North Dakota special session preview

BISMARCK—Before going on vacation last week, I spoke with Gov. Jack Dalrymple about what to expect from this year’s special legislative session.

He met with legislative leaders last week to discuss the parameters of the session, which will begin Nov. 7 and is expected to last five days. (See the Executive Order here.)

Topics will include redistricting, turning the Fighting Sioux nickname and logo decision back over to the State Board of Higher Education, and flood disaster relief, Dalrymple said.

Other issues for discussion are a state health insurance exchange and funding for a new human services eligibility system software package, he said. Federal funding for the system is available for a limited time, so there’s a financial advantage to getting started on it earlier, he said.

As far as flood relief, it’s hard to get into specifics at this point, but there are three basic areas identified as needs that will not be covered by disaster recovery funding, Dalrymple said.

The first is an improved and expanded floodway through the Burlington and Minot areas. The state is in the midst of a design plan for that through the state water engineer and will likely need to buy out additional properties beyond the area where FEMA will buy out houses, Dalrymple said.

“We’re going to need some real estate where we can build permanent levees,” he said. “FEMA will not pay for permanent levees.”

The state will also look at infrastructure funding, such as water, sewer, curb and gutter, as flooded communities begin to rebuild.

Dalrymple said they have also identified a need for some kind of homeowner assistance, particularly in the Minot area, for people who want to rebuild their homes but may not have the resources to do it.

“That’s something that’s going to take more discussion and more analysis, but is a need that I think all three of us (Dalrymple, House Majority Leader Al Carlson and Senate Majority Leader Rich Wardner) acknowledged is there,” Dalrymple said.

The state could look into a “very friendly” loan program that allows people to repay their loan over time and is easier to get than a typical bank loan, he said.