- Associated Press - Wednesday, April 26, 2017

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) - House and Senate negotiators appeared to have solved some intraparty squabbles within North Dakota’s Republican-controlled Legislature on everything from the governor’s salary to a measure that affects public employee benefits, but the agreements came too late for a planned adjournment Wednesday.

Senate Majority Leader Rich Wardner insisted the final gavel would fall sometime Thursday, though lawmakers have missed a handful of similar deadlines recently while attempting to bank some time before the 80-day maximum set by the North Dakota Constitution.

Wardner told fellow senators in a midday caucus meeting that urgency was required so “we can get the hell out of here.”

Wednesday was the Legislature’s 75th day. Hopes to adjourn dimmed early when senators and representatives could not agree on language in a budget bill for the North Dakota Public Employees Retirement System.

Citing rising costs under the state’s current plan, House Majority Leader Al Carlson has pushed to out the state in a self-funded plan that would pool insurance premiums to pay claims and other costs. The Senate initially balked at the idea but later agreed to study and make recommendations though the two chambers had disagreements on how to achieve that. Senate and House negotiators crafted amendments late Wednesday that will be presented to the both chambers Thursday.

Disagreements between House and Senate lawmakers also arose this week on a multimillion-dollar bailout Dickinson State University, a school that has been mired in controversy in recent years. A state audit in 2011 found that the school had given hundreds of bogus diplomas to foreign students and padded its enrollment figures. The school, which is in Wardner’s district, has suffered declining enrollment in recent years due to the scandal, and its independent foundation that supports the university has been financially troubled.

The Senate approved more than $7 million pushed by Wardner to help the ailing school and an associated facility, but representatives have yet to act on it, a move many believe won’t happen until Carlson’s self-funded state insurance idea clears the Senate.

The Senate and the House also have been at odds over whether to honor Gov. Doug Burgum’s campaign pledge to give back his governor’s salary. Senate budget writers earlier accepted an amendment by Burgum that would pay him only $1 annually. But the House rejected the amendment, which has held up the entire $4 million budget for the governor’s office.

Burgum has said he would forgo his $130,000 annual salary due to tough spending decisions with a downturn in the state’s energy economy.

House and Senate negotiators late Wednesday compromised by attaching “legislative intent” to the budget bill that makes clear Burgum is expected to take his pay but the money cannot be spent for any other purpose if he doesn’t.

The House also voted Wednesday to override Burgum’s veto of a budget bill for the state auditor’s office over the elimination of a specific position in the agency. The governor said in his veto message that eliminating the position encroached on executive branch responsibilities.

Representatives also got the needed two-thirds vote to override Burgum’s veto on a bill that would allow swimming at state park marinas.

The Senate has yet to act on either of the vetoes.

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