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North Dakota Senate Majority Leader Rich Wardner, R-Dickinson, introduces amendments addressing a misallocation of oil taxes Wednesday, March 27, 2019. John Hageman / Forum News Service

Wardner: Legislature will abide by AG's auditor opinion

BISMARCK — A top North Dakota lawmaker said Monday, July 1, that the Legislature will follow an attorney general's opinion arguing new restrictions placed on State Auditor Josh Gallion were likely unconstitutional.

"We'll abide by the ruling," Senate Majority Leader Rich Wardner, R-Dickinson, said.

In an opinion requested by Gallion and issued Friday, Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem argued a court would find that a new law requiring the auditor to receive lawmaker approval to conduct certain audits violates the separation of powers doctrine. In response, Gallion said his office would conduct "business as usual" rather than following what was deemed an unconstitutional law.

Wardner didn't raise any problems with that statement in an interview Monday. Lawmakers have said the restrictions were tied to budget talks and the need to improve communication, and Wardner said they didn't intend to "hinder" the Republican auditor's work.

Stenehjem said his opinion "governs the actions of public officials" until the issue is decided by the courts.

House Majority Leader Chet Pollert, R-Carrington, didn't immediately return a message seeking comment.

The restrictions, approved in the waning days of this year's legislative session, have sparked a citizen petition campaign aimed at overturning the Legislature's actions. Supporters have indicated they would move forward with the ballot campaign.

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