Editor's Picks News

State Legislature: Week 8

Greetings from Bismarck.  The Legislature reconvened on Wednesday, (Day 34) after the Crossover Recess to begin the second half of the session. 

Terran Doerr
Bowman County Economic Development Director

Typically, the floor sessions are short as it takes a few days for committees to hold hearings and pass recommendations out to the subsequent chambers. During the first half of the session the House considered 545 bills passing 351 bills. 

The Senate considered 359 bills passing 269 bills.  Looming over the start of the second half is a general fund budget deficit of $882,240,091.  A revised general fund budget forecast is expected on March 11, which will set the tone for the remainder of the session and will provide clarity for the budget.  Despite oil trading at $14-16 higher per barrel than the forecast selected at the beginning of the session, budget cuts are likely in the coming weeks.

A bill of high importance, SB2265, was heard this week in the House Education committee.  The bill improves the formula used to determine state aid to school districts and will be helpful in districts experiencing growing enrollments.  Currently, the state aid is based on a prior year’s enrollment.  SB2265 would change the determination by including a provision for making payments for students on a September 10 enrollment in the current year that exceed the previous year thus providing on time funding reflecting current enrollment.  There is also a claw back provision if the enrollment decreased during the prior year after the September 10th enrollment to prevent payment for what is referred to as phantom students or students that do not continue throughout the year due to moving, dropping out, etc.

On Friday the House Energy and Natural Resources committee heard testimony on SB2344.  The bill seeks to clarify issues related to the “pore space” in underground formations which can hold CO2 for enhanced oil recovery, natural gas for storage instead of flaring, or produced water. Ownership of the “pore space” belongs to the surface owner.  The basic issue involves the ability to use the space and whether compensation is due for certain uses.  The bill attracted a very large crowd of western ND landowners who oppose the bill and view it as a taking of private property rights.  Another bill which attracted a large crowd is SB2139, a bill which would allow the State Water Commission to cost share for removing snags and other debris from waterways.  Prior to 2017 the Water Commission participated in a cost share program, but legislation that year prohibited further participation.  The bill seeks to reverse the 2017 legislation.  This is certainly a more important issue for the mid to eastern part of the state. Many supporters representing various water boards all testified in support of the bill, and there was no opposition at the hearing.  Questions asked by several committee members might indicate considerable opposition which isn’t yet apparent. 

If you have an interest in any specific legislation, we invite you to visit the Legislative Council website at legis.nd.gov.  As always, we enjoy your comments and questions.  Please do not hesitate to contact us with questions or any concerns at dzubke@nd.gov; kkempenich@nd.gov; or dpatten@nd.gov.