Capitol Letters – Week 10

Education was a focus in Bismarck this week. While some legislators are hitting the (bill) books on behalf of our kids, it seems others need to be taken to school. We aim to provide you with a current events lesson in this week’s edition of Capitol Letters (and just so you know we didn’t flunk spelling, we are aware letters are “capital” and assure you the title of this newsletter is a very deliberate, if not necessarily witty, play on words).

The Right Fights: Restoring cuts to schools in Native American communities
This session, we here at Capitol Letters have repeatedly stated the obvious: North Dakota is faced with great opportunity.  The one-time harvest of our natural resources puts North Dakota in a position to entirely avoid the difficult choices other states have had to make in recent years when it comes to the fundamental priority of educating our kids.

So in this time of plenty, the changes made to the K-12 funding formula by the House fail to make the grade. Under its House amendments, HB 1319 shortchanges schools serving Native American schoolchildren throughout the state, reducing funds to reservation school districts by over $6 million relative to the amount they would receive under the executive budget. That’s a $2.5 million real-dollar cut from last year’s funding level. It is not the kind of subtraction our kids should be forced to learn, especially when these districts are bracing for the impact of the federal budget sequester.

To help, Senators Joan Heckaman and Richard Marcellais, respectively representing the people of the Spirit Lake Nation and Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians in the Senate, are working in a bipartisan fashion to provide an equitable K-12 funding formula that works for all North Dakota kids from White Shield to West Fargo, Stanley to Standing Rock, and all parts in between.

Joan and Richard aren’t looking to put legislators’ names on the board over the flawed formula. They’re just looking to make things right. We stand with Senators Heckaman and Marcellais as they work to provide equal educational opportunities to every inquisitive young mind in our state. It’s the right fight for North Dakota.

Head-shaker of the week: Flip flopping on the future
As of Thursday, we were prepared to tout a bipartisan success with Senate passage of SCR 4026. Then came Friday, and now we’re shaking our heads.

This concurrent resolution, co-sponsored by one of the authors of Capitol Letters and group of pragmatic legislators from both parties, would create the “legacy scholarship fund.” Here’s how it would work if passed out of the Legislature and approved by voters: 1) $450 million from the state’s legacy fund would be set aside; 2) this principal, which could never be spent, would be prudently invested to generate a return; and 3) the return would fund merit-based scholarships for North Dakota’s best and brightest in perpetuity. Thus, a small fraction of our state’s one-time harvest of oil revenue would be permanently invested in our state’s most valuable natural resource: Highly-educated young people.

The approach is modeled after Wyoming’s Hathaway Scholarship Program, which has been providing access to higher education and economic opportunity in that state since the mid-2000s. It is working in practice there, and on Thursday the Senate seemed to think this was a pretty fine idea for North Dakota as well when it voted 25-21 to pass SCR 4026.

But not so fast. Today, Senator Tom Campbell (R – Grafton), moved that the Senate reconsider its passage of SCR 4026. Nearly all members of the majority who voted for the resolution Thursday flipped their votes Friday, resulting in the defeat of the resolution.

Sadly, that seems to be the way of things in the Legislature. Some of us want to focus on permanent investments in future generations. The majority? They seem, quite literally in the case of SCR 4026, hung up on what happened yesterday.

More next week

In honor of St. Patrick’s Day, we leave you with this Irish blessing:
May those that love us, love us.
For those that don’t love us,
May God turn their hearts.
And if he doesn’t turn their hearts,
May he turn their ankles,
So we’ll know them by their limping.

We hope you’re proud of the efforts of your Dem-NPL legislators here in Bismarck. And if not, we hope you’ll at least find a comfy ankle brace. Talk to you next week, keep the faith, and “like” us on Facebook.

Mac Schneider
Kenton Onstad

Dem-NPL News of the Week

Dem-NPL News of the Week – Week 10

3.15.13

Print:

Diversion Authority wants amendments removed – Forum Communications

Gruchalla says $500 DUI fine not enough – Forum Communications (E. Gruchalla, K. Armstrong)

Tougher DUI sentences pursued – Bismarck Tribune (K. Armstrong, R. Becker, H. Anderson)

N.D. Senate passes bill to bar future locked-out workers from benefits – Forum Communications (T. Mathern, H. Anderson)

Senate votes on unemployment insurance eligibility – Bismarck Tribune

ND Senate set for vote on abortion measures – Associated Press

ND lawmakers ask TSA to replace body scanners - Associated Press

READ LETTER: 6 former campus heads want Shirvani fired, warn of ‘presidential exodus’ – Forum Communications

University system general counsel finds no evidence of violations – Bismarck Tribune (T. Grindberg)

Census: Williston, Dickinson rank among fastest-growing ‘micro areas’ in nation – Forum Communications

Opinion:

Forum editorial: Reject ND anti-voter resolution – (A. Carlson)

Steve Stark cartoon March 15

Rep. Al Carlson, Letter to the editor: Lawmakers should work in session; not play on Twitter

Sen. Jessica Unruh, Letter: Conservation amendment fell short of addressing real needs

GF Herald Editorial OUR OPINION: Support a new census for North Dakota

Doyle Johannes, Letter: Editorial was not factual

Bruce Hingst, Fargo, Letter: The liberal hype is not taking hold

Great Plains News:

Senator says tougher ND drunken driving laws will clog courts – (K. Armstrong)

TV: 

Bills Dealing with Tougher DUI Penalties Considered – KXMB-TV (K. Armstron, E. Gruchalla, D. Ruby)

DUI bill is losing strength - WDAY-TV (E. Gruchalla, K. Armstrong)

Raw Milk Amendment – KFYR-TV (D. Johnson)

Union Bill Passes – KFYR-TV (T. Mathern, H. Anderson)

