Looking back as the legislative session winds down

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Bismarck, ND – The legislative session began with more than 900 bills. As it’s expected to end this week, We look back at some of the big changes made this year.

The session began with a big focus on behavioral health.

“The takeover of the county social services and the 19 zones that they’re going to have out there. I think that will be important to make sure that we have someone who is capable of providing services in remote areas of our state,” Sen. Joan Heckaman (D-District 23, Senate Minority Leader) said.

Then there were infrastructure needs.

“When we came in here, operation prairie dog was out there. We brought some much-needed dollars to local political subdivisions for roads and infrastructure,” Rep. Chet Pollert (R-District 29, House Majority Leader) said.

Also at the top of the list were state employee raises.

“I think that’s important. We kept the health insurance packages for them which I think is very important for them and their families,” Heckaman said.

They are set at 2% the first year and 2.5% the next; a compromise between the House and Senate proposals. 

Another compromise came on one of the governor’s main initiatives. He asked to create multiple boards of higher education. Instead, lawmakers voted to expand the existing board: an idea that will go to the voters in 2020.

The session went a little longer than leadership had hoped.

“I think the house had 115 or 120 extra bills this session. We had a lot more lifting. We had a lot more contentious issues like the TR library. That was an issue since day one,” Pollert said.

Lawmakers are hoping to finish no later than Saturday. That would be day 77 of the session.

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