled, the committee can be changed, or one house or the other can take the bill back, and have it defeated on the floor. That does not happen often, but it is not rare, either.  The process is culminated when all bills have been reconciled, taken back to each floor, and voted on again. Then the session can be ended.  That is why the session is likened to a hockey game, with three periods.  Periods one and two are almost over.

This session started when the House had 467 bills and 45 resolutions introduced.  In the House, 447 bills have been acted on, 306 passed, 131 failed, ten withdrawn.  All of the resolutions have been acted on, 33 passed and 12 have failed. There are still 20 bills waiting for action.  In the Senate, 375 bills were introduced and 31 resolutions.  361 bills were acted on, 264 passed, 88 failed, and 9 withdrawn.  14 bills are waiting action.  Of the 31 resolutions, 21 passed, eight failed, two withdrawn.

By now, those that follow the sessions closely know which bills are remaining, which have passed, and those that have been defeated.  There are still a lot of money bills remaining in both houses that will still have to be acted on.  Two weeks ago, there was approximately $1,000,000,000 over the budget, which does include some duplication.  As those are passed out, the duplication will be taken care of.  However, there are some bills that will have to have the appropriation lowered, and maybe even removed, or defeated to get back to a balanced budget. There is no deficit budgeting allowed by the North Dakota Constitution.  The budget will be balanced before the session ends.  This budget will include the highest amount ever expended in North Dakota in one biennium.  Of course, most people want to credit oil with all of the money available, but while oil certainly adds to the amount of money available, agricultural and tourism has had a large hand in the prosperity, and then sales tax and income tax have contributed heavily to the extra dollars available.  This does allow for some good one time spending.

As always, your 13th District Legislators want to hear from you.  The best way to contact us is by e-mail during the session.  Senator Judy Lee, jlee@nd.gov; Representative Kim Koppelman, kkoppelman@nd.gov; and Representative Alon Wieland, awieland@nd.gov.    

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