Briefs from Legislative Session

BISMARCK -- University System Chancellor Bill Goetz asked a House committee Monday to reverse a salary freeze the Senate put on senior employees in the system office.

BISMARCK -- University System Chancellor Bill Goetz asked a House committee Monday to reverse a salary freeze the Senate put on senior employees in the system office.

Goetz spoke to the House Appropriations Committee Monday morning.

When the Senate passed the budget bill for the higher education system about two weeks ago, it added a section freezing the pay of employees in the system office at the Capitol who earn more than $100,000. The freeze affects Goetz and two vice chancellors, among a few others, and amounts to a total of $138,000 in disallowed raises, Goetz told the House panel.

Senate Appropriations Chairman Sen. Ray Holmberg had said the Senate wanted to send a message that it was displeased that the University System transferred money from other programs for pay its Capitol office raises in 2007 and 2008. He said in an interview in January that the office workers had gotten outsized raises after telling the 2007 Legislature that they wouldn't have money for raises.

"The Legislature takes it very seriously when they've been misled by an agency," he said in January.


Some employees in the University System office have prepared a three-page document with their version of events surrounding the 2007 Legislature's budget decisions and justifying the raises that were given in 2007-08.

The employees' memo spells out why the 2007-08 Capitol office raises were not more than the raises given on the 11 campuses around the state, and says money for the raises did not come from cuts in campus programs as Holmberg alleged.

Rep. Kathy Hawken, R-Fargo, and Rep. Frank Wald, R-Dickinson, said after the meeting that they believe the salary freeze will be reversed.

"I don't think it will stand up in the House," Wald said.


A legislator said the North Dakota Education Association president doesn't belong on the state Board of Higher Education Committee's nominating committee because the president is not a state official voted on by all the people.

Rep. Jeff Delzer, R-Underwood, supports a constitutional amendment that would replace the NDEA president with the North Dakota attorney general for the panel that recommends appointees to the education board, even though "I can't say there's necessarily a problem."

He said he wants the change because "What, really, does the NDEA have to do with higher education?"


On the other hand, "The attorney general is elected by the whole state," Delzer said.

The change is in House Concurrent Resolution 3060. If the House and Senate approve the resolution, it would then go to a vote of the people.

The House Constitutional Revision Committee had a hearing Monday on the proposed measure. It took no immediate action. Dakota Draper, NDEA's current president, testified against the bill.

About 14 years ago, legislators sponsored a constitutional amendment to put two of their members on the nominating committee, and the voters approved. Delzer served one term on the committee when he was speaker of the House for the 2007 Legislature. He did not address the fact that the two legislators now on the committee also are not elected by "the whole state," but rather by the few thousand voters in their legislative districts.


The Senate has made several changes to a bill that creates reduced point penalties for traffic violators who are wearing their seat belts.

House Bill 1182's sponsors see it as an incentive for drivers to wear their seat belts and an alternative to a primary enforcement seat belt law. If passed into law, drivers who are stopped and ticketed for a traffic violation that involves point penalties would get a one-point reduction in the penalty if the officer found that they had been wearing their seat belts at the time.

The Senate amended the bill Monday. Under the changes, the law enforcement officers would have complete discretion as to whether the point credit would be granted. And there would be no point reduction allowed if the violation involved alcohol or a crash.


Final action on the amended HB 1182 may be today. The Senate Transportation Committee was unable to agree on whether the bill should have a do-pass recommendation or a do-not-pass recommendation, so has sent it to the floor for a vote without any recommendation.

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