Thursday, January 26, 2017
Thank you to everyone for the great participation this week. So many county officials in the Capitol, and so many more emailing support and opposition on important county issues. Your voice is truly being heard.
Previous blog posts this week already talked about the defeat of the election equipment appropriations and the extremely well presented testimony on the social service funding bill, SB2206. The best part of the SB2206 hearing was that there were as many legislators and other organizations testifying in support as county people. Adding to that Governor Burgum's inclusion of the proposal in his budget, things are (right now) looking positive for this measure.
More and more bills are heading to the floor, as Committees have a little more time to deliberate. Two smaller, but significant, county issues received their first floor vote this week.
SB2178 expands the availability of the Bank of North Dakota's infrastructure loan fund. As previously written, city infrastructure improvements were the only truly eligible projects. With the changes approved in the Senate (45-0) this week, the program would be available to county road construction as well.
On the House floor this week, a bill debated for the last several sessions was passed for the first time. HB1231 repeals the requirement that counties fund 50% of a quarterly newspaper advertisement for county extension services. If this would also pass the Senate it would remove one small state mandate. Counties could still choose to publish such notices, but the requirement would be gone. The floor debate was interesting and the vote was 61-32.
Next week will finish up the largest share of "first hearings" on bills, as the length of the hearing schedule would suggest. There will still be a few unheard, but the vast majority will have had their day in the sun. Many, many county bills still are under debate in committee however, and watching the "committee work" will be priority one. As any bill in a policy committee with a fiscal impact to the state must be rereferred to the Appropriations Committees by Feb. 6, those will be the priority this week. Look for quick blog post alerts for email assistance in the coming days and weeks.
Although a bit shorter, the hearing schedule next week as some important county issues to address. Stay tuned, stay informed, and stay in contact with your local legislators.
Check out the hearing schedule on the blog at this link.
Wednesday, January 25, 2017
Hear testimony from NDACo President Randi Suckut, Wells County Commissioner and Traill County Social Service Director Kim Jacobson by clicking on this link: https://youtu.be/IG4MK7TVN0k
Tuesday, January 24, 2017
Thursday, January 19, 2017
Tuesday, January 17, 2017
Two North Dakota County Sheriff's shared their first-hand experiences of why the current 9-1-1 Radio system is not working. Morton County Sheriff Kyle Kirchmeier told House and Finance Tax Committee members how an officer can see another officer in a car but couldn't talk to them on the radio. Stutsman County Sheriff Chad Kaiser asked committee members to all ask the chairman a question at the same time, illustrating the communications challenges for officers responding to the Morton County protest. In situations where communications is critical, the current system has failed law enforcement and first responders.
The new radio system would allow all users - law enforcement, fire, ambulance to be on the same system and be able to communicate with each other. The new system will also improve coverage. The current radio system is set to go end of life in 2018. North Dakota is an island in our region because other states have moved onto the new system.
HB 1178 seeks to raise the 9-1-1 fee to $2.00 statewide. $.50 of that fee will be dedicated toward implementing a much needed statewide interoperable radio network.
|Burleigh County Auditor Kevin Glatt testifies to House Approps Committee|
HB 1122 would allow for a state-wide electronic poll book system. Currently 8 out of the 53 counties use e-poll books. A state-wide e-poll book system could create efficiencies in elections. The greatest benefit for e-poll books is that they can track voters in real-time, preventing a voter from voting in the same election more than once at various polling locations. The cost is $3 million.
HB 1123 is for new election equipment. This includes the ballot scanners and AutoMark machines. The current state of election equipment is very poor. Equipment has reached it's end of life. Counties have had numerous instances of equipment failures. The difficulty with fixing these machines is that parts are no longer being manufactured. Therefore, counties are using spare machines or cannibalizing machines for their working parts. Election officials believe the election system could experience a dangerously high failure rate in 2018 and be unworkable in 2020. NDACo provided numerous examples of equipment failures in several counties. The cost for new election equipment is $9 million.
