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State Hospital study rejected

BISMARCK -- The Senate on Friday rejected a Fargo legislator's request to study transferring the State Hospital's property in Jamestown to the state Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.

Even though Senate Concurrent Resolution 4025 states twice that its purpose is to look at the transfer of the hospital's "facilities and property" to the Corrections Department, its sponsor, Sen. Tim Mathern, D-Fargo, and some other Democrats said their emphasis is on providing more mental health services in community settings and does not mean it could lead to closing the State Hospital.

His incredulous colleagues said it pointed to nothing less.

"The net effect would be to begin a study of how to close the State Hospital," said Sen. David Nething, R-Jamestown. He and other senators who opposed the resolution said the issue of mental health services around the state has been studied several times in recent years and passing the resolution would hurt morale among hospital employees.

"I don't think there's any need for it," Nething said.

A few former hospital buildings are now used for a prison called the James River Correctional Center and Mathern said that creates a stigma for the hospital patients to be housed in view of razor-wire covered security fencing.

Mathern admitted the study could demoralize employees at the hospital.

"I have no questions that is an issue," he said. "They have asked me not to do this (resolution)." But he said the greater interest of all North Dakota overrides the employees concerns.


In the first "half" of the North Dakota Legislature, the House killed off more than a third of their original bills and the Senate about one-fifth.

As of the session's crossover deadline about a week ago, the House had killed 198 of its original 576 bills, and 12 had been withdrawn. It passed the remaining 366 by Feb. 19 and those moved on to begin getting Senate consideration.

The Senate started with 440 bills. It passed 342 by the Feb. 19, deadline, killed 94 and four were withdrawn.

The House has passed 35 of its 62 resolutions, killed off five and still has 22 left to consider.

Senators introduced 32 resolutions, has passed 18, killed five and has eight left to consider.

The governor signed his first bill Thursday, an emergency measure regarding truck bumpers that lawmakers said had to pass as soon as possible to prevent the state from continuing to lose thousands of dollars a month in federal highway funds.

Legislators often refer to the session as similar to a three-period hockey game, with the first period being before crossover, the second being the first several weeks after crossover and the third period being the final weeks when conference committees are meeting to iron out different versions of the bills passed in each house.