Posted 2/25/14 (Tue)
By Neal A. Shipman
North Dakota Democratic leaders are calling on Governor Dalrymple to hold a special legislative session to address infrastructure and other needs facing oil counties and communities. And McKenzie County leaders are welcoming the news.
In a letter sent Monday morning to the governor, House Democratic-NPL Leader Kenton Onstad of Parshall, and Senate Democratic-NPL Leader Mac Schneider of Grand Forks stated, “We cannot wait until the 2015 session to address these challenges.”
Senator John Warner, of Ryder, also signed the letter. Representative Onstad and Senator Warner both represent District 4, a region directly impacted by oil and gas development.
In their letter, the three legislators stated that current state funding levels are failing to keep up with the pace of development.
“The affected western counties do not think that the current funding level is adequate to meet the demand for services they are facing,” stated the three legislators in their letter. “Impacted cities are reaching their bonding limits and are increasingly frustrated with lack of assistance to adequately fund development projects. If present state funding levels do not change, many local leaders and residents fear that western North Dakota may never catch up to the pace of oil and gas development.”
And for Ron Anderson, chairman of the McKenzie County Commissioners, there is a real reason for the governor to call for a special session.
“We either need to have a special session to deal with the needs of the oi-impacted counties and cities or the Governor and the Legislature need to address the issue early on in the next session. Otherwise, we will lose the 2015 construction season.”
According to Anderson, HB 1358, which provided assistance to oil-impacted cities and counties in the state, was the last piece of legislation to be passed during the past legislative session.
In addition to the Democrats calling for a special session, Anderson says that the North Dakota Association of Oil & Gas Producing Counties, which will be meeting later this week, is also considering asking Governor Dalrymple to hold a special session to help address their critical needs.
“There are many in western North Dakota who are afraid that their communities and counties are reaching the breaking point,” said Onstad. “If we don’t act now, we’re jeopardizing the financial solvency of many western counties, cities, and school districts, and we’re putting future oil and gas development at risk.”
Onstad said North Dakota Democrats don’t take their request for a special session lightly, but he said that the state doesn’t have any other choice.