Tuesday, August 27, 2019

NDACo Identifies Interim Legislative Activities

The North Dakota Association of Counties will be involved in and monitor a great deal of committees during the 2019-20 interim. NDACo has identified 58 studies and reports in 20 of the 28 interim committees that relate to counties. The following summarizes key studies that may ultimately affect counties.

Agriculture and Transportation.  Rep. Dennis Johnson – Chair. This committee will study the feasibility and desirability of creating a road train pilot program. The concept is to allow a series of multiple trailers or semi-trailers hauled by a primary vehicle. The study will look at economic impacts, safety concerns and restrictions for weights, length, routes and hours of operation. 

Budget Section.  Sen. Terry Wanzek – Chair. Members from Appropriations Committees serve on this committee, which has broad oversight over the state’s budget. The Department of Corrections will also be reporting to this committee once a year on the department’s prison population management plan, inmate admissions and the number of inmates the department has not admitted after sentencing. This will be of particular interest this interim as DOCR’s prioritization plan has kicked in for female inmates. Counties have experienced denials for admission and currently are responsible for the housing and medical costs of those state sentenced inmates. New to this interim, the committee will also be monitoring the donations related to the Theodore Roosevelt presidential library.

Commerce.  Rep. Scott Louser – Chair. This committee has numerous studies related to unmanned aircrafts and the industry in North Dakota. Of particular interest to counties, the interim committee will be studying the regulation of sewage treatment (septic) systems.

Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation Review.  Rep. Jon Nelson – Chair. This is a new interim committee created during the 2019 Legislative Session. The committee will conduct a comprehensive study of the DOCR. It will focus on the gender-responsiveness of facilities and service needs along with an assessment of facilities at MRCC, JRCC and the state hospital.

Education Policy.  Rep. David Monson – Chair. This committee will be diving into the very complex topic of the impacts of the behavior health crisis in the classroom. The study will look at the behaviors that make learning environments unsafe for students, teachers or other school personnel and the need for a uniform reporting system.

Employee Benefits Programs.  Rep. Mike Lefor – Chair. This committee is charged with monitoring and evaluating the various NDPERS programs. NDACo traditionally watches the committee’s activities because most county employees are affected by these programs. This interim, they will be studying the feasibility and desirability of PERS entering a separate contract for prescription drug coverage under the uniform group insurance program.

Energy Development & Transmission.  Sen. Rich Wardner – Chair. This committee receives numerous reports through the interim related to energy development in the state. This committee will be receiving two new reports this interim regarding a study on recycling produced water from oil and gas operations and a report from EERC on an underground gas storage pilot project. This committee traditionally holds “field” hearings across the state during the interim.

Government Administration.  Sen. Randy Burckhard – Chair. This committee will study consolidated emergency and interoperable public safety communications system governance and funding options. They will also be studying accessibility of the Capitol and state and federal veterans’ programs.

Government Finance.  Sen. Ron Sorvaag – Chair. This committee reviews state budget information, including monitoring of state revenue and appropriations. In addition, they will be reviewing state agency fees.

Health Care.  Rep. George Keiser – Chair. This committee will explore ways the state may be able to affect the current trend of health insurance rates increasing. The committee will also be looking at the delivery of health care in the state to include rural access and use of Emergency Medical Services. In addition, the Dept. of Health will report on the status and progress of an educational campaign regarding abandoned infants and approved locations for abandoned infants.

Human Services.  Rep. Karen Rohr – Chair. This committee will receive periodic reports from the Department of Human Services on the status of the transition from county social services to human service zones. This committee will be looking for information on not only the structure changes but also the human service zone budgets, indirect cost allocation plans, and any transfer of employees. The committee will study issues related to the Olmstead Commission. In addition, they will be studying the state’s behavioral health system with a focus on improving access and availability to behavioral health care.

Information Technology.  Rep. Cory Mock – Chair. This committee will monitor all major technology initiatives of the State. ITD will report on their cybersecurity initiatives along with their unification initiative. The committee will also receive the biennial report on Emergency Services Communications (9-1-1).

