New legislators, new leadership in N.D. Legislature

Paul Matthys

Paul Matthys with Cass County Electric Cooperative testifies to a legislative committee.

Rep. Bob Martinson, a Republican from District 35 in Bismarck, is about as close as you can get to being the Tom Brady in North Dakota politics. Brady turned 45 this year, and Martinson is (by my math) currently serving his 45th year in the N.D. Legislative Assembly. Martinson was reelected in November and will return to the House when it convenes for the 68th Legislative Assembly in January, shortly after Brady’s final regular season game with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Jan. 8.

While politicians and athletes may not be a common comparison, following the 2022 general election, N.D. legislators and professional athletes will have more in common – a similar “shelf life.”

Beginning Jan. 1, 2023, legislators cannot serve more than eight years in the state House of Representatives or more than eight years in the state Senate. This constitutional change comes after North Dakota voters approved Measure 1 on the November ballot, which imposes term limits on legislators and the governor. While a legislator could move across the hall from one chamber to the other, serving for a total of 16 years (eight sessions under current law), the average will likely fall closer to the four- to five-year career expectancy of a professional athlete. Thus, the future churn of legislators will increase by law, not only by changes in the electorate.

In November’s election, North Dakota voters elected 41 new legislators, which is about a 30% turnover.

New majority leaders will serve in both chambers, and a new minority leader will serve in the Senate. Senate Majority Leader Rich Wardner, R-Dickinson, House Majority Leader Chet Pollert, R-Carrington, and Senate Minority Leader Joan Heckaman, D-New Rockford, will not return for the 2023 session. House Minority Leader Josh Boschee, D-Fargo, is the only returning legislator in leadership. And, the Appropriations Committee chairs in each chamber will not be back in Bismarck this legislative session.

Both parties met in Bismarck and Mandan to elect their respective leaders for the upcoming legislative session.

In the Senate, the following were elected to party leadership:
•    David Hogue, R-Minot, majority leader
•    Kathy Hogan, D-Fargo, minority leader
•    Jerry Klein, R-Fessenden, assistant majority leader
•    Merrill Piepkorn, D-Fargo, assistant minority leader
•    Kristen Roers, R-Fargo, Republican caucus leader
•    Ryan Braunberger, D-Fargo, Democratic caucus leader

Republicans hold 43 of the 47 seats in the state Senate.

In the House, the following were elected to party leadership:
•    Mike Lefor, R-Dickinson, majority leader
•    Josh Boschee, D-Fargo, minority leader
•    Glenn Bosch, R-Bismarck, assistant majority leader
•    Zac Ista, D-Grand Forks, assistant minority leader
•    Dennis Johnson, R-Devils Lake, Speaker of the House
•    Austen Schauer, R-West Fargo, Republican caucus leader
•    Gretchen Dobervich, D-Fargo, Democratic caucus leader

Republicans hold 82 of the 94 seats in the state House.

Both majority leaders have prioritized tax relief for the upcoming legislative session, and the North Dakota Association of Rural Electric Cooperatives (NDAREC) will be there to ensure property tax parity is achieved between cooperatives and other North Dakota utilities. There will always be bills related to energy, because North Dakota is an energy exporting state, and NDAREC will always monitor legislation and advocate for policies that ensure reliable, affordable generation, transmission and distribution of electricity to North Dakota cooperative member-owners.

Zac Smith is communications and government relations director for NDAREC. He can be reached at


North Dakotans have greater remote access to their citizen Legislature with the implementation of new technology, following the Legislature’s pandemic response for the 2021 legislative session. Citizens can now track bills, livestream committee meetings and floor sessions and view archived videos entirely online. Remote testimony is also being accepted by legislative committees. Visit to learn more, or call 1-888-NDLEGIS (635-3447).