Open Meeting Law Allegations – KFYR-TV

3.14.13

Print:

Dems express concern about North Dakota abortion bills – Forum Communications (K. Oversen, G. Mooney, A. Looysen)

Packed room for abortion bill testimony – Bismarcl Tribune (S. Berry, O. Larsen)

Oil’s 2011 impact in North Dakota measured at $30 billion – Forum Communications

Study: Oil industry economic impact pegged at $30 billion – Associated Press (M. Schneider)

Study: Oil contributed $30.4B to state’s economy – Bismarck Tribune

Crystal Sugar contests worker benefits ruling – Forum Communications

Drone debate: Privacy vs. economic opportunity – Forum Communications (M. Sitte, C. Kreun, R. Becker)

Property taxes remain hot issue – Williston Herald (B. Skarphol)

Commission waiting on Legislature – Williston Herald

Sen. Heitkamp proposes new census for North Dakota – Forum Communications 

Council of regents resolution shot down - Forum Communications (N. Poolman, J. Miller)

Proposal mulled to extend North Dakota legislative session – Associated Press (S. Kelsh)

North Dakota lawmakers propose autism database – Associated Press

Opinion:

Sen. Tyler Axness, Letter: Natural heritage is at risk

Minot Daily News Editorial: Chancellor allegations are serious

Sharon Buhr, Valley City, Letter to the editor: Senate ignores dangers of climage change to N.D.

Sally Morris, East Grand Forks, letter: N.D. should rethink vouchers, school choice

Charlie Adams, West Fargo, Letter: Democrats should quit the spin and blame, and offer solutions

Great Plains News:

ND Senate agrees to block jobless benefits in future worker lockouts – (J. Unruh, P. Murphy)

ND Senate set to debate benefits for locked-out workers 

UND fears drone legislation could harm efforts to land test site

TV:

Unemployment Benefits – KFYR-TV (P. Murphy, J. Klein)

Money for Oil Country – KFYR-TV

State Senate Looks at Underage Drinking Bill – KFYR-TV (S. Lyson, C. Nelson, C. Damschen)

Williston Prepares for the Unknown – KFYR-TV

Proposal to Expand Laws Covering Synthetic Drugs – KXMB-TV

3.13.13

Print:

Amendment targets locked-out workers – Forum Communications (J. Klein)

Dalrymple: N.D. lawmakers should stick to property tax relief plan – Forum Communications

Battle for Killdeer Mountain decided; Foes of drilling near historic site out of options – Associated Press

Student rep upset over quick Higher Ed Board meeting – Forum Communications

Opponents of drone regulation bill propose study of the issue – Bismarck Tribune (R. Becker, C. Kreun, S. Berry)

Senate denies two bills – Williston Herald (C. Triplett, B. Bowman)

ND legislative session costs estimated $65,000 a day – Associated Press

Abortion bills kick up debate – Bismarck Tribune (B. Grande, D. Hogue)

Doctor: ND laws will spur ‘backroom’ abortions – Associated Press (B. Grande)

Newborns at a Grand Forks nursing home – GF Herald

Opinion:

Jamestown Sun Editorial: Namecalling hides issue of more importance – (J. Haak, A. Carlson)

GF Herald Editorial: OUR OPINION: Let path to statewide votes in North Dakota stay clear

Bismarck Tribune Editorial: Citizens have a constitutional right to know

Fargo Forum editorial: North Dakota Farm Bureau’s duplicity – (T. Flakoll)

Duaine Espegard, Grand Forks, Letter: Drama generates media stories, but does not help ND higher ed 

Rep. Joe Heilman, Letter: Students welcome in debate

Tammy Osvold, Cavalier, N.D., letter: Thank you, N.D. House, for Medicaid expansion vote

Minot Daily News Editorial: Wildlife study vital to heritage 

TV:

School Funding – KFYR-TV 

Locked Out Workers May Not Get Unemployment Benefits – KFYR-TV

Abortion Debate Continues – KFYR-TV (B. Grande)

Great Plains News:

ND governor says education bill will help students, limit property taxes

ND anti-abortion measures draw flak in Senate

ND energy measure would cut oil taxes more quickly

3.9.13 – 3.12.13

Print:

Shortage of child care a real concern in Oil Patch – Forum Communications (K. Hawken, T. Porter, J. Heckaman)

F-M area diversion amendment changes likely, but doubts linger – Forum Communications (A. Carlson, T. Grindberg, R. Holmberg, L. Roinson)

Lawmakers look at election changes – Bismarck Tribune (R. Boehning, A. Maragos, C. Mock, A. Carlson, K. Onstad)

North Dakota Legislatures to address Medicaid expansion, abortion this week – Associated Press (D. Cook, C. Triplett)

No shortage of ideas for retooling North Dakota higher ed – Forum Communications (A. Carlson, J. Heilman, J. Kelsh, R. Becker)

Resolutions seek major changes in higher ed system – Bismarck Tribune (A. Carlson, R. Becker, B. Martinson, M. Nathe, D. Vigesaa, D. Hogue, D. Schlaible, L. Klemin, T. Beadle, J. Dockter, A. Looysen, K. Rohr, M. Schatz, N. Poolman)

Studies focus on oil’s impact on North Dakota wildlife – Forum Communications

Facing increased oil traffic, ND relocates herd of bighorn sheep by helicopter – Forum Communications 

Heritage fund Amendment fails – KFGO (T. Axness)

Bighorn sheep moved out of north unit of park – Bismarck Tribune

Oil industry opposes ND House oil tax measure – Associated Press (R. Streyle, D. Cook)

Second Dunn County petition against Gov. Dalrymple dismissed – Forum Communications

