Monday, February 9, 2015

NDACo Week #5 Report

NDACo Weekly Report #5
As the deadline to re-refer all “money bills” to the appropriations committees is rapidly approaching, the policy committees have been working overtime to kick those bills out.  Likewise the Appropriations Committees have started to schedule “rehearings” on these bills and a lot more committee work.  Floor action thus far has been primarily limited to noncontroversial issues, so most days both the House and the Senate have been able to clear their calendars.  We expect that to not be the case in the coming weeks.

Likely to be notable for a bit of floor controversy next week is HB1421.  This is one of two tobacco tax increase bills.  The House Finance & Taxation Committee gave the bill a Do Not Pass recommendation on a divided vote that will likely get even more divided on the floor.  This bill proposes to raise the tax on cigarettes from 44cents/pack to $1.54/pack, with $31.3 Million of the new tax revenue to go to COUNTIES to support their public health units.  The supporting groups for this bill, including the doctors, hospitals, heart & lung associations are mounting a grassroots campaign to pass the bill on the floor, despite the committee recommendation.  They are looking for county help!

Counties had a good hearing this week in Senate Appropriations on SB2206, to shift social service grant costs to the State.  As in the policy committee, the Exec. Director of the Dept. of Human Services led off with support, followed immediately by the head of the Office of Management and Budget.  As discussed previously, this is now IN the Governor’s Budget, and that makes a HUGE difference.  The big question for the Senate is how to characterize the $23 million in state funds to be spent.  Is it just a general fund cost? Or, do they reduce the 12% property tax relief proposal by 1%?  
Next week will be “round two” of the SURGE.  The House Appropriations Committee has reserved the big hearing room for 9:30-Noon on Wednesday morning. We sincerely hope all those that attended the Senate Hearing – and more – can attend again.  We need to demonstrate the need and the urgency for this funding.  Other things of interest in the list below as well.   

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