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Appropriations Committees meeting in advance of November session

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North Dakota House and Senate Appropriations Committees are starting to work on crafting bills for the upcoming special Legislative session, on how to spend the $1 billion in American Rescue Plan act money.

That money is the latest traunch of COVID-19 federal relief.

"What we're actually doing is like the old saying, 'We are building an airplane while we're flying it,'" said Senate Appropriations Committee chairman Ray Holmberg (R-Grand Forks). "Unlike typical Legislative meetings, where you have a bill and work on it. But we are starting by writing the bill."

Holmberg called this unprecedented.

The two Committees will meet two days a week for the next three weeks. Holmberg said the products of the committees’ deliberations will be then submitted to the Legislative Management Committee, for introduction into a November session.

Holmberg said what the Legislature is doing is exactly what the state’s Emergency Commission did two years ago, when the state received $1.25 billion in COVID-19 relief money. The action was approved by the Legislature’s Budget Section. But the Legislature changed the law, so that the full Legislature would have a say.

"I like to say that they (Legislators) have become an Emergency Commission 2.0," Holmberg said.

The decision hasn’t yet been formally made on whether Gov. Doug Burgum will call a special session – which doesn’t have a time limit – or the Legislature will use the four days it saved, making it a reconvened session.

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