North Dakota lawmakers begin special session to fix budget invalidated by Supreme Court

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — North Dakota’s Republican-controlled Legislature began a special session Monday to redo a key budget bill the state Supreme Court voided last month, leaving a giant hole in government operations.

Lawmakers quickly began hearings on 14 bills for restoring the provisions of the major budget bill voided by the high court, which invalidated the bill as unconstitutional because it violated a single-subject requirement for bills. The bill has traditionally been used as a catch-all or cleanup bill, passed at the end of the biennial session.

Republican Gov. Doug Burgum, who is running for president,urged the Legislature to take up other items using higher-than-forecasted excess state tax revenue. Those include $91 million for expanding a previous income tax cut, $50 million for infrastructure projects and $20 million to expand a tourism attraction grant program the governor said has drawn great interest.

The state House voted later in the day to introduce a bill for the tax proposal. Republican House Majority Leader Mike Lefor said “the time is now, and the time is right” due to the state's glowing financial picture, with nearly $300 million more on hand than what the Legislature had forecasted at the end of its session in April.

Burgum told reporters that his proposals “are just adding appropriations to existing programs," with “a fantastic opportunity for this Legislature to do something more than just procedural fixes.”

He also advocated for “low-hanging fruit items” such as fixing language of a military income tax exemption and allowing the University of North Dakota and Bismarck State College to receive non-state funds for improvements on campus.

“We’re here. Let’s be nimble, efficient and wise,” Burgum told the Legislature.

A top legislative panel last week turned down more than two dozen bills from lawmakers who sought to add other issues to the special session, including ones Burgum has pressed. The committee advanced just one proposal: a resolution in support of Israel amid the ongoing war with Hamas.

Republican Senate Majority David Hogue said the Legislature appears able to complete its work in three days.