Friday, April 14, 2017

Legislative Days are Numbered

Friday is day 68 for Legislators in the 65th Legislative Assembly. The goal of a 70 day session is unrealistic, and it is anyone's guess as to when lawmakers will finish their work.This week has been primarily dedicated to conference committee work.

The medical marijuana bill (SB 2344) has passed and has gone to the Governor. This bill was necessary in response to voters approving the initiated measure in November legalizing the use of medical marijuana. The bill allows for 8 distribution centers and 4 manufacturing centers in the state.

Counties will also now have the ability to regulate high grade radioactive waste and where that waste is stored after the House and Senate approved SB2156.

The House also approved the Senate version of SB2045, removing the sunset from the retention of overweight civil penalties by local road authorities.

The conference committee on the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation budget (HB 2015) wrapped up. Their budget includes funding for a new program to address the rising behavior health crisis in North Dakota; $7 million will go towards providing community-based services through a collaborative effort with the department of human services.  The budget bill includes language that allows DOCR to refuse inmates sentenced to prison if the facility is at capacity and to prioritize admissions based on sentences. Their budget also has language to encourage alternative options to manage inmates at local correctional facilities and the state prison.

The conference committee on the Department of Transportation Budget (HB 2012) finished it's work Friday on the bill. Unlike in recent years, there is no funding for one-time road projects. The budget also includes discontinuing operation of eight maintenance section sites in the rural part of the state. They are in New England, Starkweather, Fessenden, Courtenay, Gackle, Litchville, Finley and Mayville. The bill allows for the DOT to negotiate with political subdivisions; counties, cities and townships in that order, for use of the shops and for assisting DOT in emergency situations. This is for the 2017-19 biennium only.

Friday, conference committees met for the first time on 911 radio network (HB 1178), social service funding (SB 2206) and the Cap bill (HB 1361). HB 1178 was kicked out of committee and will be voted on next week. The house and senate have very different levels of acceptance for property tax caps; work will continue on that bill next week. But it was very evident by the vote this week on the bill in the Senate that they are not supportive of caps. No work was done on SB 2206 in conference committee, but they discuss that amendments would be offered. We are working with conference committee members to further improve the bill. We wrote more in-depth on these three bills in the previous blog.

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