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North Dakota Legislative Assembly Then...and Now!

The 51st Legislative Assembly of North Dakota consisted of 106 representatives and 53 senators. Of the 159 legislators, 103 were born in North Dakota, 19 in the United States, and 1 in Canada.

One hundred years into statehood many modern problems that we still face today were being tackled by the Legislative Assembly.  Five bills passed by the 51st Legislative Assembly dealt with driving under the influence laws. House Concurrent Resolution No. 3013 is very similar to the 2013 House Concurrent Resolution No. 3025 in congratulating the NDSU Bison football team for another championship win.  Senate Concurrent Resolution No. 4030 is echoed in Section 38 of 2013 Senate Bill No. 2018 calling for a study of adequate child care in the state.  Water, always a topic in North Dakota, was discussed, in part, with 1989 House Concurrent Resolution No. 3020 calling for a study of interbasin water transfers which is reminiscent of Section 3 of 2013 Senate Bill No. 2233 defining the duties of the Water Topics Overview Committee as it would relate to the Red River Valley Water Supply Project.  These examples give credit to the old adage "what's old, is new again." But not everything the 1989 Legislative Assembly did has been rehashed or modernized. Senate Concurrent Resolution No. 4038 designating the official salmon derby, Trophy Takers Salmon Club's Blackjaw Fever Salmon Derby, remains the official North Dakota salmon derby.

In 1965 expense reimbursement was changed to $1,200 per legislative session and $35 per month during each legislator's term of office. In 1967 expense reimbursement for each legislator's term of office remained unchanged at $35 per month, but the expense reimbursement provided during sessions was increased to $25 per calendar day (a maximum of $1,500 based on the constitutional limitation then in effect of 60 legislative days, not including organizational session). From 1967 to 1981 legislative session expense reimbursement was increased six times, from $25 to $85 per day, and reimbursement for expenses incurred during each legislator's term of office was increased four times, from $35 to $180 per month. However, legislative compensation still remained at $5 per calendar day during legislative sessions, as provided by the constitution.

The 1889 constitutional provision was repealed on June 8, 1982, by voter approval of Measure No. 4, which created Article XI, Section 26, of the Constitution of North Dakota, and provides that:

"The legislative, executive, and judicial branches are coequal branches of government. Elected members and officials of each branch shall receive as compensation for their services only such amounts as may be specifically set by law. Payment for necessary expenses shall not exceed those allowed for other state employees."

After the adoption of the 1982 constitutional amendment, the subsequent Legislative Assembly (1983) amended Section 54-03-20 to increase legislative compensation from $5 to $40 per day during legislative sessions. Most legislators were also entitled to receive $50 per day expense reimbursement, a decrease of $35 from the expense reimbursement rate in effect in 1981. The 1983 combined total of compensation ($5) and expense reimbursement ($85). The 1983 Legislative Assembly also added a provision that each legislator was entitled to reimbursement during the legislative session for one round trip per week between the legislator's residence and the Capitol at the rate provided for state employee travel.

The 1985 Legislative Assembly amended Section 54-03-20 to provide that legislators receive compensation of $90 per calendar day during the legislative session. In addition, legislative expense reimbursement was changed to a maximum of $600 per month for lodging or mileage. Section 54-03-20 was also amended to provide that the $180 per month payment to legislators during their term of office was compensation, not reimbursement for expenses.  Therefore, compensation in 1989 was $90 per day ($169.81 in 2014) and $600 per month ($1,132.08 in 2014) expense reimbursement during a legislative session.


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Photos courtesy of the State Historical Society and the Legislative Council