State lawmakers condense 100+ proposals into bill for ARPA spending

Local News

The seats in North Dakota’s House Chamber are empty now, but in just about two weeks they’ll be filled with lawmakers during a reconvened session dealing with how to redistrict the state for the next 10 years and how to spend hundreds of millions of dollars from the American Rescue Plan Act.

As it stands now, they’ll have four days to do it.

Before that session gavels in Nov. 8, lawmakers have to build the bill to vote on.

“We aren’t scheduled to meet again until the special session, and that bill does need to be written before we come into special session, so today’s the day,” Sen. Nicole Poolman (R-Bismarck) said.

It hasn’t been a simple task.

There have been more than $9 billion worth of proposals with just about $700 million to spend.

Both House and Senate Appropriations committees have differed on where to put the money.

“We are $30 million over the amount of money that could be spent. They are $100 [million] under,” Sen. Ray Holmberg (R-Grand Forks) said.

The laundry list of proposals ranges widely from public health to infrastructure to energy and much more.

Some lawmakers emphasize spending should be only on one-time costs.

“The federal government doesn’t have the money, we’re borrowing it from our grandchildren, so we should be focused also on projects with long-term benefits so it benefits our grandchildren,” Sen. Dick Dever (R-Bismarck) said.

Once those differences are worked out, legislative leaders will meet Monday to consider the bills to introduce during the reconvened session.

During those four days, things could still change quite a bit.

“It will be open to the amendment process at that time, so it will be a challenging four days that is for certain,” Poolman said.

In addition to addressing how to spend ARPA money, lawmakers also will vote on redistricting and 26 other bills during the abbreviated session.

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