Young North Dakotans drawn to public service – Forum Communications (K. Oversen, A. Looysen, C. Mock)

Abortion foe Rep. Bette Grande not afraid of controversy – Forum Communications (B. Grande, W. Belter, B. Amerman)

Bismarck-Mandan freshmen getting in the groove – Bismarck Tribune (N. Poolman, R. Becker, J. Dockter, M. Nathe, D. Larson, C. Mock, N. Toman, V. Laning, T. Porter, M. Dosch, M. Sitte)

ND Senate passes crime compensation measure – Associates Press

Bill would force more public votes on building projects - Forum Communications (J. Kasper)

ND higher ed board to review ‘disturbing’ allegations surrounding Chancellor Shirvani – Forum Communications (T. Grindberg)

Bob Valeu is the new ND Democratic chairman – Associated Press

Fargo Forum editorial: Wildlife and oil don’t mix

Chad Oban, Opinion: We Need to Elect People Who Truly Represent North Dakotans

TYLER AXNESS: Protect or lose N.D.’s wild and scenic lands

Tony Bender, Ashley, Letter: Puritans out to hang the pagans

Rep. John Wall, Wahpeton, Letter: Amendments sensible options

Rep. Wes Belter, Letter: Taxpayers come first with ‘local’

Andy Peterson, Letter: It’s time for ND Legislature to pass property tax relief

BOB ROST: Lawmakers’ overreaction could harm public safety

BRUCE GJOVIG: Don’t strap tie-downs on N.D.’s chance to soar

Nick Smith, Column: Early second-half highlights

GF Herald Editorial: OUR OPINION: Let local control over property taxes stay local

Fargo Forum editorial: State says Keystone best option

Minot Daily News Editorial: Legislation helpful to all of N.D.

Williston Herald Editorial: Senate sends wrong message with vote on university chancellor

Von Pinnon: Dear Shirvani: Take the buyout; consider it a learning experience

Mike Jacobs, Column: Modest proposals for a stronger higher ed board

Bismarck Tribune Editorial: Initiative checks power of lawmakers

Germaine Erbele, LaMoure, Letter: Anti-child legislators disappoint

Barry Nelson, Fargo, Letter: ‘Grow up!’ too simple for senator

Paula Thomsen, Valley City, Letter to the editor: Legislators disrespect wishes of N.D. voters

Roberta Olson, Gwinner, Letter: Voting is a right, not a privilege

Susan Rae Helgeland, Letter: Mistake to cut services

Niles Eastman, Fargo, Letter: Cramer endorses devastating cuts

Betty Ferguson, Fargo, Letter: Majority leader is out of control

Kathleen Bennett, Fargo, Letter: Forget plates; fund kids’ milk

Great Plains News:

ND energy measure would cut oil taxes more quickly

Lawmaker: Set aside $450M of ND oil money for college scholarships - (T. Grinberg)

Proposals would dump ND Board of Higher Education – (A. Carlson)

Former university system lawyer says Shirvani ignored open meetings laws

TV:

Fixing School Funding Error – KFYR-TV (T. Boe, R. Marcellais, D. Monson)

Amendments to Daycare Bill – KFYR-TV

Animal Cruelty Impacts – KFYR-TV

Two Options on the Table for Dealing with Higher Ed Issues – KXMB-TV (A. Carlson, R. Becker)

Legislators call for change to K-12 education funding formula, restoration of cuts to Native American school districts

(BISMARCK, N.D.) – Senators Richard Marcellais (D-Belcourt) and Joan Heckaman (D-New Rockford) and Representative Tracy Boe (D-Mylo) today called for bipartisanship in reconfiguring the state K-12 education formula in HB 1319. Changes recently made to the legislation’s funding formula by the North Dakota House would reduce funding for school districts in Native American communities around the state by millions of dollars in the next biennium.

“While we are strongly supportive of the vast majority of HB 1319, the cuts to funding for schools serving places like Belcourt must be restored,” Marcellais said. “We intend to work on a bipartisan basis to make sure we right this wrong.”

Prior to the legislature’s crossover break, the House Appropriations Committee amended the K-12 funding formula in HB 1319. Specifically, the amendment mandated the use of 100 percent of the state average tax base per weighted student unit (WSU) in the state aid formula for schools with little taxable land within their boundaries. The WSU alteration results in a total of approximately $6 million lost in funding for school districts serving Native American communities.

The Senators noted they would do everything possible to repair the error in the Senate Education Committee and, if necessary, the Senate Appropriations Committee.

“Equal funding for education isn’t just the right thing to do, it is also a right guaranteed under our state’s constitution,” Heckaman said. “Fortunately, a bipartisan coalition is coming together to make changes to the funding formula in HB 1319. We will set things straight as the bill works its way through the Senate.”

“When it comes to fixing this bill, I know we are on the same page,” Boe added. “We look forward to working together and making sure that all our schoolchildren have the same opportunity to benefit from strong public schools across North Dakota.”

###

Capitol Letters – Week 9

The North Dakota Legislature has now crossed over crossover, and with our Wednesday return to the capitol we were faced with a short week. Accordingly, we’re shortening this week’s version of Capitol Letters. However, your Dem-NPL legislators still made time to fight the right fights (and we also came across a thing or two that set our heads shaking). We bring you a recap of the last three days’ action below.

The Right Fights: Preserving North Dakota’s outdoor heritage

When 80 people wearing camouflage show up at a hearing, you know it’s a big deal (at least we thought it was 80 — frankly, their attire made it hard to get a clear count). These Mossy Oak-clad citizens made no attempt to hide their passion for protecting North Dakota’s great outdoors at this week’s dueling hearings on House Bill 1278 and Senate Concurrent Resolution 4027, the latter sponsored by our own Senator Tyler Axness.