Judiciary.  Rep. Larry Klemin – Chair. This committee has a long list of studies of county interest. Key studies include the implication of a potential initiated measure to legalize marijuana, study the state’s civil commitment laws, study the juvenile justice process and receive reports on the state’s medical marijuana program. In addition, this committee will receive a new report from the Attorney General summarizing the activity of any civilly forfeited property. The report was part of an overhaul to the civil asset forfeiture code lawmakers approved in 2019.

Legacy Fund Earnings.  Rep. Chet Pollert – Chair. This is a newly created committee made up of legislative leadership and members of the appropriations and tax committees. This committee’s sole purpose is to study the potential uses of legacy fund earnings.

Natural Resources.  Sen. Robert Erbele – Chair. This committee will focus its efforts on furthering the discussion on access to public and private lands. As part of their study they will work with ITD and G&F to establish a trial electronic posting and hunter access information system in up to three counties.

Taxation.  Rep. Jim Grueneich – Chair. This committee will be exploring the feasibility and desirability of applying an alternative or additional tax on liquid nicotine and e-cigarettes. The committee will also study options for replacing special assessments with revenue from other funding sources. In addition, the committee will receive reports from the Tax Department of statewide property tax increases.

Water Topics Overview.  Rep. Jim Schmidt – Chair. This committee will look at the feasibility of the water resource boards in each drainage basin forming a joint water resource board to plan and construct water conveyance projects based on basin wide needs.

Visit www.legis.nd.gov for the interim committee calendar and meeting agendas.

Thursday, August 15, 2019

Interim Committee Discusses Regulation of Septic Systems

The Commerce Interim Committee held its first meeting this week to study the regulation of sewage treatment system installation, maintenance, testing and repair.  Dave Glatt, Director, Department of Environmental Quality noted that a comprehensive system is critical for the health and well being of ND citizens and environment.  Mr. Glatt stated that current code for these systems lies with the plumbing board and has not been updated in several years.  Challenges facing onsite sewage disposal systems include training and licensing for regulators and installers, inconsistent regulatory structure resulting in differing enforcement within jurisdictions, and lack of a unified statewide code. Codes and enforcement vary between counties due to several unique factors such as soil types, materials, design standards, and variance.  Mr. Glatt further stated that some rules are needed to resolve these issues, however, local flexibility is also necessary.  Comments from local public health units were presented by Jim Heckman, Environmental Health Division, First District Health Unit; Javayne Oyloe, Executive Director, Upper Missouri District Health Unit; and Allen McKay, Administrator, Lake Region District Health Unit.

Friday, June 14, 2019

Counties Discuss Human Service Zones and Identify Preliminary Plans

More than 150 county officials played an important role in redesigning county social services Tuesday, June 11th. It is truly a monumental task. The North Dakota Association of Counties and the Department of Human Services hosted the meeting to update county folks on the legislation which shifts the financial responsibility of county social services to the state. But the goal is so much greater than just changing who pays the bill. The focus is to redesign how social services are delivered in the state most effectively and efficiently.

Commissioners, Social Service Directors and Auditors from every county were represented at the meeting. Most of the day was spent answering questions and defining the next steps. NDACo Executive Director Terry Traynor and Chris Jones with the Department of Human Services first educating the group on what social service redesign “is” and what it “isn’t”; stressing that this isn’t a state takeover of social services. There are a number of key aspects to the redesign project, they include:
· No reduction in access points, all social service offices will remain
· No reductions in force or reductions in pay however roles will change for some
· Create equity in access and meet clients where they are
· Promote specialization of efforts where possible to improve consistency of service
· Promote decision making as close to the client as possible

During the meeting, counties broke into groups; visiting with neighboring counties to explore potential partners in creating a human service zone. The legislation allows for 19 human service zones in the state. Counties with populations of more than 60,000 may be an independent zone. Once county leaders decided what counties would be included in their zone, they choose a “host county”. The benefit structure is based on what the host county offers and will be part of the formula paid by the state. The host county will provide the administrative support for the human service zone. At the end of the day, 19 zones were identified, with one county remaining undecided. The map shows the zones identified. This is preliminary, more changes can be made; but it is an optimistic start.

