(Bismarck, ND) -- Governor Doug Burgum issuing his first veto of the legislative session, it's against House Bill 1378, an effort to keep lawmakers meeting every year. The bill would have allowed another session, a December session following an election. In his veto message, Burgum says legislation worth considering in December should still be worth considering in January. Burgum's veto letter follows below:
Pursuant to Article V, Section 9 of the North Dakota Constitution, I have vetoed House Bill 1378 and return it to the House.
Article IV of the North Dakota Constitution clearly states that members of the legislative assembly are to “meet in the seat of government in the month of December following the election of its members, thereof for organizational and orientation purposes."
At the conclusion of the organizational session, the legislative assembly “shall thereafter recess until twelve noon on the first Tuesday after the third day in January, or at such other time as may be prescribed by law but not later than the eleventh day in January.”
House Bill 1378 attempts to circumvent the Constitution by allowing members of the legislative assembly to introduce, consider and vote on bills and resolutions in December of even-numbered years, as they would during the regular session that begins in January of odd-numbered years.
Introducing and acting on bills and resolutions is beyond the scope of the December “organizational and orientation purposes” as stated in the Constitution.
Currently, the North Dakota Century Code contains language that mirrors the Constitution, stating that after the December organizational session, the legislative assembly “shall thereafter recess” until January. House Bill 1378 attempts to sidestep the Constitution by replacing this explicitly mirrored language with conflicting direction that the assembly “then may recess” until January.
House Bill 1378 could have serious consequences. For example, because a newly elected governor and lieutenant governor, per the Constitution, are not sworn in until Dec. 15, House Bill 1378 could result in a new legislative assembly - including newly elected members - casting votes on new legislation in early December, to be acted upon by an outgoing governor just days before leaving office and before the new governor has an opportunity to consider the legislation.
Legislation worth considering in December should still be worth considering in January.
The existing process for convening a new legislative assembly as outlined in the North Dakota Constitution has served this state and its citizens well for decades and should remain intact.
For the reasons stated above, House Bill 1378 is vetoed.