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North Dakota Legislative Assembly Then...and Now! - 38th Legislative Assembly

The 38th Legislative Assembly of North Dakota consisted of 113 representatives and 49 senators. Of the 162 legislators, 1 was born in the Dakota Territory, 115 were born in North Dakota, and 38 in the United States.

Seventy-five years into statehood the North Dakota Legislative Assembly was faced with a difficult task that many legislative bodies, before and since, have had to tackle.  Unlike today, the state's finances were being depleted, and the legislature tried various means to replenish them.  Several bills were introduced to provide for a sales tax on pop, tobacco products, and hotel services and there was a general increase in the sales tax.  House Bill No. 661 introduced the coal severance tax.  The legislature went so far as offering to the people of North Dakota several referendums increasing taxes, which were soundly defeated.  During this time the nation was changing rapidly and the Legislative Assembly was modernizing as well.  Bills were introduced that session to restructure legislative districts. Combined with the recent revamp of the state's laws in 1959-60, which tasked the Legislative Research Committee the task of designing the form, style, and content with the ability to make changes in the North Dakota Revised Code of 1943 by fixing minor errors, clarifying statutes, and deleting obsolete or ambiguous sections of law, the state was keeping with the times of modernization.

As originally adopted in 1889, the Constitution of North Dakota provided that legislators were entitled to compensation for their service during each legislative session at a rate of $5 per day ($128.21 in 2014) and 10 cents per mile of travel.  In 1943 the Legislative Assembly passed House Concurrent Resolution X, which would have amended the constitution to provide that in addition to $5 per day and 10 cents per mile, legislators be paid $4 per day reimbursement for other expenses. However, this resolution was narrowly rejected by the voters (86,340 to 85,212), and legislative compensation and expense reimbursement remained at the level set in 1889.

Although the rate of legislative compensation was limited by the constitution, the rate of expense reimbursement was not. In 1945 the Legislative Assembly passed legislation, now codified as North Dakota Century Code Section 54-03-20, which provided for expense reimbursement payments to legislators. The level of expense reimbursement was set at $300 per session. Expense reimbursement was increased to $600 per session in 1949 and $1,200 per session in 1957. In 1959 this section was amended to provide that the expense reimbursement was to cover expenses incurred during the session and the interim. Therefore, compensation in 1963 was $5 per day, 10 cents per mile of travel, and $1,200 per biennium ($9,160.31 in 2014) expense reimbursement.


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Photos courtesy of the State Historical Society and the Legislative Council