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N.D. proposal would limit who introduces bills

BISMARCK - A bill that would remove nearly all direct introduction of legislation from the executive and judicial branches of North Dakota state government drew a rebuke from state agency officials who contend that it would diminish efficiencies ...

BISMARCK - A bill that would remove nearly all direct introduction of legislation from the executive and judicial branches of North Dakota state government drew a rebuke from state agency officials who contend that it would diminish efficiencies in pursuing changes to policy.

Supporters of House Bill 1397 called it a separation-of-powers question, saying putting the power of introducing legislation solely in the hands of the Legislature is more appropriate than allowing agencies to do so.

Primary HB1397 sponsor Rep. Nathan Toman, R-Mandan, called the bill "a prohibition on executive state agencies introducing bills on their own behalf." The bill provides an exception for agency budgets as prepared through the Office of Management and Budget and the governor's office.

State agencies would still be able to introduce a bill if asked to do so by an interim committee or a standing committee of the Legislature. Executive agencies and the judicial branch could have a lawmaker introduce bills on their behalf.

Toman cited survey results from the National Conference of State Legislatures showing that, in 40 states, one or both legislative chambers ban non-legislators from directly introducing bills.

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State agency officials told the House Judiciary Committee the proposal is unnecessary.

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"(It) will really affect the efficiency of the process," said Grant Levi, North Dakota's director of transportation.

Levi said allowing state agencies to introduce bills creates more efficient response to changes in federal regulations. He said it would be time-consuming to track down a lawmaker to sign on to a bill.

Aaron Webb, assistant commissioner of the North Dakota Department of Financial Institutions, agreed.

"It would add another layer," he said. "It's another step."

Bismarck resident Jared Hendrix said the change is important in terms of defining the power of each branch of government and its responsibilities.

"The question becomes: Why do we have a legislative assembly?" Hendrix said.

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