MINOT, N.D. — North Dakota lawmakers will meet next month to approve a new map created by the redistricting process, but other issues will also be tackled.

One is appropriating the state's share of massive federal COVID-19 aid.

Another may well be the latest jockeying over legislation directing Legacy Fund investments to in-state projects and ventures.

House Bill 1425, sponsored by Rep. Mike Nathe, a Bismarck Republican, passed during the Legislature's regular session earlier this year by large majorities (85-8 in the House, 47-0 in the Senate). The bill requires 20% of the state's more than $6 billion Legacy Fund to be invested in the state.

Ten percent is to be provided for bonding local government projects like water and sewer lines. Financing those projects out of the Legacy Fund means they can be built faster and cheaper.

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The other 10% was to serve as capital for business ventures. North Dakota's economy has struggled with access to capital since, well, statehood. This capital program won't fix that problem, but it can help.

Rep. Mike Nathe (R-Bismarck), right, speaks during an interim meeting of the Political Subdivision Taxation Committee in the state capitol in Bismarck on Tuesday, March 1, 2016. In back from left are Rep. Nathan Toman (R-Mandan), Rep. Ben Koppelman (R-West Fargo) and Sen. Dwight Cook (R-Mandan).TOM STROMME/Bismarck Tribune
Rep. Mike Nathe (R-Bismarck), right, speaks during an interim meeting of the Political Subdivision Taxation Committee in the state capitol in Bismarck on Tuesday, March 1, 2016. In back from left are Rep. Nathan Toman (R-Mandan), Rep. Ben Koppelman (R-West Fargo) and Sen. Dwight Cook (R-Mandan).TOM STROMME/Bismarck Tribune

But there's been some foot-dragging in the State Investment Board's implementation of HB 1425.

Callan is a consulting group that has been entrenched at the SIB for more than three decades. It was recently revealed that Callan had received payments from companies it has recommended to manage the state's money. However, the company insists those payments, the amounts of which they will not divulge to the public, were for training and not a pay-for-play scheme.

In 2006, Callan paid $4.5 million to the City of San Diego to settle a legal dispute over pay-for-play accusations. Callan admitted to no wrongdoing and, as a part of the settlement to get the money, San Diego had to release a statement saying Callan did nothing untoward.

Many, including this humble observer, feel that the officials who serve on the SIB have been a little too content to be rubber stamps for Callan. Treasurer Thomas Beadle is, by statute, a member of the SIB. He's in his first year in that office. When he made some inquiries to Callan about the City of San Diego issue, he was attacked by fellow board members who also proposed a policy cracking down on the ability of individual board members to speak to the media.

Suffice it to say that the SIB is not an environment conducive to new ideas.

This brings us back to HB 1425.

Rep. Thomas Beadle, R-Fargo, during floor debate Friday, Feb. 10, 2017, at the state Capitol in Bismarck. Mike McCleary / Bismarck Tribune
Rep. Thomas Beadle, R-Fargo, during floor debate Friday, Feb. 10, 2017, at the state Capitol in Bismarck. Mike McCleary / Bismarck Tribune

Many legislative leaders, including Rep. Nathe, are unhappy with how slowly the SIB has implemented the legislation.

Nathe, specifically, told me he has a bill drafted for the special session to address the issue. Though he wasn't ready to share a copy with me, he said he's not going to withdraw this new bill until he has confidence that the SIB will move forward with implementing HB 1425.

Nathe told me he's satisfied with how the 10% for loans to political subdivisions has been handled, and he's even OK with the 3% in small-capital loans to be handled by recently hired, Illinois-based consultant 50 South Capital, but it's the remaining 7% that's a lingering problem.

There is the distinct impression that the SIB's money managers would rather not make that capital available for North Dakota-based ventures.

Meanwhile, the SIB and its various money managers have, among other objectionable holdings, some $26 million invested in tech giant Tencent, which is routinely used as a tool of Communist Chinese censorship (see the complete list of Legacy Fund positions below). Most recently, Tencent pulled the plug on live broadcasts of NBA games after Boston Celtics player Enes Kanter made a social media post supporting an independent Tibet.

Just so you understand what's going on, for the SIB and its money managers, investing in censorious companies that do the dirty work of Communists is somehow less controversial than providing capital for North Dakota-based companies.

Why should that be?

No reasonable person wants the Legislature to micromanage the investments of state funds, including the Legacy Fund. Still, there's nothing overweening about lawmakers, through legislation signed by the governor, setting the priorities for those investments.

Some members of the SIB, and more specifically Callan and the other consultants hired by the SIB, need to remember just who it is they're working for.

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Rob Port, founder of SayAnythingBlog.com, is a Forum Communications commentator. Reach him on Twitter at @robport or via email at rport@forumcomm.com.