Both measures’ stated aim is to promote conservation and preserve opportunities for sportsmen and sportswomen in our state. However, the sponsor of House Bill 1278,  Representative Todd Porter (R-Mandan), gave a fine how-do-you-do to a couple of groups that represent hunters and outdoorsmen Thursday when his bill was heard by a Senate committee. Specifically, Rep. Porter’s amendment seeks to remove groups like Ducks Unlimited and Pheasants Forever from the advisory committee that would help determine conservation priorities in North Dakota, apparently in retaliation for their opposition to the bill when it was considered in the House.

If that makes you want to cry “fowl,” consider Senator Axness’ approach in SCR 4027. The resolution would establish a heritage fund through an amendment to North Dakota’s state constitution. If approved by voters, the measure would generate up to $100 million a year to fund conservation initiatives, prompting one prominent member of the North Dakota Wildlife Federation to describe the resolution to the Bismarck Tribune as “the most important piece of conservation legislation in decades.”

While the measure faced opposition from certain farm groups, we believe we can find a way to respect private property rights while also providing the public with access to the outdoor opportunities that make our state great. That’s the right fight for North Dakota.

Head-shaker of the week: Making it harder for people to initiate ballot measures

North Dakota proudly touts its citizen legislature. Unfortunately, some legislators appear to think they are smarter than our citizens.

That’s the message you might take away from the introduction of House Concurrent Resolution 3011, which would put roadblocks in the place of citizens seeking to check their legislators through the initiated measure process. Most perniciously, the bill would increase the number of signatures required to get a measure on the ballot from 2 percent to at least 3 percent of the state’s population. It would also require petition circulators to gather signatures from 3 percent of county residents in half of the state’s counties.

Did we mention this resolution is sponsored by House Majority Leader Al Carlson? Not yet, we didn’t? Perhaps you may have guessed that HCR 3011 is, indeed, sponsored by Majority Leader Carlson.

We say that the power of the initiated measure has been used responsibly by North Dakotans, pretty much without exception. In fact, we would go so far as to say the people have frequently shown better judgment than their elected representatives when making law through the initiated measure process. We also say . . . don’t mess with it.

That’s all for this abbreviated week here in Bismarck. Keep the faith, keep up the fight, and “like” the Dem-NPL Caucus Facebook page.

Mac Schneider

Kenton Onstad

Dem-NPL News of the week

Capitol Letters – Week 8

Day 38 marks the halfway point of the 80 day legislative session (.475 point for the green-eye-shade-wearing math lovers out there) and the start of crossover break. As your co-authors clack out this week’s edition of Capitol Letters, legislators have gassed up their cars and are making idle chit chat with their colleagues as they prepare to get out of town for five day weekend.

Get out of town? That might be an appropriate reaction to some of the moves by your elected representatives thus far this legislative session. To help you determine whether this expression is best employed in the idiomatic or literal sense, we’ve compiled a brief recap of the top five head-shaking moments during the first half of the session. And to bring you back up, we’ve put together the top five “right fights” being waged here in Bismarck.

Head shakers: top five

5. Pro-discrimination amendments to an anti-discrimination bill

Innocently enough, a bipartisan group of legislators introduced a bill, SB 2252, which would have prohibited discrimination based on sexual orientation in North Dakota. Not so innocently, the bill was amended at the urging of Senator David Hogue to 1) expressly state that victims of discrimination on this basis had no rights; 2) widen permissible age discrimination in North Dakota; and 3) limit remedies to those who actually prove they lost their jobs because of discrimination based on race, religion, gender or other reasons. The amendments were thankfully defeated, but so was the bill.

4. Corporate tax cuts over property tax cuts

Both parties agree that we should cut taxes. But Dem-NPL legislators are focused on cutting the taxes people really dislike: property taxes. Not so the GOP majority, which this week shot down a Dem-NPL floor amendment to SB 2156 that would have re-directed $250 million in permanent tax cuts for corporations and reductions in the personal income tax towards deeper property tax relief (reducing property taxes by 12.5%). Now, the bill goes forward with $50 million in cuts to the corporate income tax, 82% of which was paid by out-of-state corporations according to the last year for which data is available.

3. Napping on daycare

We’ve previously discussed the “beyond crisis” we’re facing when it comes to access to childcare in North Dakota. Unfortunately, the House majority is asleep on a carpet square on this issue. A bipartisan bill to partially address this crisis was gutted by House appropriators, leaving kids and parents to fend for themselves.

2. Spilled milk

Speaking of kids, the House’s vote to deny low-income children a carton of milk during snack time has been a widely-covered head shaker. Dem-NPL appropriators in the Senate will be working to right this wrong, because sometimes it’s about snack breaks rather than tax breaks.

1. A radical and reckless cut to the oil extraction tax

The Senate passed SB 2336 this week, a radical and reckless proposal to cut the oil extraction tax for new oil wells drilled in 2017 and beyond. The cost of the cut to the extraction tax is conservatively projected by the Legislative Council to be $595 million in the first five years alone. The GOP retorts that it closes loopholes to pay for this massive cut. It doesn’t. Check out the page A1, below the fold coverage in the Fargo Forum here and arm yourself with the facts about this radical and reckless bill by clicking here. By the looks of this Forum poll, the overwhelming people agree that the GOP’s oil extraction tax cut is radical and reckless. Did we mention the plan is radical and reckless? It is definitely radical. And awfully reckless.

The right fights: top five

5. (Tie) Protecting young and old with Caylee’s Bill and elder abuse reporting

SB 2125, introduced by our young gun, Senator Tyler Axness, protects kids by requiring caretakers to report a missing child. Informally known as Caylee’s Bill, the legislation passed the Senate earlier this month.

