BISMARCK — North Dakota Republican lawmakers rejected efforts to appoint more Democrats to interim committee chairmanships Monday, June 10, as minority leadership accused a top GOP legislator of failing to live up to his commitments.
Legislative Management, a panel that oversees the Republican-controlled Legislature's work between regular sessions, approved a committee structure Monday that includes one Democratic chairman. During the most recent interim period two years ago, Democrats chaired three committees.
The lengthy interim period is meant to thoroughly examine policy proposals before the rush of the 80-day regular legislative sessions held every two years. The 2019 session ended in late April, and lawmakers selected 46 study topics a month later.
House Democrats recently threw their support behind the chamber's Republican majority leader, Carrington Rep. Chet Pollert, as the new chairman of Legislative Management. They argued Monday that Pollert had made commitments for Democrats to hold a few chairmanships.
Pollert retorted that he offered chairmanships that Democrats rejected.
"I felt I was living up to that promise," he said.
Democrats will hold four vice chairman slots. Including Legislative Management, there are nearly 30 interim committees.
But House Minority Leader Josh Boschee, D-Fargo, argued in an interview that Pollert fell short of his assurances to the minority party. He acknowledged Democrats had declined top committee posts but said it "wouldn't do justice (to) the system" for lawmakers to chair panels that study topics in which they aren't knowledgeable.
Democrats unsuccessfully pushed Monday to elevate Bismarck Sen. Erin Oban to chairwoman of the Education Policy Committee, a post she held during the last interim, and Valley City Sen. Larry Robinson to chairman of the Higher Education Committee. Both motions failed on party-line votes.
Lawmakers did approve Grand Forks Democratic Rep. Corey Mock to lead the Information Technology Committee.
Democrats hold just 25 seats in the 141-member Legislature.