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Bill requiring ND Legislature to meet annually fails in Senate; similar measure alive in House

BISMARCK - North Dakota senators on Monday defeated one of two bills proposing that the state Legislature meet annually instead of every other year.

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BISMARCK – North Dakota senators on Monday defeated one of two bills proposing that the state Legislature meet annually instead of every other year.

Senate Bill 2247 failed on a vote of 19-28.

It would have split up the current 80-day legislative session into sessions of 50 days during odd-numbered years and 30 days during even-numbered years.

Montana, Nevada, North Dakota and Texas are the only states with Legislatures that meet biennially. Legislatures in the other 46 states meet annually.

Sen. John Grabinger, D-Jamestown, the bill’s prime sponsor, said annual sessions would allow North Dakota lawmakers to address the state’s needs in a more timely fashion, considering the state’s fast-moving economy.

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Among those opposing the bill was Sen. Dick Dever, R-Bismarck, who said the Legislature can save days at the end of the 80-day session in case needs arise later, or be called back into special session by the governor if necessary.

“If we were to exercise the discipline necessary to implement this if it passed, we wouldn’t need it, because we could do that now,” he said.

Sen. Joe Miller, R-Park River, a bill co-sponsor, said the 80-day session can last into May and make it difficult for him and other farmers to stay in Bismarck. He supported the bill but also suggested alternatives such as starting the session earlier or working on weekends.

“Unless you’re retired, this is getting to be a very difficult job for anyone that has another job to do,” he said.

Sen. Kelly Armstrong, R-Dickinson, an attorney, said lawmakers in other professions would have a tough time serving annual sessions.

Members of the House of Representatives are still considering House Bill 1342, which would require a 60-day session in odd-numbered years and a 20-day session in even-numbered years.

The bill, introduced by Rep. Keith Kempenich, R-Bowman, received a do-pass recommendation from the House Political Subdivisions Committee and has been referred to the House Appropriations Committee. 

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