For our older citizens, Senator Phil Murphy introduced and helped pass legislation, SB 2323, to require mandatory reporting of elder abuse, a feat that is especially impressive considering the Senate Appropriations Committee had recommended a “do not pass” on the bill. Phil tipped ‘em over on the floor, and our seniors will be better off for it.

4. Shining light on corporate and union political spending

This one hasn’t gotten much press attention, but it’s important: Dem-NPL legislators from both chambers have led a bipartisan effort to respond to the Citizens United line of cases, which served to essentially strike down North Dakota’s ban on political spending by corporations and unions. Legislation introduced by a Capitol Letters co-author to require strict disclosure of corporate and union political expenditures has advanced as part of a broader elections bill, aiming to keep state elections free from the corrupting influence of anonymous spending by well-heeled special interests.

3. Property tax cuts for real, live North Dakota residents

Tax cutter Jim Dotzenrod, former chair of the Senate Finance and Tax Committee and now the Dem-NPL’s senior member on that panel, successfully included a provision in a broader tax bill, SB 2036, which would provide a $25,000 reduction in the value of a primary residence for property tax purposes. That’s real relief for working people who own their homes and have been hit by rising property values in recent years.

2. Hooray for pre-k

States across the country, including Georgia, Oklahoma, and Alabama, are rushing to guarantee access to pre-kindergarten for four year olds. While we aren’t exactly “rushing” to do so in North Dakota, we had good news out of the Senate this week when the full body rejected the Senate Appropriations Committee’s unfavorable recommendation and voted to fund pre-kindergarten programs in our state. This longstanding priority of the Dem-NPL will have a tough fight in the House, but we’ve got some tough fighters for our kids in our caucuses.

1. Medicaid expansion

Call it health care reform. Call it Obamacare, if you want. We call Medicaid expansion a common sense opportunity to expand access to health care for working North Dakotans and help shore up our providers’ bottom lines while we’re at it (this broad coalition agrees). Medicaid expansion passed the House yesterday by a pleasantly surprising margin. I guess that means Medicaid expansion isn’t just a Dem-NPL priority anymore, and we’re fine with that. So call it what you will. It looks like we’ll soon be calling Medicaid expansion the law.

More after the break

As astonished as you are at some of the majority’s actions, your Capitol Letters co-authors can tell you that you should be exceptionally proud of your Dem-NPL legislators. They are fighting the right fights and, more often than you might think, winning them. We’re honored serve with a group that is both effective and compassionate.

More when we return to Bismarck on Wednesday. So after you’re done liking us on Facebook, please enjoy the rest of the week. As always, keep the faith.

Mac Schneider

Kenton Onstad

Dem-NPL News of the Week

Dem-NPL News of the Week – Week 8

2.28.13

Print:

North Dakota oil tax rate in middle of pack – Forum Communications (O’ Connell, M. Schneider, D. Cook)

ND Senate denies sales tax exemption for clothes – Associated Press

N. Dakota House approves Medicaid expansion bill – Associated Press (A. Carlson, R. Weisz, C. Pollert, S. Louser)

N.D. House embraces Medicaid Expansion – Forum Communications (R. Becker, T. Porter, R. Weisz)

House votes for Medicaid expansion – Bismarck Tribune (R. Becker, R. Weisz, J. Kasper, T. Porter, C. Pollert, D. Ruby, A. Carlson)

North Dakota House passes stiffer DUI penalties – Forum Communications (K. Koppelman, M. Brandenburg, C. Mock)

N.D. House vote hikes DUI penalties – Bismarck Tribune (K. Koppelman, D. Kiefert, J. Delzer, R. Becker, C. Damschen)

ND House passes state water bill with ‘diversion killing’ amendments – Forum Communications (S. Kelsh, K. Hawken, B. Grande, J. Kasper, E. Gruchalla, J. Heilman)

Nonpublic schools’ contract bill voted down – Bismarck Tribune (M. Dosch, K. Rohr, D. Rust, J. Nelson)

ND Senate reverses course, votes to include funds for buyout of higher ed chancellor – Forum Communications (T. Grindberg)

Second effort to provide buyout for chancellor passes – Bismarck Tribune (K. Krebsbach, J. Andrist, D. Dever, B. Skarphol)

Amendment would eliminate higher ed board – Forum Communications (A. Carlson, R. Becker, T. Beadle, N. Poolman, J. Dockter, A. Looysen, K. Rohr, M. Schatz)

Big win for UND med school in N.D. Senate – Forum Communications (B. Skarphol, R. Erbele)

Oil tax reduction passes state Senate – Williston Herald (R. Wardner, M. Schneider, G. Froseth, B. Skarphol)

North Dakota measure allows public money for lobbyists – Associated Press

Statewide DUI ad campaign launches this week featuring relatives of West Fargo family killed in crash – Forum Staff Reports

Locked-out Crystal workers in North Dakota wait for benefits details – GF Herald (P. Murphy)

BIA, FBI hear stories of child abuse, vow to ‘make improvements’ at Spirit Lake – Grand Forks Herald

North Dakota oil boom leaves oil patch city a bust – Bloomberg News

Fargo Forum Editorial: Higher ed kettle still steaming – (T. Grindberg)

Minot Daily News Editorial: Shirvani concerns here to stay

Williston Herald Editorial: School boards can not decide secretly to allow guns on campus

Duaine Espegard, Bismarck, Letter: Dramatic actions don’t help higher education

TV:

Bill to eliminate sales tax on clothing fails – KXMB-TV (G. Sinner)

House passes diluted DUI bill – KFYR-TV (D. Kiefert, K. Koppelman, K. Hogan, C. Mock)

Clothing tax exemption fails – KFYR-TV (J. Lee, G. Sinner)

House says no to private school funding – KFYR-TV (D. Rust)

