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Reps. among many trying to save homes

As the nation watched Fargo-Moorhead evacuate last week in the face of rising water on the Red River, there was an exodus from the state capitol building in Bismarck as legislators hurried off to save their homes.

But it wasn't just legislators from Fargo rushing to save their homes. Legislators throughout the state faced floodwater in their backyards, including those renting property in Bismarck during the session.

Sen. Aaron Krauter, D-Regent, and Rep. Shirley Meyer, D-Dickinson, were both forced to leave the homes they rent in Bismarck due to the rising Missouri River.

"We got an evacuation notice and I was up at the capitol," Meyer said. "It didn't flood, but we spent the day moving furniture up a level."

Krauter said he experienced the same at the house he rents in Bismarck.

"We got everything out and up and then went back to the capitol and waited," Krauter said.

The water subsided and the homes they were staying in didn't flood, but by then the attention had turned to the Fargo-Moorhead area.

As a result of the flooding, the Legislature called a two-day recess on Thursday and Friday.

"It just didn't seem like a good idea and we just kept losing legislators one after another because their homes were flooding," Meyer said.

Not everything came to a standstill, however, committees did limited work both days, but only so much could be done with limited membership present, Sen. Rich Wardner, R-Dickinson, said.

Wardner said there are several key members of the Senate Appropriations Committee fighting for their homes on the Red River, including president of the Senate, Tom Fischer, R-Fargo, and Sens. Tony Grindberg, R-Fargo, and Tim Mathern, D-Fargo.

At this point in the session, both houses are dependent on what the Appropriations Committee is able to do, Krauter said.

"Right now we're finishing up on that second period of a hockey game. That's the way we look at it," Krauter said. "First period you've got all your Senate bills, second period you got your House bills, third period you got your conference committees.

"We're trying to wrap up that second period so we can get to conference committee."

The North Dakota Constitution limits the legislative session to 80 days. Though committees met Thursday and Friday, they are not considered part of the 80 days.

"The only time it counts is when either the House or the Senate calls itself into session," Krauter said. "That wasn't done Thursday or Friday."

Wardner said that if the worse-case scenario in the Red River Valley happens, the schedule should be able to absorb a couple of days if members need them. Forecasts show the Red River crested on Saturday.

The Legislature plans to be in session Monday.

"I would assume -- and I'm just assuming -- that if the dikes hold, we'll have legislators there," Meyer said. "But if the dikes breech in Fargo, then I'm thinking we probably won't be there Monday either."

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