Plain Talk: Wrigley backs off call to move crime lab under BCI


MINOT, N.D. — Drew Wrigley is asking a lot from state lawmakers in his first time before them as attorney general. He wants a $24 million increase in his office’s budget to recruit and retain attorneys, hire more Bureau of Criminal Investigation agents, oversee the exploding growth in North Dakota’s charitable gaming industry, and address backlogs at the State Crime Lab. He also wants new mandatory minimum sentencing requirements for gun-related crimes.

One thing he’s giving up, though, is his call to rearrange his office’s organization chart and put the Crime Lab under the administration of law enforcement officials.

“You were wrong,” Wrigley told me on this episode of Plain Talk, referring to my past reporting on the proposal , “and you won.”

In support of his push for new mandatory minimums, Wrigley pushed back against a massive fiscal note attached to the bill prepared by state corrections officials. They’re estimating that Wrigley’s bill would cost the state an additional $28 million per biennium, something Wrigley said is “completely false and ignoring the situation.”

“I’m not going to be backed off on this with some phony fiscal note,” he said.

Asked if his office had done a fiscal analysis of the bill’s impact, he said no.

“Our analysis is this is just a reprioritization,” he said, arguing that state corrections officials can offset the cost of keeping more violent offenders in prison by reducing incarceration rates among nonviolent offenders.

Also in this episode, state Sen. Sean Cleary, a Republican from Bismarck, weighs in on the competing proposals to address North Dakota’s pension fund for public workers. A proposal backed by Gov. Doug Burgum and House Majority Leader Mike Lefor seeks to transition the state away from a defined-benefit pension. Cleary argues in favor of keeping the defined-benefit pension.

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