I was speaking with a lawmaker friend yesterday who clued me in to what is apparently a bad relationship between House Majority Leader Al Carlson and Senate Majority Leader Rich Wardner.
I had both gentlemen on the radio with me earlier this week and they did a good job of promoting a unified message, but apparently behind the scenes not all is well. One House Republican tells me the relationship between the two leaders is “the worst I’ve ever seen.”
Last session there were some sharp differences of opinion between the House and the Senate, particularly over tax relief. While the House passed over a half billion in personal and corporate income tax relief, the Senate came back with less than half that amount.
Apparently, before the 2015 session even starts, there is tension over funding for oil patch needs. Wardner, who represents a Dickinson-area district, has proposed an $800 million “surge” funding bill to make dollars available for summer construction projects later in 2015. The bill has support from several other Republican Senators, as well as a couple of House Republicans as well (notably Rep. Mike Schatz and Rep. Roscoe Streyle).
The idea of the bill is to make sure western communities don’t miss the 2015 construction season due to uncertainty over appropriations. Wardner has suggested the Legislature could put the bill on Governor Jack Dalrymple’s desk within the first two weeks of the session.
Apparently, according to a House Republican source, Carlson wasn’t in the loop though that’s disputed by supporters of the “surge” I’ve spoken to.
We’ll see what happens. The Legislature missing Wardner’s projection for passing the bill could have major repercussions. I’ve spoken with some representatives of local governments in the west who say local leaders could react by shutting down or severely restricting oil development if funds aren’t made available in a timely fashion. Also, though western North Dakota is by far the most conservative/Republican area of the state, a disaster with the oil funding in the legislature could be just the wedge issue Democrats need to make inroads.
On a related note, Carlson seems to be making waves in other ways as well. I’m told by multiple lawmakers who attended the caucus meetings in Bismarck last week that Carlson said any bills sponsored by newly-elected lawmakers Erin Oban (the Senate from Bismarck) and Pamela Anderson (the House from Fargo), or state Senator George Sinner (of Fargo, soundly defeated in the U.S. House race by Cramer) wouldn’t have a chance of passing.
That sounds suspiciously like hyperbole – I’d be very surprised if Carlson had the clout to kill popular legislation simply because of the identity of one of the sponsors, especially in ND where every bill gets a vote – but it has ruffled some feathers.
One thing is certain: This legislative session might be the wildest ride we’ve had in a few cycles.