House Concurrent Resolution 3046

One of the best bumper stickers I ever saw said “Just be thankful we only get half the government we pay for.” So you can imagine I’m not a big fan of House Concurrent Resolution 3046 that would expand the legislature with the approval of the voters to 120 days from the current 80 days. The North Dakota constitution limits North Dakota legislative sessions to 80 days every two years. Primary sponsor Rep. Scot Kelsh, D-Fargo said the extra days would provide lawmakers with the flexibility to “address the changing landscape, politically and otherwise” in the state.  The last time the legislature expanded the days was in 1977 going from 60 days to the current 80 days. Kelsh stated the state had a budget of less than $1 billion during the 1975-77 biennium compared to a roughly $13 billion budget for the 2013-15 biennium. He added that in the past few sessions the Legislature has nearly reached the 80-day limit. Kelsh said it would provide lawmakers more time to better absorb the amount of information they receive and must weigh before voting on bills. Working at a newspaper I know a thing or two about deadlines. The worst thing I found you can do when folks are struggling to finish a task in an assigned time is to give them more time. Threaten to shrink the time and amazingly somehow the job gets done in the original allotted time. Representatives should recognize the difference between bills worthy of becoming law, and should not pursue bills that are trumped by federal law. There are plenty of federal laws that are not popular in North Dakota, but changing those are the work of our congressional delegation. Extending the legislature is going to cost more money for the extra days. Budget analysts say the North Dakota Legislative session costs taxpayers $65,000 a day and that comes to about $5.6 million over an 80-day session. The proposal that would add another 40 days would bump the cost by $2.6 million. That could be chump change considering all of the extra time for some to consider new ways to spend our tax dollars. I would think it would be tougher finishing on time with limited resources than the current surplus. North Dakota Legislators are very successful in large part because they meet only every other year and truly are citizen legislators. They have real jobs and homes in the communities they represent.   Legislators deserve our appreciation for the countless hours they put in before, during and after the sessions. The legislators are certainly underpaid for that commitment, but adding an additional 40 days away from their lives could be a significant deterrent to some seeking office.  North Dakota legislators are very talented people who truly care about the state they represent, and have done a great job representing us doing so much when resources were smaller before and now with the recent oil boom surplus. It will be curious to see how the current majority who preach smaller government vote on House Concurrent Resolution 3046.