The 66th Legislative Assembly was officially called to order on Thursday, January 3, 2019.
In the morning the legislators heard from Spirit Lake Tribal Chair Myra Pearson and Chief Justice Gerald VandeWalle.
Tribal Chair Pearson spoke about the many challenges facing Native Americans living on the reservation and elsewhere.
She thanked state officials for helping to address those issues and said tribal officials looked forward to providing input during the budgeting process.
Chief Justice VandeWalle, spoke about the additional staffing needs of the judiciary.
He noted that the judiciary, as well as all parts of state government, had reduced costs and staff dramatically in 2017.
He said they were seeking to restore six staff positions and add one new judgeship in the South Central Judicial District, which has its official hub in Bismarck-Mandan and encompasses nine counties.
Governor Doug Burgum, gave his State of the State address in the afternoon.He said the state was on the cusp of a new era and talked about his priorities for the upcoming session.
He talked about several budget issues and recommendations that he said, if approved by the legislature, would continue to move the state forward. The legislature will carefully consider all of his proposals during the session that could last 80 days.
The governor’s budget requests provide the starting point for the budget process.
It will be up to the legislature to make the final budget decisions as they craft a budget that will meet the needs of the state’s citizens in cities, the rural areas and every corner of the state.
Besides listening to the three presentations Thursday, legislators were kept busy starting the overview of various departments and getting their first look at some of the bills they would be dealing with this session. Hearings have been scheduled for this week in the policy committees on a number of those bills.
Senator Schaible will again chair the Senate Education Committee and serve on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.
Representative Rohr will again serve as Vice-Chair House Human Services committee and sit on the Government and Veterans Affairs committee.
Representative Schmidt will serve as Vice Chair of the Education and Environment Division of House Appropriations.
During the session, constituents that wish to leave a message for us may call 1-888-635-3447.
As usual we will be providing weekly columns during the session.
We wish to thank the weekly newspaper publishers in our District, who provide space for our columns free of charge, for making that happen.
We wish you the best of everything in the New Year and look forward to hearing from you as we go through the legislative process this session. Best wishes, Don, Karen and Jim