County auditors have many questions regarding indirect costs along with what information they need as they prepare their budgets for 2020. More information will be provided to them at their annual conference June 26th.

The Department of Human Services has created a web page to post information related to Social Service Redesign project you can view documents including Frequently Asked Questions by visiting: https://www.nd.gov/dhs/

Dave Thompson with Prairie Public Radio shared the full interview with Jones and Traynor. You can listen to it here: http://www.tinyurl.com/yyfwtfqj
Here is a link to the story on Prairie Public as well: http://www.tinyurl.com/yxnwa8wx

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Lawmakers Choose Interim Studies

The Legislative Management committee met Tuesday to select studies that were proposed during the 2019 session. Legislation passed required 15 studies and suggested 50 other studies. The committee reviewed, discussed and voted on whether or not to study those 50 optional studies. In the end, they selected 31 optional studies and bringing the total of interim studies to 46.
In discussion, lawmakers identified the number one priority this interim as studying the impact of students who experience behavioral health crisis or engage in aggressive behavior at school putting students, teachers and others in unsafe situations.
The committees that will tackle the studies will be formed in June and meet several times throughout the next year and a half to provide recommendations for potential legislation in the next session. You can view the full list of studies, their descriptions and whether or not they were selected by following this link: Study Directives Approved
Below is a list of several of the studies of interest to counties:

Study related to liquid nicotine and electronic smoking devices.  This was a Local Public Health priority item. Vaping is a growing epidemic in ND and the country, especially with young people. This study will explore taxation options. 
Study the regulation of onsite sewage (septic) disposal systems. This was a priority for Local Public Health to get studied. These systems pose potential environmental hazards to our state and its citizens if not properly installed and maintained. Statewide regulations and enforcement currently in place have several challenges; the code has not been revised since 1992.
Study the implications of the potential adoption of an initiated measure allowing use of recreational marijuana
Study best practices to reduce offender recidivism to include transitional housing and education opportunities
Study the juvenile justice process
Study of behavioral health crisis in schools
Study implementation of behavioral health recommendations to improve access and availability for behavioral health care
Study state's civil commitment laws and procedures
Study issues related to the Olmstead Commission (issues related to services for elderly, individuals with behavioral health issues, physical disabilities or intellectual disabilities)
Study options for replacing revenue generated by special assessments with revenue from an alternative source
Study accessibility of state Capitol grounds - ADA
Study the future administration and regulation of the unmanned aircraft systems industry in ND
Study needs and future challenges of delivery of health care in state
Study feasibility and desirability of creating a road train pilot program
Study blockchain technology
Study veterans' programs 
Study of joint water resource board to address basinwide neeeds

Consider studying traffic fines and penalties imposed by state and local governments along with a complete analysis of NDCC Title 39
Consider studying developing standard procedures and classification of accounts that is uniform for all counties 
Study of the homestead tax credit
Study railroad crossings in relation to safety measures

Study consolidated emergency and interoperable public safety communications system (SIRN) governance and funding options 
Study access to public and private lands for hunting, trapping and fishing including trespass violations and penalties and provide recommendations regarding a land access database with the capability of electronic posting. This study establishes a new committee with citizen members
Comprehensive study of Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation facilities 
Study potential uses of legacy fund earnings
Study of state agency fees
Study the implementation and requirements of Article XIV (Ethics)  
Study K-12 education funding formula
Study tribal taxation issues

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

News Release from Governor Burgum Recaps Legislative Session

Burgum: Session delivers conservative budget, funds priorities and makes strategic investments without raising taxes

BISMARCK, N.D. (April 26, 2019) – North Dakota is making strategic investments in its future, funding priorities and delivering citizens a conservative balanced budget without raising taxes, Gov. Doug Burgum said today after the 66th Legislative Assembly adjourned its regular session sine die.

