Published October 24, 2021

Legislative Leader on Redistricting

Written by
Kim Fundingsland
| The Dakotan
Sen. David Hogue, R-Dis. 38, Minot [Photo provided by the North Dakota Legislative Assembly]
Sen. David Hogue, R-Dis. 38, Minot [Photo provided by the North Dakota Legislative Assembly]

Expectations for upcoming session

MINOT – North Dakota’s 47 legislative districts are about to get a new look, a realignment made necessary following the latest census. The state’s districts are required to have reasonably equal populations to ensure that all state citizens are equally represented at the capitol.

A special redistricting committee has come up with a proposed new alignment which will be presented to state lawmakers when they reconvene November 8 in Bismarck. Legislators have determined to reconvene to primarily address redistricting but must comply with the 80-day session limit. The most recent session of the legislature lasted 76 days, leaving just four more days for legislators to complete any new business.

However, if Gov. Doug Burgum should decide to call a Special Session there would be no limit as to the number of days legislators can meet. To date, there has been no firm indication from Burgum as to whether he will call a Special Session.

Sen. David Hogue, R-Dis. 38, Minot, is the Majority Caucus Leader. He was not a member of the redistricting committee, composed of eight members of the Senate and eight from the House of Representatives, but is aware of the committee’s proposed plan.

"We shouldn't be giving preferential treatment. I don't try and figure out what a judge might say before I vote; just make the best policy."Sen. David Hogue, R-Dis. 38, Minot

“One item that caught my attention was subdistricts in District 4, the MHA Nation, and in District 9 at Rolette,” said Hogue. “I don’t particularly support that. I think it is unnecessarily divisive.”

Those two legislative districts, as proposed by the committee, would be divided into subdistricts A and B, that would each elect a representative. One of the subdistricts in each district would be defined as being within the existing boundaries of the Fort Berthold or Turtle Mountain Reservations.

Hogue cites a recent example of cooperation between the MHA Nation at Fort Berthold and the State in making his case against the proposed subdistricts.

“I supported a bill already passed, supported by Governor Burgum, that the MHA Nation or the Highway Patrol can respond to help each other. The BIA can respond off the reservation and the HP can respond,” explained Hogue. “We want seamless cooperation. That’s the direction we should be going. This subdistricting erects a new criterion because we are separated.”

The issue of subdistricts devoted to reservation boundaries, if approved by legislators, is one that seems destined for a court challenge as to whether such a plan favors one group of voters over another. As a legislator, Hogue says his focus is on what believes is “good policy.”

“All 47 districts have to be approximately 16,500 people. We shouldn’t be giving any preferential treatment. I don’t try and figure out what a judge might say before I vote; just make the best policy,” stated Hogue.

"There's just not the votes for extra spending now. I don't see us getting too extravagant." Sen. Hogue

North Dakota has received a large sum of money, about $3-billion, from the Cares Act enacted during the President Donald Trump administration, and from the American Rescue Plan touted by President Joe Biden. Approximately $2-billion has already been designated for counties, cities, and school districts throughout the state. How to disperse the remainder of the money is expected to be debated at the upcoming session.

“We’ve got about a billion of discretionary dollars. The Governor is pushing to spend it all,” said Hogue. “I think what will happen is that we will spend some and keep some. If I had to guess, it will be allocated strictly for road infrastructure, bridges. I don’t know what else will qualify.”

It is expected that some spending items spurned by lawmakers in the most recent regular session of the state legislature might resurface. Hogue says he doesn’t think such efforts will be successful the second time around.

“There’s just not the votes for extra spending now. Let’s get the roads done,” said Hogue. “There’s some county and state highways that would blow you away, given how tough of shape they are in. I don’t see us getting too extravagant.”

The state has until 2026 to spend COVID Relief dollars, meaning allocation of remaining funds can be decided during the 2023-24 legislative session.

"I know there will be an effort to pass a bill about prohibiting mandatory vaccinations for employees, and I think we'll pass it. There's pretty strong support for that." Sen. Hogue

A hot topic of discussion in North Dakota, and across the United States, is COVID-19 and vaccination mandates. Statistics show a majority of people have been vaccinated but, even among those who have received vaccination against COVID-19, there’s support for freedom of choice versus a mandate. Some people have a history of reactions to vaccines or have already had a bout with COVID and carry anti-bodies believed to be as much or more effective than a vaccine.

“I know there will be an effort to pass a bill about prohibiting mandatory vaccinations for employees and I think we’ll pass it. There’s pretty strong support for that,” concluded Hogue. However, legislative leadership holds the power of deciding what delayed bills will be heard by the entire legislature. Which bills they choose, if any, remains to be seen. 

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