Expanding Medicaid – KFYR-TV (R. Becker)

Chancellor reaction – KFYR-TV

House approves DUI law – KXMB-TV (D. Kiefert, K. Koppelman, K. Kempenich, R. Boehning, C. Damschen, J. Delzer)

MN Gay marriage bill introduced at Capitol - Valley News Live

2.27.13

Print:

Ruling may bring $4 million in unemployment benefits for locked-out American Crystal workers in ND – Forum Communications

Senate OKs bill restructuring oil tax – Bismarck Tribune (D. Cook, C. Triplett, R. Wardner)

N.D. Supreme Court rules in favor of American Crystal Sugar employees – Bismarck Tribune

North Dakota Senate supports early childhood education grants – Forum Communications (T. Flakoll, N. Poolman, T. Wanzek, C. Hofstad, G. Keiser, G. Froseth, T. Porter)

House kills bill for ethics commission – Associated Press (C. Mock)

Outdoor heritage fund passes House – Bismarck Tribune (T. Porter)

Voter ID bill passes North Dakota House – Bismarck tribune 

House kills proposed fee on industrial water sales – Bismarck Tribune (G. Keiser)

ND Senate passes higher ed budget with some changes – Forum Communications (R. Holmberg)

Shirvani ‘humbled’ by Senate vote – Associated Press (T. Grindberg)

ND Senate rejects Shirvani buyout funding by one vote – Forum Communications (T. Grindberg, C. Triplett, R. Holmberg, K. Krebsbach, B. Skarphol)

Effort to provide buyout for chancellor fails – Bismarck Tribune (T. Grindberg, J. Andrist, H. Anderson, C. Triplett, J. Miller, R. Holmberg)

Budget impacts N.D. – Minot Daily News

Officials ‘waiting to see what might happen’ to local programs as sequestration deadline looms – Forum Communications

As energy boom nears cities, backlash grows – Associated Press

Forum editorial: An attempt to scuttle diversion? – (A. Carlson)

KIRSTEN BAESLER AND NICOLE POOLMAN: N.D. data drives preschool education push

John Andrist, Letter: Legislators still have lots of work to do

JERRY JOHNSON: N.D. needs preschool programs now, not later

ANDREW KNIGHT: N.D. trails other states on childhood education

Grand Forks activist loses appeal against state election official – Grand Forks Herald

Great Plains News:

Unhappy with treasurer pay raise, ND House rejects budget – (M. Nathe, A. Carlson, K. Schmidt)

ND House approves $500M income tax cut – (C. Mock, A. Carlson)

New ND license plates in budget bill 

Proposal defeated to make ND voter initiatives tougher to get on ballot - (B. Kretschmar, K. Kempenich)

TV: 

Senate Passes Oil Tax Bill – KFYR-TV (M. Schneider, T. Axness, D. Cook, R. Wardner)

Senate Approves Lower Oil Extraction Tax – KXMB-TV (J. Dotzenrod, C. Triplett, D. Cook, T. Axness, R. Wardner)

Locked-Out ACS Union Workers Eligible for Unemployment Benefits – Valley News Live (P. Murphy)

Shirvani Stays – KFYR-TV (T. Grindberg, R. Holmberg)

Property Tax Exemption Bill Fails – KFYR-TV (J. Miller)

North Dakota legislature allows guns in schools – WDAY-TV 

Mayor Walaker reacts to diversion decision – WDAY-TV (A. Carlson)

2.26.13

Print:

ND bill aims to protect seniors, vulnerable adults – Associated Press (P. Murphy)

Bill could hurt diversion hopes – Forum Communications (A. Carlson, R. Guggisberg)

ND House panel passes Medicaid expansion bill, adds three amendments – Forum Communications (R. Weisz, T. Porter, C. Damschen, A. Fehr)

North Dakota House committee approves Medicaid expansion – Associated Press

Gun-friendly bills advancing in North Dakota House, including concealed weapons in school, church – Forum Communications (G. Froseth, D. Kiefert, B. Amerman, R. Becker, D. Larson, R. Streyle, W. Kretschmar)

North Dakota House passes school gun bill – Bismarck Tribune (G. Froseth, D. Kiefert, K. Koppelman, B. Amerman)

Lawmakers propose direct payments to ND residents – Forum Communications (M. Nelson, V. Steiner, J. Heilman, T. Axnesss, G. Paur, G. Mooney)

Resolutions would allow state to give money back to residents – Bismarck Tribune (V. Steiner, D. Larson, L. Delmore, M. Nelson, R. Boehning, L. Bellew, D. Ruby, M. Schatz)

Lawmakers tackle guns, taxes and divorce in floor session – Bismarck Tribune

Student rep on state Board of Higher Education to bring up Shirvani buyout at meeting – Forum Communications (T. Grindberg)

Students: Shirvani opposition based on record – Forum Communications

Forum editorial: Higher ed credibility on the line

John Andrist, Crosby, Letter: Milk editorial simplified issue

BOB SKARPHOL, Letter, Tioga: Theatrics in N.D. higher education must end

Mike Nathe, Letter, Bismarck: ‘Milk Bill’ lacked support of public

TV:

F-M flood diversion project could be greatly affected by new state amendments – WDAY (A. Carlson,

Microbrew License Proposal passes Senate – KFYR-TV (P. Murphy)

Reporting Missing Children – KFYR-TV (M. Sitte, T. Axness)

State Lawmakers Discuss Gun Bills – KFYR-TV (L. Delmore, D. Kiefert, D. Larson, B. Amerman)

House Votes on Bills to Expand Gun Rights – KXMB-TV (R. Becker, K. Koppelman, G. Froseth, D. Kiefert)

Great Plains News:

