Lawmakers Get to Work | VideoJessica Roose | 1/9/2013
The 63rd North Dakota legislative session is different from previous ones in billions of ways. Lawmakers have a $1.6 billion general fund surplus to work with.
"Everyone in the state knows that were sitting well financially," said Rep. Naomi Muscha (D - Enderlin).
Muscha says just because there is lots of money in the state`s coffers this biennium, lawmakers still face tough choices as they try and figure out where to spend those dollars.
"Everybody says it`s easier when you don`t have a lot of money. That`s true, but I think we`ve heard it so long that everybody is focused and ready to go to work," said Republican Majority Leader, Senator Rich Wardner.
Today Chief Justice of the North Dakota Supreme Court Gerald VandeWalle requested more money for the judiciary budget during his State of the Judiciary speech. He says the rapid increase in the state`s population has put a strain on the court system. "The energy impact is rippling across the state. Morton and Burleigh counties, in particular, are absorbing displaced cases from the northwest judicial district. This, in turn, is putting a strain on their ability to function."
Justice VandeWalle is requesting funding to add three more judges to relieve some of the mounting caseload and to avoid what he termed "Conveyor Belt Justice." "Fifteen minutes is a luxury when it comes to the average court hearing. Fifteen minutes is five minutes longer than the average protection order hearing and five times longer than the average bail hearing."
The Chief Justice also wants to add additional staff to the south central district in Bismarck to help with the workload there.
Legislators will have to approve the judiciary budget as well as others in the coming months. They got to work today in their committees and started to hear bills.