Thursday, February 23, 2017

ND Counties Optimistic as Session Reaches Crossover

As we reach the “crossover” period of this 65th Legislative Session, it is not only a good time to catch our breaths but also reflect on the first half. With 778 bills filed this session, NDACo identified 454 bills that have some degree of county impact – either positive or negative. At crossover, 142 of these “county-related” bills have been defeated or withdrawn, leaving just over 300 to monitor for the remainder of the session. 
“The bills we track are really as diverse as the programs and services counties provide and the issues they face. In one day our lobbying team can monitor bills on property tax exemptions, guardianship grants, and/or reducing penalties for drug crimes,” said NDACo Executive Director Mark Johnson.
“All in all, when you look at how our County priority issues are faring in this Legislative Session, we see a lot of positive momentum as bills cross over. A majority of the bills initiated by counties are still alive, and we have made efforts to improve bills so they better represent our ideas. Major priorities like Social Service funding and two bills to create a new radio network for law enforcement and first responders have made it into the second half. These are triumphs given the budget shortfall and cuts this session.” 

The following is a brief look at our “crossover” scorecard on some of our priority bills: 
Bills Passed by the Senate and coming over to the House in pretty good shape are:
SB2206, Social Service funding – We are hopeful it can meet with success on the House side without additional baggage.
SB2204, Health Dept. Budget – Some of the governor’s cuts to local public health have been restored and we hope to retain that funding.
SB2288, Unified property tax notice – A two-year effort to streamline and reduce notices that seems to be in pretty good shape.
SB2204, State SIRN funding/traffic fees – The House passed the local share of SIRN in the 911 fee bill. This is the state share.
SB2045, Remove “fat truck” sunset – Allows local road authorities to retain civil penalties for damages to THEIR own roads.

Bills Passed by the House and coming over to the Senate in pretty good shape are:
HB1012, DHS Budget – Although it is hopeful that some areas of funding can be restored, the continuation of Expanded Medicaid is important.
HB1024, Deficiency appropriation for DAPL protest costs.
HB 1178, Local SIRN funding/phone fee – The Senate passed the state share of SIRN in a traffic fee bill.  This is the local share.

Passed by one House but in need of additional work:
SB2286, Pipeline siting – This effort to unify local transmission pipeline siting (PSC and Township/County) will likely need some amendments but industry is working with counties.
SB2015, DOCR Budget – Amendments gave DOCR the power to refuse inmates, leaving them in county jails at county cost.
HB1294/HB1338, Indigent Burial – Some of the changes will increase county costs.

Unfortunately Dead:
HB1122 & HB1123, Election Equipment Appropriations – Obviously the state’s revenues may not allow this to come back in the Secretary of State’s budget or some other place, but it is a priority of counties.

Unfortunately Alive:
HB1361, 3% cap on property taxes – We are hopeful that the Senate will defeat this poor public policy that can encourage, rather than discourage, property tax growth.
HB1424, Tax exempt church property – We disagree with the concept that income-producing property of churches is tax exempt.

Reminder, next week the Legislature is only in session Wed - Friday. Below you will find a link to the schedule.

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