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ND lawmakers seek greater authority in statewide emergencies

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Of the roughly 55 pandemic-related bills this legislative session, many call into question the governor’s authority during a state of emergency.

Lawmakers say they want a better balance of power between the executive and legislative branches when the legislature isn’t in session. Under a new bill, legislative leaders can vote to ask the governor to call a special session during a public health-related state of emergency.

If he refuses, the emergency declaration would end a month after the request was made. The governor’s chief of staff says the bill is an overreaction to much-needed mitigation measures made for a once-a-century emergency, while some lawmakers say the bill addresses overreach by the governor in his handling of the pandemic.

“Many of the constituents in my district and the people I know across the state believe the legislature has to be involved in this process. To me, this is a policy issue. The legislature, not the executive is in the policy-making branch of government,” Rep. Bill Devlin said.

North Dakota has been under a state of emergency for just over a year, and the governor has issued about 70 executive orders related to COVID-19 mitigation.

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