“Working with the Legislature, we’ve delivered a budget that makes substantial investments in education, infrastructure, behavioral health, economic diversification and other priorities, all while ensuring state government lives within its means,” Burgum said.

Coming off an unprecedented $1.7 billion decrease in the general fund budget for the current 2017-19 biennium, the $4.8 billion budget approved today for 2019-21 represents a 12 percent increase. Still, it’s nearly $2 billion less than the record budget of over $6.8 billion in 2013-15, and it provides nearly $174 million in local property tax relief through the continuation of state funding to cover the cost of county social services.

The state’s overall budget will increase from $13.6 billion this biennium to $14.7 billion in 2019-21, due to significant increases in funding for K-12 and higher education and human services.

“After weathering the storm last session, North Dakota’s future looks brighter than ever, with a healthy balance sheet thanks to a strong economy, collaboration between the executive and legislative branches and the foresight to plan for rainy days,” Burgum said. "As responsible stewards of taxpayer resources, we’re successfully balancing revenues and expenses, encouraging innovation and investing strategically – all without raising taxes."

“However, this session also saw too many missed opportunities to make additional strategic investments in workforce and other areas, to shore up reserves and the state pension fund, and to improve transparency in budgeting, as evidenced by the last-minute transfer of nearly $765 million in oil tax revenue into the general fund to balance the budget,” Burgum added.

Following is a list of some of the legislation supporting priority areas:

  • Senate Bill 2124 will provide nearly $174 million in property tax relief by continuing the state’s responsibility for funding county social services.
  • House Bill 1053 exempts military retirement pay from state income tax. Benefits extend to retired military personnel and surviving spouses of retired military personnel of the U.S. Armed Forces, National Guard and Reserve, effective with the 2019 tax year. This measure, which also was included in the Governor’s executive budget recommendation, honors the courageous service of our military servicemen and women, promotes workforce participation and improves North Dakota’s competitiveness for federal military investments.
  • HB 1174 provides an income tax deduction on Social Security benefits for those with federal adjusted gross income of up to $50,000 for single filers and up to $100,000 for married couples filing jointly.

  • SB 2265 increases the per-pupil payment by 2 percent in each year – putting it above $10,000 for the first time in state history – and will allow school districts to keep more revenue from their state formula payment to help limit the cost of school construction.
  • SB 2215 will create the State K-12 Coordinating Council to organize and disseminate information about innovative best practices that support teachers and students.
  • Overall, state support for K-12 schools will increase by nearly $163 million, supporting teacher pay increases and helping to limit property taxes.
  • Funding for the Higher Education Challenge Fund, which requires a 2-to-1 match and provides grants to support North Dakota’s public colleges and universities, primarily with scholarships, was increased to $9.4 million.
  • The higher education budget also provides up to $100 million in bonding authority and nearly $50 million in direct appropriations for campus infrastructure.
  • Grants for tribally controlled community colleges also were increased by $400,000 to $1 million.

  • SB 2016, the Adjutant General’s budget, fully funds the National Guard Tuition Assistance Program.
  • The bill provides $600,000 to purchase or secure long-term leases for land to expand the National Guard training range at Camp Grafton South, with intent language to fund the expansion next session if securing land is successful. The expansion would create long-term savings by keeping soldiers training in-state and generate revenue by bringing in out-of-state service members for training.
  • The budget, which also covers the Department of Emergency Services, fully funds critical emergency services in 2019-21.

