North Dakota legislators take Governor Burgum to court

North Dakota’s legislature took Governor Doug Burgum to court. They’re questioning his veto authority and voted to pursue litigation last December.

This whole lawsuit stemmed from the 2017 legislative session. In 5 separate bills that hit his desk, Governor Burgum vetoed parts of sentences and even single words. He is allowed to line-item veto but the legislative body claims that it changed the intent of the original legislation.

“It’s about defending the North Dakota constituion and defending the Governor’s right to veto which is an important part of democracy, its important part of check and balance in three parts of Government,” said Governor Burgum.

Months ago, Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem was asked to offer his opinion on the constitutionality of the 5 vetos. He responded by saying 3 of those were in fact unconstitutional.

Representative Kathy Hogan said, “The issue of can a governor actually change his veto. So, after the attorney general said you couldn’t veto those things, he said, ‘Well, then I won’t.” But does he have the authority to do that?”

In this lawsuit, the legislators are requesting that the state Supreme Court clarify the definition of the governor’s veto power – specifically partial veto authority. Just this conversation alone is a historical one for North Dakota. 

“Its fair to say this is probably the most significant constitutional issue that will have been decided in the last 40 years,” said attorney general Wayne Stenehjem.

Hogan added, “This was a historical day. There have been not a lot of suits between the governor and the legislature. And I think each one sets the tone for the next twenty years.” 

While the Supreme Court heard the arguments today, they did not rule on anything. Their decision will come at a later date.

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