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Janell Cole, Published April 25 2009

Notebook: North Dakota conference committees schedule meetings today

BISMARCK – Many North Dakota legislators are working today as lawmakers try to make progress bringing the session to a close.

Nearly 40 bills will have conference committee meetings today, with some scheduled to start as early as 8 a.m. Neither chamber will conduct floor sessions to vote on bills, so the day doesn’t count as a “legislative day.”

About 70 bills must be acted on before the session is over.

Lawmakers must finish in no more than 80 days. Friday was the 72nd day. The session started Jan. 6.

Road package advances

A $1.37 billion state transportation budget bill with newly attached disaster money of $114.5 million for snow- and flood-damaged local roads advanced Friday.

Senate Bill 2012 passed the House with the new amendments. Then, as lawmakers had planned, the Senate voted to send the bill to a conference committee for work on a final version.

Dorgan promises aid

Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D., addressed the North Dakota House and Senate in separate speeches Friday, pledging to do everything possible to help with the federal aid available for flood control projects in Fargo and due to the spreading Devils Lake.

The applause line was when he criticized proposed federal carbon dioxide restriction laws being considered in Congress, known as cap-and-trade.

He warned that the trading or auctioning of allowances that CO2-producing industries – such as North Dakota coal plants – would have to buy could end up being the subject of speculation, just as crude oil was last year when it zoomed to $147 a barrel. He said he didn’t want “a bunch of folks with a bunch of money to get their mitts on” the trading of CO2 allowances.

Surgery successful

Rep. Alon Wieland, R-West Fargo, was absent from the session Friday because he underwent five hours of surgery on his wrist at MeritCare in Fargo, his fellow West Fargo lawmaker, Kim Koppelman, told House members. He plans to return to the session Monday.

Carolyn Nelson returns

Sen. Carolyn Nelson, D-Fargo, returned to the session Friday for the first time this week because her husband, Gil, has been hospitalized since Sunday. She announced to her fellow senators that he remains hospitalized at MeritCare in Fargo and that Friday was their 50th wedding anniversary.

Cole works for Forum Communications Co., which owns The Forum. She can be reached at (701) 224-0830 or forumcap@btinet.net