ND Legislature heads into final week before midsession break – (A. Carlson)

ND House endorses concealed guns in public places - (R. Becker, K. Koppelman)

2.23.13 – 2.25.13

Print:

Medicaid, oil taxes among week’s issues in North Dakota Legislature – Associated Press (R. Weisz, D. Cook, K. Karls)

North Dakota legislative notebook: More scholarship money may become available – Forum Communications (T. Flakoll, G. Mooney, M. Brandenburg, C. Headland, R. Brabandt)

Lead-foot legislators: Some ND lawmakers speed outside the law - Forum Communications (C. Triplett, D. Ruby, B. Koppelman)

Welfare drug test bill killed by North Dakota House – Forum Staff Report

North Dakota bill requiring warrant for drone use passes House – Forum Communications (R. Becker, L. Delmore)

North Dakota House passes aerial drone bill; kills welfare drug test bill – Bismarck Tribune (R. Becker, L. Delmore, C. Kreun, C. Mock, M. Nathe, R. Holman, G. Mooney, D. Ruby, B. Grande, C. Pollert)

Senate tackles tax bills – Bismarck Tribune

Legislature on track to meet crossover deadline – Bismarck Tribune (R. Wardner, A. Carlson)

Committee approves HB 1215 – Williston Herald

Numerous firearms bills debated during North Dakota Legislature – Minot Daily News

Former Sen. Conrad mourns death of dog Dakota – Forum Communications

Guns in school: Some North Dakota lawmakers want to let school boards decide issue in secret – Forum Communications (D. Kiefert)

UND Student Senate introduces resolution for vote on Chancellor Shirvani – Grand Forks Herald

Column, MARIE STRINDEN: There is no voter fraud, just vote suppression

GF Herald Editorial, OUR OPINION: Board, Shirvani need better relations with presidents

Williston Herald Editorial: House Bill 1215 is bad for ND

Williston Herald Editorial: Investing in our children is a great idea

Sen. Joe Miller, Park River, Letter: Doctor’s assertions about life, conception, Creator are wrong

Lloyd Omdahl: Saved by referral, initiative

Mike Jacobs, MATTERS AT HAND: The higher ed debate we should be having

Jane Ahlin: North Dakota Legislature proudly walks backward

Nick Smith, Column: Debates prompt interesting comments – (L. Robinson, N. Poolman, T. Flakoll, J. Kasper, C. Kreun)

Libby Claerbout, Minot, Letter: Child care crisis heads for disaster

Ryan Bakken: Revenge on a license plate

Jeff Zarling, Williston, Letter: Housing initiative at risk

C.T. Marhula, Grand Forks, Letter: Private school bill is out of line

Richard Shafer, Grand Forks, Letter: We’re living in a theocratic state

Kathy Huguein, Wishek, Letter: Taking issue with lawmakers, oil

Great Plains News:

ND Senate settles on property tax plan – (D. Cook)

Harsher penalties for ND election fraud endorsed 

No drug tests for welfare applicants, ND House decides – (G. Mooney, D. Ruby)

Get a warrant for drone surveillance, North Dakota House says – L. Delmore, M. Nathe, R. Becker)

ND House backs lawsuit against feds over wetlands – (C. Headland)

ND pension funds should divest from Iran, House decides – (G. Mooney, E. Glassheim)

ND House: Give new workers option of skipping state pension fund – (B. Amerman)

Money for ND wine industry angers Senate Ag Committee chairman – (J. Miller, J. Dotzenrod)

TV:

State Senate Votes on Property Tax Bills – KFYR-TV (G. Sinner, D. Cook)

ND House Passes Corridor Bill – KFYR-TV (T. Porter, B. Skarphol, J. Kelsh)

Oil Tax Fund Reaches $850 Million – Valley News Live

 

Legislative Report – Senator Phil Murphy – Week 8

Week 8 Report, Senator Murphy – 63rd Session

Since I last wrote to you, some positive things have occurred: I was charged with carrying 2219 which is a bill that supports the Community Action Energy Conservation program through a grant. They insulate homes for lower income people across the state and have been doing that since 2001.  This action helps keep people in their homes and promotes a stable workforce.  Greg Beck, a former student of mine at MayPort CG, has worked at this for years out of Dickinson, I believe.  He and about 60 others who perform this service were delighted that we were able to move this legislation forward, but it still needs to get through the House.  There was some discussion about making the money to fund this into zero percent loans that poor people could then pay back, but their income status keeps them from having any money left over at the end of the month, so the grant stayed in place.

We also were able to move Pre-Kindergarten legislation yesterday.  Bill 2229 supports the idea of giving schools the ability to set up a pilot program for our 4 year olds to help them get ready for Kindergarten.  My wife teaches Kindergarten and has all too many children show up who have not been read to or taught to hold a pencil or color crayon.  Some cannot handle bathroom duties.  This is not a good situation when the new national set of academic expectations called Common Core is pushing down demands all the way to our 5 year olds.  Many children are simply not ready to match these new benchmarks and some argue that they are not developmentally appropriate.  At any rate, the statistics overwhelmingly favor children who have spent some time in Early Childhood.  Our children need it to compete with people from other countries (they outperform us in academics partly because they start earlier), other USA citizens that offer this service, not to mention our fellow North Dakotans – there are at least 47 school districts whose parents have demanded this.  We just okayed $912 million for our state corrections system (well-run by a Hillsboro native, by the way).  Almost a billion dollars for a state of less than 700,000 people.  Programs like Pre-K and Headstart have a direct impact on school success that cuts down on the pipeline to prison and I know which part of that equation I would rather spend money on.

