Dorso Column: A Breather At Crossover

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Crossover is a very stressful time for many legislators. Leadership and standing committee chairs feel the pressure of making the deadline. Legislation that has been held in committee waiting for a compromise to emerge or amendments agreed to must be reported to the floor. There are deadlines leading up to crossover that, if met, make the last few days easier on some. Many legislators are left with little to do but wait for floor sessions where the final disposition of the legislation is decided. I was always thankful when the last house bill was messaged to the senate.

Most legislators have a lot of work to get caught up on at home. If nothing else you know you have to get started on your income tax. April 15th comes quickly after a legislative session. Even if you are going to file an extension you need to file an estimate which is almost as much work as the final filing. Members who farm have the added burden of preparing for spring work in the fields.

Some people wondered why I didn’t spend more time at public gatherings during the break. The reality was I didn’t have the time or energy. I would load up my paper work and head to Florida. There I could get my paper work done and spend some quality time with my wife. Leaving Bismarck on Friday afternoon and returning Wednesday evening doesn’t give you a lot of time for either. Sue said it would take at least three days for me to unwind.
My advice to legislators then and now is “rest and get your private affairs back in order”. You are going to have a very busy schedule leading up to adjournment.

During crossover break many legislators will be in their home districts. Most will be happy to entertain a conversation about the session or specific pieces of legislation. Some will schedule a meeting where they will take input on what has transpired or what is contemplated. I found that most North Dakotans are congenial when they approach legislators. The only time I resented an intrusion was if I was out having a meal or an evening with family or friends. At such a time a simple note with a telephone number will get a better reception. Most legislators are more than happy to make contact at an appropriate time.

If you have an adversarial position on a piece of legislation your legislator needs to know your reasons. He or she is used to hearing the other side of an argument. They should be respectful and listen if you present your view in the same manner as you would expect of them. They on the other hand might be able to shed some light on why they voted the way they did. Sometimes the facts as presented to them are totally different than those reported by the media to the public. Either way a civil dialogue goes a long way in making good legislation.

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