(BISMARCK, N.D.) – Dem-NPL legislators today were encouraged by a vote in the North Dakota Senate to restore funding to address oil impacts in western North Dakota. A floor amendment by Senator Dwight Cook, R-Mandan, largely answers Dem-NPL calls to restore funding to address infrastructure and other oil patch needs that were cut from HB 1358 by the GOP majority earlier this month.
“This isn’t a win for one party or another,” said Senate Dem-NPL Leader Mac Schneider of Grand Forks. “This is a win for western North Dakota. However, other priorities for communities facing impacts from the oil boom remain unaddressed. We will continue our work on that front while also staying sharp in defending these gains as HB 1358 heads to conference committee.”
After $417 million was cut from HB 1358 by the Senate GOP majority on April 5, Dem-NPL legislators outlined a three-part strategy to restore funding for roads, hospitals, and human service providers in oil-impacted communities. Specifically, Senator Connie Triplett, D-Grand Forks intended to offer a floor amendment to restore the entirety of the cuts to HB 1358. If that amendment failed, Senator Jim Dotzenrod, D-Wyndmere, planned on advancing a floor amendment to restore the $130 million in cuts to funding for roads in western North Dakota. A related effort by Senator John Warner, D-Ryder, to restore $10 million for critical access hospitals and $6 million for human service needs by amending the Department of Human Services budget from the floor failed last week.
The amendments to HB 1358 restore funding for a variety of items, including most prominently $100 million in road funding for the western part of the state. While funding for critical access hospitals and other needs were not restored by the full Senate today, Dem-NPL legislators vowed to work to meet these needs as conference committees continue their deliberations during these final days of the session.
Passage of the complex floor amendment, which was not shared with Dem-NPL senators prior to Monday’s 1:00 p.m. floor session, followed a contentious debate over procedure. To allow senators more time to consider the substance of the amendment, Senator Schneider made a motion to place HB 1358 to the bottom of the calendar so the bill could be voted on during the Senate’s 4:30 p.m. session. The motion failed, and shortly thereafter Senate Majority Leader Rich Wardner “moved the previous question,” a motion which ends debate on a topic.
“We were reading the amendment as fast as we could, and we largely liked what we saw,” Schneider added. “But funding for critical needs in western North Dakota shouldn’t be reduced to a flash card game. With a short interval to fully consider these amendments, I believe we could have improved the bill.”
HB 1358 now moves to the House for consideration. Appointment of a conference committee is highly likely.