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News from the Legislature

Greetings from Bismarck.  Friday marked the end of the second full week of the session.  The bill introduction deadline for the House has passed, and Monday was the deadline for the Senate.

Denton Zubke, Dale Patten and Keith Kempenich
Special Contributors

  It appears we have the largest number of bills to consider than any session in the past ten years, although the final number won’t be known until the end of business on Monday.   The budget is always of concern and there are some ominous clouds on the horizon.  The budget status summary is pegged to a base revenue forecast of $4,173,075,986.  When the estimated general fund balance at the end of the current biennium is added, the general fund appropriations for the 2019 biennium are estimated at $4,269,474,415.   Against that balance there are 53 bills in appropriations and finance and taxation committees carrying $1,620,229,426 in fiscal impacts, plus another 15 bills where a fiscal note could not be determined.  All of this indicates difficult days ahead.  On Friday the per barrel price of oil touched $53.  For its budgeting purposes, the legislature has pegged the price at $42. 50 per barrel.   

An important hearing of interest to landowners will be held in the Senate Agriculture committee on Friday, January 25.  SB 2315 is a bill which would require hunters and trappers to obtain permission from landowners or operators to hunt or trap on private land.  Posting requirements are removed, and a violation is a Class A misdemeanor.  In addition, a statewide directory is created where a landowner who wants to allow hunting on his property can register his property in the directory. SB2268 is also of interest regarding Highway 85. This bill allows the Public Finance Agency to loan money to the Department of Transportation under certain conditions for the construction of highways in the Corridors of Commerce program. The hearing for SB2286 has been scheduled for Friday, January 25 at 8:30 in the Senate Transportation committee.   In the House Energy committee, we had 16 bills scheduled for hearing this past week, of which 11 were firearms related.    

A couple of big hearings were heard this past week.  HB1097, which repeals the remaining Sunday closing laws, was passed out of the House Industry, Business, and Labor committee on an 11-2-1 Do Pass recommendation.  On Thursday it passed the House by a 56-35 vote.  It now goes over to the Senate, where the bill failed by 2 votes in 2017.  On Tuesday, the House Finance and Taxation committee heard HB1066, which is a massive rewrite of the distribution of funds from the natural gas gross production tax and the oil extraction tax for non-oil producing counties and hub cities.  The bill creates new infrastructure priorities for municipalities ($115 million) and for counties and townships ($115 million), as well as a new airport infrastructure fund ($50million).  The hearing room was jam packed with virtually no opposition.  This bill has been dubbed the Prairie Dog Bill because of the rodent’s adeptness at creating “infrastructure”, otherwise known as tunnels.    

If you have any legislation of interest, we invite you to visit the Legislative Council’s website at legis.nd.gov.  We also invite you to contact us with any concerns or questions.  Our e-mail addresses are dpatten@nd.gov,  dzubke@nd.gov,  and kkempenich@nd.gov