Several committee members questioned why the counties don't pay for the equipment. During testimony it was highlighted that counties bear a significant cost every election. Their share of the cost of running an election, maintaining equipment, etc over ten years is equal to or greater than the state's cost if these two bills are approved.
As you know, the current state budget situation has created a bleak outlook for any bill with an appropriation. The House Appropriation sub-committee that heard two election bills Monday gave both bills unanimous Do Not Pass recommendations. Please consider contacting your House members and encourage them to support HB 1122 and HB 1123.
Monday, January 16, 2017
Governor Doug Burgum released his budget to lawmakers at 5 p.m. Mo day evening.
One highlight that sticks out to counties is his support of the concept of transfering the cost of county social services to the state resulting in tax relief and reform.
Read the release from Burgum's Office below.
BISMARCK – Gov. Doug Burgum presented legislative leaders Monday with an executive budget proposal that recommends additional cuts and realigns spending priorities to spur innovation, creativity and the reinvention of government.
Burgum recommends ongoing spending of $4.62 billion, or about $159 million less than the 2017-19 budget proposed by Gov. Jack Dalrymple in early December.
“Gov. Dalrymple’s budget was a good starting point. Unfortunately, revenues continue to fall short of projections, already lagging more than $15 million behind November’s revised forecast,” Burgum said. “My budget proposal reflects this reality while prioritizing K-12 education and support for our state’s most vulnerable people.”
The structurally balanced budget would cushion the general fund with an ending balance of approximately $100 million, including a $90 million transfer from the Strategic Investment and Improvements Fund (SIIF).
Achieving that positive balance required finding about $100 million in further savings, including an additional 5 percent, $31 million reduction to higher education and an additional $19 million in cuts to state agencies. The total reductions would necessitate eliminating about 633 full-time positions.
To help offset the additional reduction to higher education, Burgum proposes increasing funding from $3 million to $10 million for higher education challenge grants, which will generate $20 million in matching funds through public-private partnerships.
In the second year of the biennium, Burgum’s budget would eliminate 1 percent increases in three areas: state and campus employee salaries, the per-pupil payment for K-12 schools and an inflationary adjustment for Medicaid providers.
State employees would pay 5 percent of their health insurance premiums, saving the state $11 million and engaging state employees in the rising costs of health care.
“These measures, while difficult in the short term, will position our state for long-term success with a leaner budget that is more adaptable to volatile swings in commodity prices,” Burgum said.
The budget replenishes the rainy-day Budget Stabilization Fund with a $300 million transfer from the Tax Relief Fund. Dalrymple’s budget had also proposed a $154 million transfer from the SIIF to the Budget Stabilization Fund, but Burgum’s budget removes that transfer, as well as removes a $25 million transfer from the SIIF to Valley City State University for a new Communications and Fine Arts building.
“We need to think strategically during the next interim about how we deliver higher education to students through existing infrastructure,” Burgum said.
Burgum also recommends not using the SIIF to repay the $17 million borrowed from the Bank of North Dakota for costs related to the Dakota Access Pipeline protests. The state will seek reimbursement for those costs from the federal government and other responsible parties.
In addition, his proposed budget reduces the transfer of Bank of North Dakota profits to the general fund from $200 million to $140 million, as the state has previously utilized $100 million to cover revenue shortfalls in the current biennium.
With the flexibility provided by voters through the passage of Measure 2, Burgum also recommends using $200 million from the Foundation Aid Stabilization Fund to maintain state aid to K-12 schools at current levels – an increase of $60 million over the previous executive budget.
At the same time, his budget removes a proposed $200 million transfer from the Foundation Aid Stabilization Fund for school construction loans. Other options are available for school construction financing, including Bank of North Dakota funds, an interest buydown program and bonding.
The budget takes a more conservative approach toward oil, assuming $337 million less in oil tax revenue and an average price of about $48 per barrel, compared with $52 to $53 per barrel in Dalrymple’s budget. The oil production assumption remains unchanged at 900,000 barrels per day.
Oil tax revenue available to the general fund would decrease from $1 billion in Dalrymple’s budget to $900 million in Burgum’s budget.
Highlights from Dalrymple’s budget that Burgum has retained include:
Continued funding of Medicaid expansion.
