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Legislative pay bill goes to conference

BISMARCK - As expected, the Senate on Wednesday refused to concur with the House's approval of legislative pay raises. That sends Senate Bill 2001 into a conference committee.

BISMARCK - As expected, the Senate on Wednesday refused to concur with the House's approval of legislative pay raises. That sends Senate Bill 2001 into a conference committee.

The bill is the 2005-07 appropriations bill for the legislative branch of state government. The House last week amended into it an increase in legislators' daily session pay from $125 per day to $135 per day for the 2007 session.

The House bill also added an extra $5 per day for the four chairmen of the House Appropriations subcommittees, called divisions, to match the pay of other legislative committee chairmen and chairwomen. That would be retroactive. It was added by Appropriations' Government Performance and Accountability Division, new this session and whose chairman is Rep. Al Carlson, R-Fargo.

The House on Wednesday gave final passage to a bill that requires private home inspection businesses to register with the secretary of state. House Bill 1507 was finalized when the House agreed to accept a minor Senate amendment.

The bill was introduced after a Bismarck family found they had little recourse against a home inspection they believe was negligent. Shortly after paying for the inspection, during which the home was declared problem-free, they found large areas of mold and swarms of ants that had chewed holes in walls.

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The House's final vote was 65-26 and the bill now goes to the governor.

Senate leadership again on Wednesday announced it is delaying action on an economic development accountability bill.

Assistant Majority Leader Randy Christmann made a motion to "lay over" House Bill 1203 for two days. It was also laid over two legislative days Friday.

Action on the bill has been delayed repeatedly since the bill was voted out of the Senate Industry, Business and Labor Committee on March 25 with a do-pass recommendation. The committee had a hearing on the bill on Feb. 23.

The North Dakota Progressive Coalition has accused Republican leaders of hiding something by avoiding debate on the bill.

Sen. Majority Leader Bob Stenehjem says he's just waiting for the right time to debate it.

Sen. Tom Fischer, R-Fargo, presented the state Water Commission's appropriation bill to the Senate on Wednesday for approval.

He said House Bill 1021 included "legislative intent" wording saying the Water Commission's operations are to be paid for with state general fund dollars.

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"And this time we really mean it," Fischer said.

This is the third consecutive session in which the Legislature has struggled with whether to pay for the commission's operations with general fund tax money or with money from the Water Resources Trust Fund, comprised of tobacco settlement payments. When the fund was first tapped to fund the Water Commission office, it was supposed to be a one-time event, but the commission's operations have been funded with trust fund money since.

The bill passed the Senate 46-0 and returns the House for concurrence with Senate amendments.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Janell Cole at (701) 224-0830

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