Burgum vetoes bill defining authority of legislators

April 10, 2019 GMT

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — Republican Gov. Doug Burgum and the GOP-controlled Legislature renewed their longstanding spat over power Wednesday, with the first-term governor vetoing a bill that he called legislative overreach.

The bill that passed unanimously in the Senate and got just one dissenting vote in the House was aimed at better defining the authority of a group of legislators known as the budget section.

In his veto message, Burgum said the bill continues to improperly delegate power and spending decisions to the budget section, which consists of 42 of the Legislature’s 141 members. It includes Republican and Democratic legislative leaders and members of the House and Senate appropriations committees and often meets between sessions to handle legislative business.


A similar fight last session ended up in North Dakota’s Supreme Court. The high court ruled that Burgum was out of line in four out of five line-item vetoes. But the ruling also said Burgum was right that the full Legislature must make spending decisions and not leave such decisions to the budget section.

“This bill is fundamentally flawed because it disregards the Supreme Court’s ruling and attempts to enshrine in state law the budget section’s unconstitutional practice of acting as a mini-Legislature,” Burgum said in a statement.

“Instead of addressing the issue raised in last year’s ruling and properly balancing authority between the branches of government, (the bill) makes the problem worse,” Burgum said.

Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem, who argued on Burgum’s behalf in the Supreme Court, said the governor’s recent veto is “entirely correct and appropriate.”

Republican Senate Majority Leader Rich Wardner and House counterpart Chet Pollert said they believe they have the votes to override the governor’s veto, something that could happen as early as Thursday.

Wardner said the veto was expected, and is a continuation of a “turf war” with Burgum.

Wardner said if the veto stands, it would force the Legislature to consider holding annual sessions, instead of every two years.