- Associated Press - Sunday, December 4, 2016

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) - North Dakota lawmakers will be lobbying for prime committee assignments and also will perform some mundane work such as filling out paperwork and picking their desks this week as they prepare for the 2017 Legislature.

The three-day organizational session concludes Wednesday, shortly after Gov. Jack Dalrymple presents his two-year budget recommendations to a joint session of the House and Senate.

The Legislature, which meets every two years, begins its next regular session Jan. 3. The organizational meeting gives lawmakers time to prepare.

Monday’s opening day includes computer training sessions, briefings on legislative procedures for new lawmakers and the swearing-in of legislators who were elected last November. Supreme Court Justice Dale Sandstrom administers the oaths in the House. Justice Carol Kapsner does the same in the Senate.

Each lawmaker also chooses his or her desk on the House or Senate floor on Monday. Seats are assigned mostly by seniority.

Lawmakers fill out surveys to list their preferred committee assignments, and legislative leaders attempt to match up each legislator’s preferences to the spots available on committees.

The 2015 session lasted 78 days, just short of the 80-day maximum set by the North Dakota Constitution. North Dakota’s Legislature held a three-day special session in August to address a shortfall in the state budget due to slumping oil and crop prices.

The Legislature ended its longest session ever in 2013, when it met for 80 days.

The organizational session also is a time for lawmakers to renew acquaintences, trade political gossip, and confer with colleagues on proposed bills.

Rep. Bob Martinson, R-Bismarck, began his term in 1973 and is North Dakota’s longest-serving lawmaker. Martinson said he’s always as anxious as any freshman lawmaker during organizational sessions.

“I’m like a brand-new kid at kindergarten,” Martinson said.

But he also compares legislative sessions to spending time with relatives.

“It’s always exciting when it starts but eventually you can’t wait until it’s over,” he said.

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