  • In an effort to address the state’s workforce shortage, HB 1171 provides $3 million in skilled workforce scholarships and $3 million in student loan repayments to incentivize college graduates with high-demand degrees to stay in North Dakota. The scholarships were recommended by the state’s Workforce Development Council (WDC), which was revitalized by Burgum and produced a report with recommendations based on a statewide survey of workforce needs.
  • HB 1040 provides $2 million for an automation tax credit as an incentive for businesses to adopt automated manufacturing processes that improve job quality and increase productivity. This also was recommended by the WDC.
  • SB 2306 provides occupation license reciprocity for eligible trailing spouses of military personnel, which also was a WDC recommendation.
  • HB 1073 allows Workforce Safety & Insurance (WSI) to establish pilot programs to assess alternative forms of dispute resolution with the goal of reducing the overall cost burden of litigation and establishing a more efficient dispute resolution process.
  • HB 1188 expands benefits for select injured workers that reapply for benefits post-retirement.
  • For state employees, the budget provides performance-based compensation increases of between $120 and $200 per month in the first year of the biennium and an average increase of 2.5 percent the second year.

  • As proposed in the governor’s executive budget, Senate Bill 2124 will reorganize the current system of 47 county social service units into no more than 19 zones, while maintaining all current access points and allowing the state to respond more efficiently to social service needs.
  • SB 2012, the Department of Human Services Budget, includes health care provider reimbursement increases of 2 percent in the first year of the biennium and 2.5 percent in the second year, with other changes in reimbursement structure to provide additional assistance to long-term care providers.
  • The DHS budget also increases funding for home and community-based services by $7.7 million – $1 million more than recommended in the executive budget – while calling for a study of revised payment methodology for long-term care providers.
  • SB 2347 establishes a Medicaid Fraud Control Unit for the first time in North Dakota, making it a division of the Attorney General’s Office.
  • The North Dakota Medical Marijuana Program had a number of significant changes beneficial for qualifying patients under House Bills 1283, 1417, 1519 and SB 2210.
    • Physician assistants were added to the list of health care providers who can complete written certifications.
    • The requirement that a health care provider express an opinion regarding the benefit to the patient was eliminated, alleviating a concern identified by the medical community.
    • Twelve conditions were added to the list of debilitating medical conditions. Patients 19 and over are authorized to purchase up to 2.5 ounces of dried leaves or flowers in a 30-day period without special authorization from their medical provider.
    • In lieu of a written certification, a veteran receiving treatment from a federal VA entity may submit a copy of their medical records.
    • A manufacturing facility may grow more than 1,000 plants to sufficiently meet the demand.
  • HB 1477 prohibits the sale of flavored e-liquid to minors and increases the fine for selling these products.
  • SB 2196 establishes the panel members and roles of a drug fatality review panel. The panel will examine deaths due to drugs to better understand root-cause issues related to drug fatalities and other substance abuse disorders.
  • SB 2094 ensures that physicians can use telemedicine for FDA-approved opioid prescribing medication-assisted treatment (MAT), an important tool in a rural state like North Dakota where MAT programs are being launched.
  • The Legislature approved the first budget for the newly created North Dakota Department of Environmental Quality, HB 1024, including the resources necessary for DEQ to pursue state primacy over federal air quality standards.

  • HB 1066, nicknamed “Operation Prairie Dog,” passed with broad bipartisan support. The bill changes the distribution of oil and gas tax revenues, creating new “buckets” to set aside revenue for counties, cities and townships in non-oil producing areas to pay for essential infrastructure projects related to water, roads and bridges, electricity and natural gas transmission, airports and communications. Starting in the 2021-23 biennium, the bill will direct $115 million to cities, $115 million to counties and townships, and $20 million for an airport infrastructure fund. The law also preserves allocations for oil-producing areas and removes the sunset on the “hub city” designation that directs additional oil tax revenue to Dickinson, Minot and Williston.
  • SB 2020, the State Water Commission budget, provides $82.5 million for Mouse River flood control in the Minot area and $66.5 million for Fargo-area flood control including the Fargo-Moorhead Area Diversion Project, along with hundreds of millions of dollars for water supply and other flood control projects.

