Thursday, March 9, 2017

NDACo Legislative Report #11

Next week will be HUGE for counties, and we are making a plea for as many officials as possible to attend the Session PARTICULARLY ON WEDNESDAY.  As schedule below will indicate, more than thirty of our “Top 100” county bills will have their final hearing this coming week.

Importantly, the County Social Service funding bill (SB2206) and the 3% Cap on local government taxation (HB1361) will both be heard (back-to-back) on WEDNESDAY morning.  We cannot overstate how important it will be to have a strong showing of local government officials.  The cities, townships, park districts and schools are also being asked to bring their members in on Wednesday, particularly to oppose the cap bill (10:30 am).

Our arguments against caps are the same since this concept was first suggested almost 10 years ago.  Tax limitations can have unexpected consequences, they actually encourage property tax increases each year, they reduce economic growth in communities, and result in greater state spending.  You can check out the NDACo testimony against HB1361 in the House at the “testimony” tab on this blog site.  If you can’t make it in to Bismarck Wednesday (and we hope you can) please let the Senate Finance & Taxation Committee and your local Senators know of your views on this bill.  Committee memberships and contact information can be found at the North Dakota Legislative Branch website tab to the left.

Besides these two bills, we have hearings on the increase in construction bid limits (SB2146) on Monday, the Local Public Safety Radio Funding Bill (HB1178) on Tuesday, two bills (HB1294 & HB1338) impacting county burials on Tuesday, an appropriations rehearing on the “Fat Truck” bill (SB2045) on Tuesday afternoon, a number of overweight truck bills on Thursday, and Public Administrator funding on Friday.

All-in-all a HUGE week ahead.

And this follows a pretty big week as well.  The big news of course was the final revenue projections that indicate $46 million less in State General Funds THIS biennium and $103 million less for the next.  As most of the projected loss of revenue is in Sales Tax, this also has a proportional impact on the projected revenues going into the State Aid Distribution Fund.  While the long term projections suggest some growth and we are projected to be at the “bottom” at this time, government funding will be stressed.

In other news, the following actions were taken this past week on county bills:

HB1027 to prevent telcom companies from double-dipping on 911 fees was passed by the Senate and sent to the Governor,

HB1231, as reported earlier, was passed by the Senate – this bill repeals the county cost for quarterly NDSU extension publications,

HB1345, the omnibus open records/meetings bill was passed unanimously by the Senate – this bill incorporated several changes requested by counties.

HB1424, also reported earlier, was the bill to expand the church property tax exemption to income-producing property – this was defeated by the Senate.

SB2106, amended at the counties’ request, was passed by the Senate.  This bill preserves the population based fees for accessing federal criminal databases.

SB2160, a clean-up bill for county recorders and auditors was passed by the House.

SB2178, the expansion of the Bank of ND Infrastructure loan fund to make it available for county road projects was given a Do Pass in the House.

SB2197, a county-requested clean-up bill for county bidding was given a Do Pass recommendation in the House.

SB2288, to consolidate budget & budget meeting notices was given a Do Pass by the House Finance & Tax Committee

Next week promises to be even more exciting.  Hope you can be there!

The full hearing schedule is available with this report at the link below, or the “Weekly Reports” tab to the left.

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