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Lawmakers differ over the need for a special session to deal with $1 billion in federal COVID relief money

Some Legislative leaders are split over whether there needs to be a special session to deal with use of the latest federal COVID relief money.

More than $1 billion in American Rescue Plan Act money is now at the Bank of North Dakota. And in a speech to the Greater North Dakota Chamber, Gov. Doug Burgum suggested the money be accessed, as soon as possible.

Much of the money is tied to infrastructure.

Senate Minority Leader Joan Hecakaman (D-New Rockford) likes the idea of a special session before lawmakers come back in November to deal with redistricting.

"I think there is plenty of need to get that money out there right now," Heckaman said. "His (Burgum's) premise on making sure we get the contractors there is one of the main reasons. That money could be put to work now."

Senate Assistant Majority Leader Jerry Klein (R-Fessenden) isn’t anxious for another session. And he said GOP caucus members he’s talked with aren’t, either.

"Some have suggested, why meet in September, when we're coming right back in November?" Klein said. "I haven't found anyone who is really on board and excited about meeting in September."

Klein said getting the federal relief money out is important.

"But if we need to take some things up, let's take them up in November," Klein said.

Legislative leaders and Burgum are discussing who should call the special session in November. The Legislature saved four days from the 2021 regular session. But if the Governor calls the session, there are no time limits.

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