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Published March 27 2011

Ask Your Government: Reader wonders how Legislature keeps track of spending

Dear Teri,

During each legislative session, there are dozens of bills that provide funding for various purposes. I’ve always wondered who keeps track of how much funding is being spent in all of the bills. How does the Legislature keep track of the spending levels? Do they have specialized staff for this purpose? Thanks for your help with this question.

Thanks for writing! Before the session, Gov. Jack Dalrymple presented legislators with his budget recommendations, which give lawmakers a detailed financial road map to work from and consider. The state’s Office of Management and Budget works on this executive report and is also available to assist lawmakers.

I talked to Sen. Ray Holmberg, R-Grand Forks, chairman of Senate Appropriations. He told me that Legislative Council tracks bills through fiscal staff in constant communication during the session.

There is always a staffer in the committee room. If the Appropriations Committee passes a bill, this is immediately noted and included in weekly reports.

Reports can be found here: www.legis.nd.gov/fiscal/biennium-reports/62-2011/budget-status/index.html.

A recent report showed the state $105 million in the hole, Holmberg said. However, this gets worked out during the second half of the session, he said. As bills get killed or altered, the report gets shorter and the cost decreases.

When the House and Senate appropriations committees finish their work, a report compares what the two chambers did, Holmberg said. From there, legislators work out differences between the two chambers and finalize the budget.

Catching up with North Dakota’s first lady

Dear readers,

Ever since Betsy Dalrymple became North Dakota’s first lady in December, I’ve noticed people coming to my blog almost daily to look for information about her.

So, I visited with the first lady a few weeks ago to see what she’s been up to and how the transition is going.

Dalrymple said she’s enjoying her new job and has been doing research on various causes. One program that’s sparked her interest is Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library, a nonprofit that promotes early childhood literacy.

The program mails free age-appropriate books to children from birth to age 5 who are registered. Local organizations and schools partner with Imagination Library and raise money to support the cost.

In North Dakota, the program is offered in Williston, Bismarck, Cass County and three elementary schools on the reservations, Dalrymple said.

She plans to visit communities across the state to let them know about the program and hopes to expand it to more children in North Dakota.

“It couldn’t be a better program,” she said. “Early exposure to reading just can tie into their long-term school success.”

She’s also been following Gearing up for Kindergarten, a school readiness and parent education program. Legislators are considering a bill that provides state funding for the program.

“I just know the value of getting kids so excited to go to school,” Dalrymple said.

Dalrymple is also interested in teenage volunteerism and learning about unique programs in the state that could be expanded.

Do you have a question for a North Dakota state government official or agency? Send us your question, and we’ll do our best to find an answer.

E-mail politics@wday.com (Subject: Ask your government).

You may also write to Teri Finneman c/o Forum Communications, Press Room, State Capitol, Bismarck, ND 58505.

Please include your name, town and a phone number to reach you for verification.


Teri Finneman is a multimedia reporter for Forum Communications Co.