Lawmakers Say Burgum’s Veto of Bonus Bill Likely to Be Sustained

Earlier this week Governor Doug Burgum vetoed HB1153, legislation aimed at capping bonuses for executive branch employees.

The bill was born in some controversy. Back in late 2015 nearly $100,000 in bonuses handed out by former Governor Jack Dalrymple They went to five employees, with Dalrymple arguing that they were needed to keep those employees in their jobs through the end of his term.

Which might make sense – anyone working on the staff of a politician who is retiring is going to start looking for a place to land – except that one of the largest bonuses was the nearly $32,000 given to Dalrymple Chief of Staff Ron Rauschenberger who continues to serve in Burgum’s administration.

It’s hard to believe that Rauschenberger needed that bonus to stay in the job.

“The proposed restrictions upon this administration set forth in HB 1153 serve no constructive purpose,” Burugum said in his veto statement sent to House Speaker Larry Bellew (R-Minot). “This bill violates the constitutional exercise of executive authority to manage state agencies and to carefully budget appropriated resources. For these reasons, I have vetoed HB 1153.”

[mks_pullquote align=”right” width=”300″ size=”24″ bg_color=”#ffffff” txt_color=”#000000″]”I think House will definitely,” one House lawmaker told me when I asked about the chances of that chamber overriding Burgum’s veto. Another House lawmaker said their chamber will “easily” vote to override the Governor.[/mks_pullquote]

But the bill passed with seemingly veto-proof majorities: 91-1 in the state House and 36-10 in the Senate. Based on those vote totals you’d think that overturning Burgum’s veto would be an easy lift for lawmakers (something I mentioned in my print column today).

You’d think, anyway.

The House originated the bill, so they vote first on the veto. That’s scheduled to happen today, with the Senate to follow.

“I think House will definitely,” one House lawmaker told me when I asked about the chances of that chamber overriding Burgum’s veto. Another House lawmaker said their chamber will “easily” vote to override the Governor.

But there are doubts in the House about the Senate’s willingness to stand firm. “I hear some Senate votes are flipping to the Gov so it sounds like the Senate may uphold his veto,” a House lawmaker told me.

Another House lawmaker was more blunt: “The Senate will fold cause that’s what they do.”

As for the feelings in the Senate chamber? “My guess, we will sustain the veto,” one Senator told me.

“House will do it,” another Senator told me. “Sadly doubt Senate will.”

Why would Senators flip on a bill they passed by such a wide majority? At least part of it has nothing to do with Burgum at all, and a lot to do with the ever-present tension between the two chambers. “I hear it’s a way for the senate to stick it to Al,” a House lawmaker told me, referring to the chamber’s Majority Leader Al Carlson (R-Fargo).

Nothing here is written in stone. The votes may surprise us. But based on everything I’m hearing from lawmakers right now it sure sounds like Burgum’s veto will be upheld.

Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com, a columnist for the Forum News Service, and host of the Plain Talk Podcast which you can subscribe to by clicking here.

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