Burgum vetoes House Bill 1153, citing intrusion upon executive branch authority

Monday, March 27, 2017 - 1:00pm

BISMARCK, N.D. – Governor Doug Burgum today vetoed the following bill:

House Bill 1153 – An act to amend and reenact section 54-06-31 of the North Dakota Century Code, relating to state employee recruitment and retention bonus programs.

A copy of the governor’s veto message is below.

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March 27, 2017

 

Honorable Larry Bellew

Speaker of the House

North Dakota House of Representatives

State Capitol

Bismarck, ND  58505

 

Dear Speaker Bellew:

Pursuant to Article V, Section 9 of the North Dakota Constitution, I have vetoed House Bill 1153 and returned it to the House.

As the chief executive of the state, the Governor is responsible for the administration of state business. Article V, § 7 ND Const. This responsibility includes the duty to fill vacant positions and supervise the conduct of executive and ministerial officers. The Legislature can neither add to nor diminish these constitutional duties.

HB 1153 seeks to restrict the authority of the Governor, and only the Governor, to pay recruitment and retention bonuses to cabinet leaders and the Governor’s staff. HB 1153 places unprecedented and intentional restrictions on the Governor’s ability to fulfill the constitutional duty to recruit and retain cabinet agency directors and key support personnel. These restrictions intrude upon the operations of the executive branch and violate the separation of governmental powers established by the North Dakota Constitution.

The importance of recruitment and retention bonus programs was acknowledged by the Fifty-Seventh Legislative Assembly in enacting Section 54-06-31 of the Century Code. A 2009 amendment added subsection 5, to specifically recognize the importance of recruitment and retention tools for “hard-to-fill occupation[s]”, to respond to market forces and competition, or to avoid losing a highly performing incumbent with rare or special skills. Recruiting and retaining experienced and transformational cabinet leaders is an essential step in delivering more efficient government services.

Collectively our seventeen cabinet agencies employ more than 6,000 state workers. These agencies are complex, widely diverse and provide meaningful, specialized, and essential services on behalf of our state citizens. The cabinet agency leadership positions meet the “hard-to-fill” criteria described in NDCC Section 54-06-31 (5). 

Further, Cabinet leaders and the Governor’s staff are unclassified positions, meaning they are employed “at will.” This is different from the vast majority of state employment positions which are “classified” and therefore hold more job protections. As unclassified positions, the Governor’s staff and cabinet leaders serve at the pleasure of the Governor. And unlike classified positions, every four years with the election cycle there is increased risk of turnover for these key positions.

To explicitly remove a human resources tool for these specialized, hard-to-fill, and at-will employees will impair the Governor’s ability to attract and retain the leadership and staff necessary to effectively execute the duties of the office now and for future governors.

The thriving private sector creates ample competition for attracting and retaining leadership, with more flexibility and higher salary levels than comparable leadership and senior staff roles in the public sector.  Any movement to erode the Governor’s flexibility will further reduce state government’s ability to bring much-needed private sector experience into cabinet leadership positions.  

The proposed restrictions upon this administration set forth in HB 1153 serve no constructive purpose.  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.

As Governor, I understand the importance of strong fiscal policies and have proposed more than $1.5 billion in reduced spending for the next biennium. We are committed to partnering with the Legislature to achieve these costs reductions, even as we continue to search for new, more cost-effective solutions to delivering services and operating our state. 

There are many steps we still need to take to improve the efficiency and performance of state government, but HB 1153 is a step in the wrong direction.  

Sincerely,

 

Doug Burgum

Governor