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State Legislature: Week 8

Greetings from Bismarck.  This past week was the ninth full week of the Legislative session.  There was no change this week in the status of the 2019-2020 budget. Although several big budget bills did have hearings this past week, both appropriations committees are not moving budget bills until after the revised general fund forecasts are received next week.  On Monday, Moody’s Analytics will present their forecast, and on Tuesday IHS Markit will present their forecast.  Moody’s is working for the Office of Management and Budget while IHS Markit has been retained by the Legislative Council.  Legislators are modestly optimistic that both forecasts will show improved revenues over those adopted by the Legislature in December.   

Two big budget bills which had hearings this past week are HB1066 and SB2020.  HB1066 is the Prairie Dog bill which will send approximately $230 million to oil producing counties and hub cities, as well as an additional $20 million an airport infrastructure fund.  The hearing was held in the Senate Finance and Tax committee with a dozen individuals testifying in support of the bill.  The committee voted the bill out with a 6-0 do pass recommendation and referred it to the Senate Appropriations committee.  Also heard this week was SB2020, which is the State Water Commission budget.  This bill is a big budget bill at $845,216,460.  The committee took the entire day to review all the water projects, including WAWSA and SWA funding.  It is likely a sub-committee will be established to further review the various water projects.  Another water bill which has generated some interest is SB2211.  This bill seeks to clarify or determine the ordinary high-water mark and the ownership of mineral rights on land inundated by the Pick Sloan Act. The House hearing was held this past week, but the committee did not take any action.

The House Energy and Natural Resources subcommittee held two additional hearing this past week on SB2344.  The bill seeks to clarify issues related to “pore space” in underground formations which can hold re-injected salt water and natural gas.  This is a very emotional issue for western surface owners who own the “pore space” and there is confusion and angst over some of the wording of the bill.  Surface owners presently view the bill as a ’taking’ of private property rights.  A fourth hearing has been scheduled for Monday.  A somewhat related bill is HB1439, which relates to an oil extraction tax exemption for the incremental production from tertiary recovery projects using carbon dioxide.  The bill was heard this week in the Senate Finance and Taxation committee, but the committee did not take any action on the bill.  Another bill scheduled for hearing next week in the House Energy and Natural Resources committee is SB2293.  This bill creates an Aquatic Nuisance Species Program fund by increasing resident boat fees.  The purpose of the fund is educational and enforcement, increasing awareness and enforcing regulations regarding aquatic nuisances such as zebra mussels. 

Four bills related to state bonding will be heard next week on Monday and Tuesday. Those bills are SB2214 (School Construction Assistance Revolving Loan funds -$250 million), SB2268 (Corridors of Commerce -$100 million), SB2275 (Infrastructure Revolving Loan fund -$500 million), and SB2297 (North Dakota Building Authority – $151.7 million).  On Thursday SB2315 will be heard in the House Energy and Natural Resources Committee.  As originally introduced this bill was a no-trespass bill for hunters and trappers unless permission was received from the land owner or operator.  It also eliminated posting requirements.  The bill has been amended significantly and now requires landowners or operators to continue to post their land or to list it in a state-wide color-coded data base.  The bill was controversial in the Senate.

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