Greetings from Bismarck. Friday marked the end of third full week of the legislative session.
Denton Zubke, Dale Patten and Keith Kempenich
All committees are working hard to hold initial hearings on a record number of bills, although most committees are not yet taking committee votes, except bills which carry fiscal notes and must be re-referred to the Appropriations committee. That pace will increase significantly in coming weeks.
There were several hearings this week of high interest. SB2268 is a bill introduced by all three of us, and which would allow the Public Finance Agency to receive and lend money from the earnings of the Legacy Fund to the Department of Transportation for the construction or repair of highways located in the Corridors of Commerce. The bill was heard on Friday in the Transportation committee, but the committee did not take any action. Another bill of high interest is HB2315, which was reported last week. It is a landowner bill which eliminates posting requirement and requires permission from an owner or operator for hunters and trappers to take game on private property. A very large hearing was held on Friday with most testimony favoring the bill, although there was some strong opposition from hunters. The committee took no action. In the 2017 session, similar legislation was defeated. A second hearing on SB2020 was held this week, but testimony was restricted to Red River flooding. The bill is of interest because it contains Western Area Water Supply and Southwest Pipeline funding for the coming biennium.
A hearing was held this week on SB2275, which allows for bonding of critical infrastructure projects. It provides for a revolving loan fund with rates of 2% and Legacy Fund earnings paying the difference between the 2% and market rates. Supporters have dubbed the bill Prairie Dog III. Prairie Dog I and II are funded to assist political subdivisions outside of oil country and reinforces hub cities and the existing Gross Production Tax formula. There was broad support for the proposal with no one in opposition. HB 1449, which would raise the oil extraction tax to the previous level of 6.5%, was heard on Wednesday. The tax rate, which was created by Initiated Measure #6 in 1980, was reduced by the last legislative session. The sponsor’s testimony significantly raised the ire of the committee chairman, who called the testimony political theater and who vehemently refuted the fiscal impact of her testimony. The committee did not take any action, but the bill has little to no chance of passing. A bill to put the entire state on Central Time was heard this week. The bill sponsors are all from Eastern North Dakota and previous attempts to eliminate Mountain Time have not been well received in western North Dakota. I suspect we will take a dim view of this proposal.
If you have any legislation of interest, I invite you to visit the Legislative Council’s website at legis.nd.gov. We enjoy your comments and invite you to contact us with any concerns or questions at firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, or firstname.lastname@example.org.