North Dakota lawmaker upset about sluggish in-state investment of Legacy Fund, files bill to bypass board

Legislation passed earlier this year sets up an objective for North Dakota to invest up to 10% of the voter-approved Legacy Fund in stocks and other equity in local companies, but bill sponsor Rep. Mike Nathe said he is frustrated that a lawmaker-led panel hasn't yet created a blueprint for investing most the money.

Rep. Mike Nathe, R-Bismarck, at the North Dakota Capitol on March 19, 2021. Jeremy Turley / Forum News Service

BISMARCK — A North Dakota lawmaker who championed the idea of investing part of the state's oil tax savings account in local companies has filed a proposal that would circumvent a board that has yet to establish a process for investing the money.

Legislation passed earlier this year sets up an objective for the State Investment Board to invest up to 10% of the voter-approved Legacy Fund in stocks and other equity in North Dakota-based companies.

About 3% of the fund is earmarked for emerging local firms, but Rep. Mike Nathe, a Bismarck Republican who sponsored the original bill , said the remaining 7% of the fund meant for North Dakota companies hasn't been put to use.

Local companies have expressed great interest in trying to attract capital investment through the $8.4 billion Legacy Fund, Nathe said, noting he's "extremely frustrated" that the Legacy and Budget Stabilization Fund Advisory Board hasn't come up with a process for how the money will be invested.

The seven-member panel held a three-hour meeting Thursday, Oct. 21, in which they discussed forming a procedure for investing the 7% of the fund through the State Investment Board, but the panel did not come up with a proposal or hold any votes. Bowman Republican Rep. Keith Kempenich, who chairs the board, said he would like to put direction behind investing the money in North Dakota firms, though he noted it will likely take a few meetings to make headway.


Nathe has filed a bill draft to bypass Kempenich's board that he hopes will be on the table during the upcoming November special session.

The bill, obtained by Forum News Service through a records request, would establish an "in-state impact investment committee" comprised of the governor, treasurer and insurance commissioner or their chosen delegates to create guidelines for making in-state investments using the Legacy Fund.

The committee would also set up advisory panels of industry representatives and financial professionals to review and make recommendations on investment proposals before they go to the State Investment Board. Nathe said no lawmakers should be involved in making the investment decisions since they tend to focus on bettering their own districts.

House Majority Leader Chet Pollert, R-Carrington, said he thinks the Legislature should be involved in sorting out the in-state investment procedure, but he added that it's possible lawmakers could make tweaks to the process during the upcoming session.

The Legacy and Budget Stabilization Fund Advisory Board will meet again Thursday, Oct. 28.

Jeremy Turley is a Bismarck-based reporter for Forum News Service, which provides news coverage to publications owned by Forum Communications Company.
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