ND governor uses veto on university system restrictions

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BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — Gov. Jack Dalrymple has vetoed parts of a handful of bills approved by the North Dakota Legislature, including a measure that prohibits multiyear contracts and severance packages for the chancellor and other top North Dakota University System employees.

"The enactment of these new restrictions would likely discourage well qualified applicants from applying for key positions," Dalrymple said in a veto message.

In all, the Republican governor turned down parts of four bills last week, two weeks after the GOP-led Legislature adjourned.

North Dakota's Legislature has long been critical of the state Board of Higher Education, which oversees the state's 11 public colleges and universities. The severance issue particularly has been a hot-button item for lawmakers since 2013 when the board bought out the contract of former Chancellor Hamid Shirvani, after criticism about what some said was his overbearing leadership style.

Shirvani earned roughly $1.3 million in 2013, after less than a year on the job. He was paid $962,095 in severance and retirement pay — more than double his $349,000 base salary.

The governor also disapproved a section of a bill that would require vice chancellors to resign after the appointment of a new chancellor. Dalrymple said doing so "serves no constructive purpose" and "is likely detrimental to the effective operation of the university system ... and could have a negative effect on the education of our students."

Dalrymple also vetoed part of a measure that requires district courts to pay for expert witnesses. Dalrymple, in his veto message, said the Legislature did not appropriate money for the courts to do so.

The governor also disapproved a section of a bill that would have set a six-month deadline for attorney general opinions.

Dalrymple also struck down a requirement that would require income and interest payments on loans from the state's coal development trust fund to go toward loans for school construction. The governor said such a requirement in unconstitutional because the money already is earmarked for uncollectable loans and the general fund.

The governor's recent vetoes are in addition to one he rejected last month during the session that would have barred a governor from budgeting money from the state's trust fund for oil taxes.

North Dakota's Senate declined to challenge that veto.

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