Greetings from the Sixty-Third Session of the North Dakota Legislature.
Representative Rick Holman February 18, 2013
The next Forum will be in Hatton at Double-D’s Café on Saturday, February 23rd at 9:00 a.m.
On the last day of February, we will be at crossover; when surviving House bills go to the Senate for a second round of hearings. Likewise, Senate bills will come to the House.
Of note coming up on the calendar is a bill to change the handling and enforcement of the DUI law. Court records from last year show that there were over 10,000 first offenses and 3500 repeat offenders. The general consensus is to raise the financial penalty on a first offense and require a fine and jail time for a second offense. Along with fines and incarceration there needs to be some type of treatment with consequences for non-compliance. The final bill is still a couple of months away.
The funding bill for K-12 education (HB 1319) is receiving some pushback from school administrators in smaller rural schools who fear that in situations of declining enrollment, they may not be able to maintain a quality program. As more administrators give input on this bill changes can be made to make it a better fit for schools of all sizes in all areas of the state. Another education bill (HB 1466) that concerns me is one that would dramatically change the relationship between private schools and state schools by providing partial funding for private schools. I don’t think we should allow religious schools to use state funds without having to take all comers, as public schools do and it may be unconstitutional as well.
After about a 15 year hiatus a familiar bill has returned. HCR 3008 would amend the ND Constitution to remove the location of state institutions, including higher education institutions in Fargo, Grand Forks, Valley City and Mayville. If it passes here, the measure will be on the 2014 ballot. Last time it was defeated by over 65 percent. The sponsors are touting it as a way to update the names of several institutions but in reality, they likely have another agenda.
In a couple of instances, this past week, initiatives to improve child care and early education were put forward and knocked down. A good stable workforce requires good schools, adequate healthcare, and affordable access to safe and secure child care. In many areas of the state we have a problem. At the very least, we should study the problem and seek solutions.
A bill put forward by Rep. Thoreson of Fargo (HB 1256) would have required every political subdivision (There are over 3000), to file an annual report to be placed on a state Website. He called it a transparency measure. In reality, it was a cost measure for the state and for each of the political entities which would have been required to comply. They already do report and file with the state and operated under strict guidelines. Anyone wanting the information can find it by asking for it from those in charge. If they are doing something wrong, the election process can take care of that. This will create an unnecessary duplication. It was put away by a vote of 48 to 41.
HB 1385: Drug testing for recipients of assistance for food and living. The action is likely unconstitutional, and would do more harm than good. It has the potential of witholding assistance from someone who has a problem, but also from the person’s family. It changes the goal from one of help to one of punishment. Other states that have attempted this have either dropped this or are in legal battles.
Considerable debate took place on a measure to study how oil and gas development is treating the land. With the rapid development and increasing activity in the west, it’s important to make sure that damage to the environment is not permanent. We went through a similar discussion when coal development started. If you travel through coal country you will see that after the coal is removed, the land is restored to quality farmland, in many cases better than before. It should not be too much to ask that the developers of oil and gas do the same. In a hundred years, what legacy will we have left for those who follow?
Some other actions this week:
HB 1219: Continue college tuition for dependents of a disabled veteran. No vote yet.
HB 1038: Set up a registry for children and adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder. A registry would be good to identify need and those who are already receiving services from another source. No vote yet.
HB 1242: Property tax statement will show actual buy down from the state. No vote yet.
HB 1257: Return to allowing bottle rocket sales. Passed.
HB 1412: Liability protection for EMS workers. Passed
HB 1353: Incentives for Wind energy development. Passed.
HB 1221: Income tax credit for renters. Failed
HB 1356: A study of child care needs. Failed.
HB 1144: Requiring the covering of loads of sand. Failed.
HB 1343: Require bee hives to be a quarter mile from a highway. Failed.
HB 1222: Remove the sales tax on clothing. Failed.
HB 1240: Remove the collection of sales tax in non-profit thrift stores. Failed
HB 1328: Freeze college tuition for two years. Failed.
HB 1256: Require all political subdivisions to file another report. Failed.
HB 1347: Flow controls and shut off valves on oil gathering lines. Failed.
If you are planning a visit to the Legislature, let us know in advance so we can set up a time to visit. Our schedule is usually full, so planning ahead is important.
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