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North Dakota legislators' approaches to bills differ

FARGO - Sen. Ray Holmberg smiles when he sees letters to the editor complaining about idiotic bills that are introduced in the North Dakota Legislature.

"Often it's a fellow citizen that has asked a legislator to put in the bill," said Holmberg, R-Grand Forks.

With North Dakota's open government, the general feeling is that people's ideas deserve to get introduced, even if they may garner little support, Holmberg said.

"Overall, the attitude is citizens have a right to have their voices heard and have an up or down vote," he said.

In Cass County, legislators sponsored from as few as five to as many as 64 bills this session.

But that's just a snapshot of how active the lawmakers are.

Some legislators also are working on bills that came out of their interim committees, such as Sen. Tony Grindberg, R-Fargo, who is supporting the "Opportunity Bill" that would give tuition grants to high-achieving North Dakota students.

In other cases, legislators may support a bill but ask someone else to be the primary sponsor because they already submitted their maximum number of bills, said Sen. Tim Mathern, D-Fargo.

"It isn't always just what you see on the record," said Mathern, who is the prime sponsor of eight bills this session. "There's other things going on that really reflect the work of legislators."

Rep. Kathy Hawken, R-Fargo, is one of Cass County legislators to be the primary sponsor of no more than one bill this session.

But she's a co-sponsor of 25 bills and resolutions.

Hawken, a member of the House Appropriations Committee, she said she avoids being the prime sponsor on too many bills because she'd have to leave the committee hearings to testify. But as a co-sponsor, she can support other bills without necessarily being there for the testimony.

Sen. Judy Lee, R-West Fargo, has her name on more legislation this session than any other Cass County legislator.

She is the primary sponsor of 25 bills and resolutions and co-sponsor of 39.

Lee said she ended up with more bills than she wanted, and turned down some requests because she knew she couldn't follow through with all of them.

Rep. Duane DeKrey, R-Pettibone, is a sponsor of 74 bills this session, more than any other lawmaker.

DeKrey said he doesn't worry about having his name on a bill that may garner little support because he believes in the process.

"There are people who just really have an aversion to having their name on any bill because they feel if it doesn't work out it might reflect badly on them," DeKrey said.