Congratulations to the locked out workers on the ND Supreme Court ruling.  Unfortunately, I am afraid our legislature will pass a law that will clearly deny any unemployment compensation.  To me, this is what should have happened – use the fund that the company pays into for unemployment instead of workers needing to go to our Social Services and depleting those funds.  The majority party may even amend my bill -which will be heard today- to flip it on its head and turn it into a weapon to strip workers of their unemployment.  I have asked them not to do that because, while legal, it is unethical to pervert an effort to help workers receive compensation.  The majority party can do what they wish in others ways that are not disingenuous, but we will know by the time you read this.  It is perfectly legal to slap your neighbor on the back and leave a “Kick me” sign there, but it is not the way to behave, and I hope that it does not go down that way.

Senate Republicans reject $250 million property tax reduction in favor of corporate and personal income tax cuts that voters rejected

(BISMARCK, N.D.) – During floor debate on Senate Bill 2156, the Republican majority rejected a floor amendment to provide $250 million in direct property tax relief for North Dakota families, a sum which would have reduced property taxes across the board by 12.5%. Instead, the members of the majority voted in favor the broader bill to permanently cut taxes to corporations by $50 million dollars and makes an additional $200 million in reductions to the personal income tax, an approach similar to an initiated measure that was rejected by voters in 2008.

“I am concerned that our friends in the Senate majority have lost focus on the need to cut property taxes,” said Senator Jim Dotzenrod, the senior Dem-NPL member of the Finance and Taxation Committee and author of the floor amendment on property tax relief. “We presented a clear opportunity to put property tax cuts ahead of cuts to taxes for out-of-state corporations and the personal income tax cut. The majority passed up a chance to cut the tax — property tax — that people are most concerned about.”

After Senator Dotzenrod’s amendment was defeated, Senate Dem-NPL Leader Mac Schneider asked for a division of the bill for proper consideration of the separate issues of corporate tax cuts and to cuts to the personal income tax. According to a Legislative Council memorandum, 82% of the corporate income tax in 2010, the last year for which data is available, was paid for by corporations headquartered out of state. The vote on the division dealing with corporate tax cuts was 14 to 33, while the vote on the personal income tax reductions was 46 to 1.

“This is a case of misplaced priorities,” Schneider said. “Every dollar we provide in corporate tax cuts is one dollar of property tax relief that we failed to provide for North Dakotans.”

The Senate proceeded to pass SB 2156 by 42 to 5.

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Senate GOP majority passes radical and reckless oil tax plan

SB 2336, misleadingly labeled as a restructuring, fails to close loopholes and dramatically lowers the extraction tax  

(BISMARCK, N.D.) – Today, the North Dakota Senate passed SB 2336, legislation dealing with the taxation of oil activity in North Dakota. Misleadingly billed by GOP legislators as a mere “restructuring of the state’s oil taxes[,]“  SB 2336′s operative component is a dramatic 31% reduction in the state’s oil extraction tax (from 6.5% to 4.5%) for new wells drilled after December 31, 2016. The legislation passed largely along party lines, with 33 Republicans voting in favor and 13 Democrats voting in opposition.

In response to Republican claims that the bill was a simple restructuring rather than a vehicle to sharply reduce the oil extraction tax, Senator Connie Triplett (D-Grand Forks) moved to divide the question on the senate floor. After the division, all senators voted separately on section 5 of the bill, which contains the proposed extraction tax cut. Every Republican senator voted in favor.

The cut to the extraction tax, if passed by the House and signed into law by Governor Jack Dalrymple, stands to result in radically reduce revenue collected from the oil extraction tax. According to a Legislative Council memo, which uses data from the Department of Mineral Resources regarding new wells and adopts the $80 per barrel price of oil as stated in the executive budget, the oil extraction tax cut is projected to cost the people of North Dakota $595 million in the first five years alone.

During debate, SB 2336 was sold by members of the majority as a mechanism to close the “stripper well” loophole. Instead of closing this loophole, however, the legislation effectively enshrines it for many existing wells while simultaneously ensuring that high-producing wells will someday be considered stripper wells and, therefore, exempt from the oil extraction tax. For more detailed information on the stripper well issue and other component parts of SB 2336, please refer to this fact sheet.

“We have made ourselves hoarse trying to get the word out about this radical and reckless proposal,” Senate Minority Leader Mac Schneider said. “When the people learn about the senate’s actions today, I think they will be stunned. Should SB 2336 pass the House and receive the Governor’s signature, it will be for the people to decide through the ballot measure process whether the actions by the majority were the right ones for our state.”

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Child care protection bill receives 44-3 yea vote in North Dakota Senate

(BISMARCK, N.D.) – Senate Bill 2125, informally known as “Caylee’s bill,” received a 44-3 favorable vote in the North Dakota Senate chambers Monday, February 25th.

The bill places accountability on negligent caretakers in the case of missing or deceased children and places time requirements on reporting a missing or deceased child.

The bill’s prime sponsor, Senator Tyler Axness, D-Fargo, stated that he was glad to see the bill overwhelming support and looks forward to seeing it continue in the North Dakota House.

“It was great to see the chamber do the right thing today and move legislation forward that offers further protection for real, live kids,” Axness said. “These are the kind of bills that can make a difference in protecting children who are abused, exploited or missing and make them a top priority in our state’s justice system.”

During committee hearings, SB 2125 was supported by several child advocacy groups including many statewide police departments and Fargo Sheriff Paul Laney.

S.B. 2125 is sponsored by Senators Axness, Tim Mathern, D-Fargo, Stanley Lyson, R-Williston, Representatives Kathy Hogan, D-Fargo, Ed Gruchalla, D-Fargo and Andrew Maragos, R-Minot.

Senators Margaret Sitte, R-Bismarck, Tom Campbell, R-Grafton and Gary Lee, R-Casselton were the three nay votes on the bill.

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