Section 12: Executive Branch

The executive branch of North Dakota government is made up of 13 officials elected by the voters of the state. They are the Governor, Lieutenant Governor, Secretary of State, Attorney General, State Treasurer, State Auditor, Insurance Commissioner, Agriculture Commissioner, Tax Commissioner, Superintendent of Public Instruction, and three Public Service Commissioners.

The Governor is the chief executive officer of North Dakota government. He or she supervises the state agencies in the executive branch of government. Duties include serving as commander-in-chief of the state’s National Guard, except when they are called to serve the nation, as in a war; chairing several committees and boards; signing or vetoing bills passed by the Legislative Assembly; and appointing people to certain boards and commissions. Examples of state agencies headed by the Governor include the Game and Fish Department, Health Department, and Highway Patrol. The Governor also has the power to order special sessions of the legislature if necessary.

North Dakota National Guard

Figure 20. North Dakota National Guard at a ceremony at the North Dakota Veterans Cemetery, south of Mandan. (U.S. Department of Defense)

In order to be eligible to run for Governor, a person must be a citizen of the United States; must have lived in North Dakota for at least five years; must be qualified to vote in the state; and must be at least 30 years of age. The term of Governor is four years with no term limit, which means that he or she may be re-elected any number of times.

Governor Doug Burgum

Figure 21. Governor Doug Burgum. The Governor is the chief executive officer of the state. (Office the Governor)

The Great Seal of North Dakota

Figure 22. The Great Seal of North Dakota may not be used or printed without the permission of the North Dakota Secretary of State. (ND Secretary of State)

The Lieutenant Governor becomes the chief executive if the Governor resigns, dies, or for some reason is unable to fulfill the duties of Governor. For this reason, the requirements for office are the same as those of the Governor. The Governor and Lieutenant Governor are elected to office together as a team.

Besides serving as President of the Senate in the Legislative Assembly, the Lieutenant Governor also carries out other duties that are requested by the Governor. When the Governor is out of the state, the Lieutenant Governor acts as chief executive until the Governor returns.

The chief clerk of North Dakota is called the Secretary of State. This person is in charge of all official documents and records, elections and voting, and regulates licenses of various kinds. Other responsibilities of the office include registering businesses and letting people know about new state laws. The Secretary of State is in charge of the Great Seal of North Dakota. It is illegal to use or print the Great Seal of North Dakota without permission from the Secretary of State.

The Attorney General is North Dakota’s lawyer. He or she provides legal services to the Governor, legislators, and other state officials. The Attorney General also represents the state in all legal matters that concern the state. Licenses involving gambling, alcohol, and weapons are issued through the Attorney General’s office.

All money received by the state of North Dakota is handled by the State Treasurer. It is the job of the State Treasurer to take care of the state’s money and make reports stating how the funds are being managed. The Treasurer works with the Bank of North Dakota, which is the only state-owned bank in the United States.

The State Auditor is a bookkeeper who examines how North Dakota uses its money. This person is responsible for making sure that all funds in all of the departments of state government are used properly. Checks written by the State Treasurer must be approved by the State Auditor before they may be paid.

About 2,000 insurance companies with more than 33,000 insurance agents do business in North Dakota. The Insurance Commissioner is responsible for making sure that state laws regarding insurance are followed by these companies and agents. If citizens feel that they are not being treated fairly by an insurance company, they may contact the Insurance Commissioner’s office for assistance.

Bank of North Dakota

Figure 23. Bank of North Dakota building, Bismarck. North Dakota is the only state to have a state bank. The Bank of North Dakota started in 1919 and continues to operate. This new Bank of North Dakota building was constructed in 2007.(Bank of North Dakota)

The Agriculture Commissioner oversees all activities of the North Dakota Department of Agriculture. Helping farmers get the best prices for their crops and livestock is a major goal of the Agriculture Commissioner. He or she also works to provide opportunities for young people who are interested in careers in the field of agriculture.

The Tax Commissioner is in charge of collecting special taxes such as income taxes, sales taxes, and taxes related to gasoline, alcohol, tobacco, and other taxable items. The Tax Commissioner also answers tax-related questions and helps legislators write changes for tax laws.

The Department of Public Instruction supervises the education of the youth of North Dakota. The person in charge of this education department is called the Superintendent of Public Instruction. Duties of this official include enforcing all laws dealing with public schools and making sure that schools meet all the necessary requirements. The Department of Public Instruction also determines what courses need to be taught in each grade, approves school calendars, and helps in other ways to make sure students receive the best possible education.

The Superintendent of Public Instruction

Figure 24. The Superintendent of Public Instruction oversees North Dakota’s elementary and secondary schools (K–12).Superintendent Kirsten Baesler spends time reading with two elementary students. (ND Department of Public Instruction)

A board made up of three Public Service Commissioners serves North Dakota. Responsibilities of this board are centered on transportation and communication. Railroads, trucking lines, phone companies, electric and gas utility companies, and all other businesses that provide public service must report to the Public Service Commission.

The requirements for holding any elected office in the executive branch of North Dakota government are the same as for the Governor and Lieutenant Governor, except that the age for the two top officials is at least 30 years, whereas all other elected officials need to be only be 25 years of age. The Attorney General must have a license to practice law in North Dakota.

The term of office for all executive branch officials is four years, except for the Public Service Commissioners, who serve six-year terms. No term limits are placed on these offices, which means that the office holders may be re-elected any number of times.