Legislative leaders decide to sue Gov. Burgum over some line item vetoes

Sep 28, 2017

Sign outside the Roughrider Room at the Capitol, as the Legislative Management Committee went behind closed doors to talk to lawyers about the potential for suing. Gov. Burgum over line item vetoes.
Credit Dave Thompson / Prairie Public

The Legislative Management Committee has decided to go ahead with a lawsuit over some of Gov. Doug  Burgum’s line item vetoes from the 2017 session.

The action came after a nearly one hour meeting in closed session, as committee members talked to attorneys.

The scope of the lawsuit is yet to be determined.  But House Majority Leader Al Carlson (R-Fargo) said the litigation will be about whether a Governor can veto a portion of a sentence of a spending bill and change its meaning.

"This is about the people we represent," Carlson told the committee. "Knowing that when we listen to them and we pass a bill, someone can't change a 'shall' to a 'shall not.' We can't allow that to happen."

Senate Majority Leader Rich Wardner (R-Dickinson) voted against the lawsuit. He told the committee he had his doubts about whether the Legislature would win.

"You may think it's stinking thinking," Wardner said. "But I think we don't have a lot to stand on. And if we're rejected, I think we're in worse shape."

Wardner offered an alternative -- a one day session to override vetoes. But Carlson said the Legislature has to keep some days in reserve, because of the possibility of Congress passing health care reform.

The committee’s vote was 12-to-4.

The chairman of the Legislative Management Committee – Grand Forks Senator Ray Holmberg – said it could be "months" before the suit is filed in the North Dakota Supreme Court.

In a statement, Gov. Burgum said the intent of those vetoes was to protect executive branch authority, and his office will respond that way.

Legislative Management Committee meets 9-28-17.
Credit Dave Thompson / Prairie Public