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News from the Legislature

Greetings from Bismarck.  Friday marked the end of the fourth full week of the legislative session.  The pace this past week remained slow but will pick up significantly in the next two weeks as the legislature is closing in on the crossover date (February 22).

Denton Zubke, Dale Patten and Keith Kempenich
Special Contributors

Committees have been working hard in the mornings to complete the first hearings of bill, but many committees are not voting on bills until they have all been heard because redundant bills will be combined.   There have not yet been any major appropriations bills passed out of committee, so the budget looks like last week. Bills with an appropriation need to be out of committee and to Appropriations the first of this week.

The Corridors of Commerce bill (SB2268) was voted out of the Transportation committee with a 6-0 Do Pass Recommendation.  It was reported to the Senate floor and then re-referred to the Appropriations committee.  The bill was introduced by all three of us and it would allow the Public Finance Agency to receive and lend money to the Department of Transportation for the construction or repair of highways located in the Corridors of Commerce.  In our district this would mean monies for Highway 85.  As reported last week, SB2315 has been heard in the Senate Agriculture committee, but no committee action has been taken.  It is a bill of high interest to landowners as it eliminates posting requirements and requires permission from land owners or operators for hunters and trappers to take game on private land.  On Monday HB1186 was heard, but the committee took no action.  The bill would allow the Bank of ND, with permission from the Office of Management and Budget and the Industrial Commission to enter hedging strategies to offset reduced state general fund oil and gas tax revenues due to falling prices which were included in the legislative revenue forecast.

There are many gun related bills in the Energy and Natural Resources committee, although none have been voted upon.   Two subcommittees have been created to try to consolidate those bills into one or two comprehensive bills.  There are four bills in the House Taxation committee which would reduce or eliminate the individual and corporate income tax.  HB1222 is a bill which eliminates the current individual and corporate income tax rates and imposes a new rate of 1%. This bill has been reported out of committee with a 10-3-1 Do Not Pass.    HB1319 is a bill which repeals the current individual and corporate tax rates and levies a new 0% rate.  The bill has been heard in committee, but no action was taken.  HB1535 eliminates the current five income tax brackets and replaces them with one bracket and a rate of 2.5%.  This hearing has also been held with no action taken.  HB1530 is sort of complicated, but basically it would allow the Tax Commissioner, under certain circumstances, to reduce the individual and corporate tax rate and to fund the revenue loss from the Legacy Fund.  At this point it is uncertain if any of these proposals will survive.  Last week we inadvertently reported the Time Change Bill had been held.  That was incorrect and our apologies.

There were three bills to take monies out of the Common School Trust Fund for primarily school building construction. HB1525, HB1350 and HB 1353 all received a Do No Pass from the Education committee and will be voted on in the House by the time you read this. 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 dzubke@nd.gov, kkempenich@nd.gov, or dpatten@nd.gov.