Special session agenda takes shapeBISMARCK (AP) — Hearings on a disaster relief bill and a proposal to allow the University of North Dakota to drop its Fighting Sioux nickname will begin a few hours after the state Legislature’s special session begins next week.
By: Dale Wetzel, The Dickinson Press
BISMARCK (AP) — Hearings on a disaster relief bill and a proposal to allow the University of North Dakota to drop its Fighting Sioux nickname will begin a few hours after the state Legislature’s special session begins next week.
The session, which convenes at 9 a.m. Monday, also will handle legislation to establish a state-run health benefit exchange and a proposal to create a new map of legislative districts, which are the geographical areas lawmakers represent.
The exchange is intended to make it easier for uninsured North Dakotans to obtain coverage. As part of a new federal law that overhauls the nation’s health care, states must decide whether they want to run their own exchanges or pass the job to the federal government.
The Legislative Management committee, which includes Republican and Democratic floor leaders, approved the introduction of health care and redistricting measures Thursday.
The committee’s chairman, Rep. Al Carlson, R-Fargo, the House majority leader, said the Legislature’s normal process will be compressed during the special session, in hopes of finishing within five days.
Specially appointed legislative committees, made up
of both House members and senators, will review the health care and redistricting measures.
For other bills, House and Senate committees will meet jointly to review legislation, rather than holding separate hearings, as is the norm during regular sessions of the Legislature.
To introduce bills, lawmakers must get approval from a Republican-controlled, five-member delayed bills committee in either the House or
Senate. Republicans hold two-thirds majorities in both chambers.
“It’s going to be very short in duration and very limited in topics of discussion,” Carlson said Thursday. “This is not a full legislative session.”
Both the health care measure and the Fighting Sioux legislation will have hearings at 2:30 p.m. Monday. The disaster relief proposal, which Gov. Jack Dalrymple is still drafting, will get its hearing at 4:30 p.m. Monday.
Minot, Bismarck, Valley City and a number of other North Dakota cities suffered flood damage last spring and summer, and lawmakers will be mulling how to extend help to the victims.
The Fighting Sioux legislation is intended to repeal an earlier bill, sponsored by Carlson and approved last March during the 2011 Legislature’s regular session, that requires UND to keep its Fighting Sioux nickname and an American Indian logo.
UND wants to drop the name and logo to avoid continued sanctions by the NCAA, which considers them offensive, and remove a potential obstacle to its plans to join the Big Sky Conference in athletics.
The special session’s original purpose was to approve a new map of legislative districts, which is redrawn every 10 years after the federal census is taken. Lawmakers say the redistricting issue, however, is likely to be overshadowed by other measures.
“The redistricting may not be the most contentious issue in the special session,” said Rep. Jerry Kelsh, D-Fullerton, the House minority leader.
Sen. Rich Wardner, R-Dickinson, the Senate’s majority leader, said he would be pleased if lawmakers could finish their work on Friday, which is the target date for ending the special session.
“It’s going to be fast and kind of furious,” Wardner said. “We could end up going on Saturday, just to wrap it up.”