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Appropriations Committees meeting in advance of November session

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.