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North Dakota’s longest-serving active lawmaker to retire

March 8, 2022 GMT

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — One of the longest serving state lawmakers in the country and a meticulous monitor of the the state’s money said Monday he is retiring from the North Dakota Legislature.

Republican Sen. Ray Holmberg, 79, of Grand Forks, was first elected in 1976. He is the longest-service active legislator in the state and is tied as the longest-serving state senator in the U.S. with Democratic South Carolina Sen. Nikki Setzler, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Holmberg said it was a difficult decision based on medical issues that “do not afford me the cognitive ability to accurately perform the work required and expected” to represent his constituents, The Bismarck Tribune reported.

“At age 79, the stress of a session and a campaign will only exacerbate a weakened ability to concentrate on the matters at hand and effectively recall events,” he said in a statement.

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Holmberg chairs the powerful Senate Appropriations Committee, which writes state agency budgets. He also leads a panel of lawmakers that guides the Legislature’s work between regular sessions. As the top Senate budget writer, he recently helped lay out plans to spend North Dakota’s $1 billion of federal American Rescue Plan coronavirus aid and to reapportion the Legislature with new census data.

Gov. Doug Burgum said Holmberg “has conservatively steered state and federal dollars to some of North Dakota’s most impactful programs and infrastructure projects.”

His pet project was higher education, cohorts said.

“Ray cared deeply for the people of North Dakota. His institutional memory and ability to bring people together will be great missed in the chamber,” said Senate Majority Leader Rich Wardner, who is also retiring.

Holmberg served for many years as a teacher and counselor in the Grand Forks school district.