Amy Dalrymple, Forum News Service, Published May 04 2013
UPDATED: Tax relief tops $850 million as ND Legislature wraps up longest-ever session in wee hoursBISMARCK – North Dakota legislators wrapped up their work after 4 a.m. today, setting a record for the longest session in modern history and approving an unprecedented $850 million-plus in property tax relief.
Disagreement over funding for K-12 education and providing the property tax relief that citizens asked for prompted a daylong series of conference committee meetings to reach a compromise.
Shortly before midnight, legislators agreed on Senate Bill 2036, which provides $200 million in property tax relief through a state-paid tax credit.
About 2:30 a.m., House lawmakers unanimously agreed on House Bill 1013, which provides funding for K-12 education that had been defeated in the House on Friday morning. Senators followed shortly with their own unanimous vote.
The compromise bill, which includes $2.14 billion for the Department of Public Instruction’s budget, was about $53 million less than what Gov. Jack Dalrymple recommended for K-12 education.
The bill also provided another $656 million in property tax relief through a new K-12 funding formula that shifts the largest share of education costs from school districts to the state.
“With your vote, you can say you voted for the largest tax relief package in the history of North Dakota,” said Sen. Tim Flakoll, R-Fargo.
Under the state constitution, legislators meet up to 80 days every two years. They opened session at 8 a.m. Friday and had until 7 a.m. today to meet their deadline.
Previously, the longest session was 79 days in 2009.
Throughout the night, especially between midnight and 2 a.m., legislators had a lull in action while they waited for Legislative Council to review the amendments adopted by the conference committees.
To pass the time, legislators said farewells, cleaned their desks and snapped group photos. At about 2 a.m., Sen. John Warner, D-Ryder, sang to those in attendance with lobbyist Levi Andrist accompanying on the piano.
The final act was approving the budget for the Office of Management and Budget.