Based on Vote Today Prognosis for Closing Down North Dakota Treasurer’s Office Doesn’t Look Good

State Rep. Ron Guggisberg, a Democrat from Fargo, carries legislation to the floor of the House transferring handling of unclaimed property to the state Treasurer's Office.

Back in January a group of lawmakers announced an effort they would be pushing during the legislative session in Bismarck to amend our state’s constitution to remove the Treasurer’s Office.

HCR3004 and HCR3005, both introduced by Rep. Mike Nathe, would, respectively, eliminate the Treasurer’s Office and study where the current duties of that office should be transferred.

Co-sponsoring Nathe’s legislation in the Senate is Democrat Tim Mathern of Fargo who, when he campaigned against incumbent Treasurer Kelly Schmidt last year, ran on eliminating the office.

He got just 29 percent of the vote.

When I interviewed Nathe about his resolutions he told me the effort was about “right sizing government.” But based on a vote in the state House today, I’m not sure how much support there is for Nathe’s push.

At issue was HB1384, introduced by Rep. Keith Kempenich of Bowman, which would shift responsibility for handling abandoned property in our state to the Treasurer. The bill received no debate, and was approved almost unanimously on a 84-5 vote.

Nathe, I’d point out, was one of the few dissenting votes.

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Rep. Ron Guggisberg, a Fargo Democrat, carried the Political Subdivision Committee’s 12-2 “do pass” recommendation to the House floor. He pointed out that a national association had given North Dakota a “D” when it comes to handling abandoned property. Of some $7.5 million in unclaimed property, the state had managed to only distribute some $2.9 million.

Guggisberg said it would “be best with the new technology the Treasurer is using to put this under her purview.”

The majority of the state House agreed. The right call, I think, and perhaps some foreshadowing for how the vote on Nathe’s legislation might go. It’s hard to imagine a majority of House members voting to move unclaimed property to the Treasurer, and then voting to close the Treasurer’s office down.

But who knows. Stranger things have happened.

By the way, if you’re not up to speed on what this unclaimed property stuff is, it’s not actual property so much as uncashed checks or abandoned bank accounts. These things get turned over to the state, currently the state’s Department of Trust Lands oversees it, which manages a database where people can check to see if they have some money to claim.

If you haven’t done so, you should click here and see if you’re in the database. A few years ago I found a $50 check I forgot to cash and, ironically enough, as I was writing this post I did a quick search of the database and found some unclaimed property that belongs to my father.

Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com, a columnist for the Forum News Service, and the host of the Rob (Re)Port on Fargo-based WDAY AM970 from noon-2pm weekdays.

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