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Gov. Dalrymple uses veto power on five bills this session

In one of a handful of vetoes in the 2015 session, North Dakota Gov. Jack Dalrymple struck language from passed legislation that would have outlawed severance packages and multiyear contracts for top employees of the state university system, incl...

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Gov. Jack Dalrymple gives his Budget Address to members of the North Dakota legislators and the public in the House chamber Wednesday, Dec. 3, 2014, at the state Capitol in Bismarck. Mike McCleary / Bismarck Tribune
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In one of a handful of vetoes in the 2015 session, North Dakota Gov. Jack Dalrymple struck language from passed legislation that would have outlawed severance packages and multiyear contracts for top employees of the state university system, including the chancellor.

"The enactment of these new restrictions would likely discourage well qualified applicants from applying for key positions," Dalrymple wrote this past week in a letter vetoing language from the higher education budget (House Bill 1003).

Rep. Bob Skarphol, R-Tioga, said that section of the bill grew from frustrations with the "golden parachutes" received by some higher education officials. Notably, the final two years of former chancellor Hamid Shirvani's three-year contract were bought out for more than $900,000 in 2013.

Skarphol, a prominent critic of the university system, said he understood the governor's reasoning in vetoing the restriction on multiyear contracts.

"I don't think you'd hire someone of the caliber you need to be chancellor without giving the assurance of a multiyear contract," Skarphol said.

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The governor has the power to veto an entire bill, or in the case of an appropriations bill, like the higher education budget, he can delete parts of it and sign off on the remainder.

Another appropriations bill that Dalrymple removed language from was Senate Bill 2015. The governor took out a section that would have required vice chancellors to resign when a new chancellor was appointed.

"To require vice-chancellors to resign is likely detrimental to the effective operation of the university system during a period of transition and could have a negative effect on the education of our students," wrote the governor, who also pointed out that the chancellor already has the power to hire and fire vice chancellors.

Skarphol, who proposed the language concerning vice chancellors, said his intent was to have vice chancellors tender their resignation and give a new chancellor the chance to evaluate them over time before deciding whether to replace them.

In the same bill, Dalrymple eliminated a section that attempted to clarify how eminent domain can be used by water resource districts. In his veto, the governor wrote that the section only created more confusion.

Other vetoes included:

-- Dalrymple deleted two sections in an appropriations bill for the attorney general's office (Senate Bill 2003).

One section would have required that the attorney general's opinions be issued within 180 days of when a request for one is received. Currently, no timeline exists.

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The governor wrote that, "The proposed timeline for producing opinions increases the likelihood that an excessive volume of requests could make it impossible to effectively prioritize the use of (the attorney general's) staff and resources."

The other section taken out would have obligated district courts to pay the expenses of expert witnesses. This was vetoed because the district courts did not receive funding to pay such expenses, the governor wrote.

-- In Senate Bill 2039, Dalrymple removed language that would have required that interest payments on loans from North Dakota's coal development trust fund, which receives money from coal mining taxes, go toward the state's school construction assistance loan fund.

This requirement conflicted with the state constitution, which says the interest on loans from the coal development trust fund should be used first to cover the cost of any uncollectable loans, and the balance should be credited to the state's general fund, the governor wrote.

-- Dalrymple vetoed all of House Bill 1033, which focused on the state's Legacy Fund.

In 2010, voters passed a measure to create the fund, which receives oil tax revenue. The measure called for the State Investment Board to invest the principal of the fund, which is frozen until July 1, 2017. At that point, the fund's earnings will be transferred to the general fund for state spending.

This bill would have required that Legacy Fund earnings transferred to the general fund be sent back immediately to the principal of the Legacy Fund. This would have gone against the voters' wishes, the governor wrote.

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