We are finishing up day 53 here at the Capitol. The light is slowly showing at the end of the tunnel, and the end is starting to come into sight. It sounds like the Legislature’s goal is to finish up around April 23rd, which would leave us enough days in December to work on redistricting, which takes place every ten years.
This session will be busy until the end. One of the most important topics that will be debated during these last weeks is what the Legislature will do with new Federal dollars from D.C. In the new package passed by Congress, North Dakota will be receiving $1.362 billion. Of the amount, $1.011 billion will be going to the state government, $41 million will be distributed to the metro cities, $148 million will go to counties, and the rest will be going to various political subdivisions. Half of the funds will be received by the state within 60 days of the bill passing Congress, and the rest within 12 months. However, there are many strings attached to the feds’ dollars, specifically with dollars to the state. Those stings have not been wholly defined yet, meaning we do not know the exact parameters, which the state can allocate the funds. Every day we learn more and more about how we will be able to allocate the money. This is why it won’t be until the very end of the session before those decisions are made.
Along with the Federal dollars, the Legacy fund bills have made it through the Senate committees with amendments. This means if they pass the Senate, those bills will go to conference committee and be debated. The Senate increased the dollar figure for the bonding proposal and changed how the Legacy Fund stream would be allocated and distributed. While the House and Senate may differ on how to use the Legacy Fund’s earnings, one thing is certain; both chambers want to maintain, preserve, and grow the Legacy Fund for generations to come. Nobody is looking at spending the principal.
Some committees are finishing up their regular work and now will begin to move to conference committee. For those that don’t know, a conference committee is a committee made up of members from the House and Senate. When a bill passes both chambers, but there is a disagreement between the chambers, these committees work out the differences and get bills into the final shape for a final vote.