High court gives mixed verdict on Burgum-Legislature spat
BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — North Dakota’s Supreme Court on Monday rejected several of Gov. Doug Burgum’s vetoes but sided with the governor in other portions of a dispute with the Legislature that revolved around overreach on both sides.
The high court ruled that Burgum was out of line in four out of five line-item vetoes that the Legislature had challenged. In the vetoes — which included appropriations for the State Water Commission and for information technology spending, among others — the Supreme Court said Burgum had gone too far with vetoes that would have changed legislators’ intent.
The Supreme Court sided with Burgum’s challenge that lawmakers had improperly delegated authority to a subset of legislators — known as the Budget Section — for how some $299 million for the Water Commission could be shifted among several identified needs.
Burgum made the same successful argument for the Legislature’s attempt to have the budget section direct where half of $3.6 million appropriated for information technology would be spent.
“Convenience is no substitute for the mandatory legislative process,” Judge Jerod Tufte wrote. He said the Legislature encroached on the executive branch by giving a committee of its members the power to administer appropriations.
Burgum had earlier conceded most of the vetoes would fail. He said in a statement late Monday he was pleased with the court’s ruling.
“The Supreme Court validated our original intent,” Burgum said.
Legislative leaders didn’t immediately comment.
Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem, who argued on Burgum’s behalf, called the decision “a recognition of the democratic process and the importance of the checks and balances between the executive and legislative branches of government inherent in our Constitution.”