Support for a long-term care provider assessment, which is used by more than 40 states and will ensure quality care continues in North Dakota’s nursing homes.
A combined $250 million to address behavioral health issues, including funding for adult and youth corrections programs.
SIIF funding for the Williston and Dickinson airports ($24 million), Unmanned Aerial Systems ($2 million) and lignite coal research ($3 million).
Transferring $275 million to transition the cost of county social services to the state, ending the 12 percent property tax buydown. The administration will emphasize the need to find efficiencies in social services as the legislation moves forward.
Thursday, January 12, 2017
This past week (in addition to the earlier posts) included a solid overview of the proposal to fund county social services with state funds made to the House Appropriations subcommittee addressing the DHS Budget. It gets confusing however as this concept is spread out among three separate bills. The DHS budget (HB1012) has the money, the OMB budget (HB1015) transfers the funds, (both in the house) and a senate bill as yet to be numbered contains the formula for reimbursing counties. Lots of talk and interest in this proposal, particularly after Governor Burgum stated that there needs to be an “off ramp” for the 12% property tax by-down.
Wednesday, January 11, 2017
"Having one license plate is as detrimental to law enforcement as having only one handcuff on a set of handcuffs," said Rep. Chuck Damschen.
"So someone doesn't like the way a plate looks on the front of his vehicle, are we passing laws now for vanity reasons?" said Representative David Monson.
The bill failed by a vote of 34-57
Tuesday, January 10, 2017
|Fargo Chief David Todd Testifies on Tuition Waiver Bill|
Larson testified that the National Guard told her the promise of a tuition waiver is the best recruiting tool the National Guard has. Tuition waivers are available for National Guard members, Highway Patrol Troopers and many other programs, too many to list during the hearing. While it is difficult to estimate how many officers may take advantage of this program. Larson told committee members there are only 447 sworn officers eligible for the tuition waiver as proposed. Several Sheriff's were in attendance and were represented by Billings County Sheriff Rummel who spoke in support of the measure.
151 same sex marriages have been recorded in North Dakota since they became legal in 2015.
Monday, January 9, 2017
Thursday, January 5, 2017
Tuesday, January 3, 2017
"Given the revenue uncertainty, we must dig deeper. Right now is the time to right-size government," said Burgum.
Burgum said the state will examine its revenue forecasting system. He indicated that the current model has continued to not accurately reflecting the linkage between lower commodity prices and sales tax collections. Burgum said, "many big decisions have had to be made with limited or poor data."
Burgum also focused on tax reform. "The state should find an 'off-ramp' to remove itself from the local property-tax-buydown business, without simply shifting the burden back to local political subdivisions. Time has shown that our current buydown program approach has multiple shortcomings," he said. Burgum did not go into further detail but did indicate that true long-term property tax reform requires reducing the cost of local government.
He reflected on a personal experience with an individual dealing with addiction and homelessness. Burgum told lawmakers the state much start treating addiction differently.
Burgum ended he speech emphasizing the need for all branches of government to reinvent better ways to serve the citizens of North Dakota.
Sunday, January 1, 2017
To see the schedule of bills we are tracking for the week of 1/4 follow this link: https://drive.google.com/open?id=0B4bYba4CUTL1LWlHMWNFQ3NxLUE
- NDACo Legislative Schedule #5
- Strong Support for Bill to Transfer County Social ...
- House Members Defeat Election Equipment Bills
- NDACo Legislative Report #4
- Sheriffs Seek Support for Radio Proposal
- Auditors Ask Lawmakers to Support New Election Equ...
- Burgum presents budget proposal to legislators
- NDACo Legislative Report #3
- State Funding of Social Services Frequently Asked ...
- One Plate Bill Dies in House
- Lawmakers Hear Proposal for Law Enforcement Tuitio...
- Law Day at the Capitol
- Senate Kills Marriage Bill
- Senate Passes Overweight Regulation
- Week 2 NDACo Weekly Schedule
- Governor Burgum Delivers First State of the State
- Legislative Schedule for Week 1
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