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Legislature to meet in special session starting Nov. 8th

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North Dakota lawmakers will be back November 8th, to deal primarily with two big subjects: one is redistricting, the other is spending the $1 billion from the American Rescue Plan Act.

Senate Majority Leader Rich Wardner (R-Dickinson) said the interim redistricting committee is putting the final touches on its plan, and the House and Senate Appropriations Committees will hold hearings before the session on the ARPA money. He said that means two bills will be ready.

"There will be more hearings on that appropriations bill," Wardner said. "People will get two or three cracks at it."

The $1 billion is now sitting in the Bank of North Dakota.

"We don't receive much interest on it," Wardner said. "We can get it out where people are putting it to work, putting it into infrastructure, and making a difference."

Wardner said this will mean a short session, that could be done in five to eight days. He said if lawmakers have ideas for other issues to be considered, those would have to come through the delayed bills committee.

"I would say the rule of thumb will be — if it can wait until next session, we're not going to allow it during the special session," Wardner said.

Democrats unveil their ideas on ARPA spending

Legislative Democrats have unveiled their plan to spend the more than $1 billion from the American Recovery Plan Act.

"This is one-time federal investment," said Sen. Minority Leader Joan Heckaman (D-New Rockford). "It's an opportunity to act big, and move our economy to the next level for our workforce and the future of our families."

The measure would allocate $400 million to child care -- $200 million for a direct assistance formula, providing $1,400 to licensed facilities for each child. Another $200 million would go to schools who wish to build child care facilities on school ground.

"We believe to have a strong, engaged workforce, we must do our part to ensure facilities have quality staffing into the future," Heckaman said. "We already have those facilities across the state, but we don't have enough of them."

Another $100 million would go toward a paid family leave program, through Workforce Safety and Insurance.

There is also money for various infrastructure projects.

"Our plan calls for $400 million to be ear-marked for shovel-ready, long-term infrastructure projects that help with economic development, community development, and for transportation needs," said House Minority Leader Josh Boschee.

In addition, $25 million would go toward building a new women’s prison in Mandan, $75 million towards behavioral health, and $7 million to provide incentives for people to work for state and local public health units.

Sen. Tim Mathern (D-Fargo) will be the primary sponsor.

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