  • In one of the centerpiece proposals from the governor’s executive budget, HB 1018, the Department of Commerce budget, provides $28 million to create a statewide infrastructure network to support the operation of unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) beyond visual line of sight, or without a chase plane. The bill also provides $2 million to the Northern Plains UAS Test Site in Grand Forks and $3 million for an enhanced-use lease grant with the Grand Sky UAS business park located at Grand Forks Air Force Base.
  • SB 2001 represents a significant boost to North Dakota’s tourism industry by creating a $50 million endowment for the proposed Theodore Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum in Medora if $100 million in private donations is first raised for construction of the facility on the doorstep to Theodore Roosevelt National Park. The $50 million endowment will be managed by the state Department of Trust Lands. Earnings from the endowment will be used for operations and maintenance of the library and museum, which has the support of the Roosevelt family.
  • HB 1097 repeals the statewide ban on Sunday morning shopping. On August 1, 2019, many retailers will have the ability to decide whether or not to sell to customers on Sunday mornings.

  • HB 1015, the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation budget, provides an additional $7 million to expand Free Through Recovery, a community-based behavioral health program designed to increase recovery support services for individuals involved with the criminal justice system who have behavioral health concerns. The additional money will allow for expanding the program to youth under the care of DOCR and those who have completed probation until they no longer require services. An additional $4 million for the program in the Department of Human Services budget will expand the program beyond corrections.
  • The budget bill also includes $755,000 for a pretrial services pilot program in three judicial districts, designed to reduce the need for incarceration during the pretrial phase through greater focus on risk assessment and supervision.
  • Legislative Management also will conduct a comprehensive study of DOCR’s adult and youth corrections systems, including an assessment of facilities and preferred locations for incarcerated men and women, with findings and recommendations to be reported to the 2021 Legislature.

  • The first bill signed in the 2019 legislative session, HB 1183, removes mandatory minimum sentences for certain drug-related offenses. Removing mandatory minimum sentences for certain offenses gives the legal system more room to apply appropriate methods of justice.
  • The cybersecurity strategy bill, SB 2110, makes North Dakota the first state to authorize a central, shared service approach to cybersecurity across all aspects of state government. The state network has 252,000 daily users and over 400 entities, and this milestone legislation will help defend against 5.6 million cyberattacks per month. More than $15 million was also invested to enhance the state’s cybersecurity software and initiatives.

  • SB 2312 ratified a historic compact the governor signed with Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara Nation Chairman Mark Fox in February to change how the state and tribes share tax revenue from new oil and gas activity on trust and fee lands. The bill resulted from nearly two years of dialogue and work by the interim Tribal Taxation Issues Committee, which was created by the 2017 Legislature and chaired by Burgum.
  • SB 2257 enables tax agreements to be signed by a tribe and the governor for a per capita distribution of alcoholic beverages wholesale tax, tobacco wholesale tax and alcoholic beverages gross receipts.
  • SB 2258 authorizes the governor to enter state-tribal agreements for sales, use and gross receipts taxes.

  • HB 1439 provides an economic incentive to use carbon dioxide captured from North Dakota’s coal-fired power plans for enhanced oil recovery by injecting the carbon dioxide underground. This will support innovative projects such as Project Tundra by transforming emissions into a valuable commodity, extending the viability of North Dakota’s important lignite coal industry and strengthening the state’s economy.
  • SB 2037 provides a framework for disposal of high-level radioactive waste, prohibits high-level radioactive waste unless superseded by the federal government and provides for local input in the permitting process.
  • HB 1014, the North Dakota Industrial Commission budget, includes a pilot project for underground gas storage and a study of produced water recycling.
  • HB 1388 allows the formation of extended family partnerships and LLCs for farming and ranching to include second cousins.
  • HB 1202 provides a framework for public input when a waterbody is determined to be navigable.
  • HB 1020 includes $1.1 million for an agribiome initiative to enhance crop and livestock production. 


Friday, April 26, 2019

NDACo Final Priorities Approved in Last Hours of Session

The 66th Legislative Assembly wrapped up its business at 10 p.m. Friday on Day 76. The final day marked the completion of several remaining ND County priorities. 

Lawmakers Restore Funding to County Extension Program; Increase Funding for Road Study
Lawmakers Friday approved HB 1020. This bill included $875,000 funding for the Upper Great Plains Transportation Institute study. This study is necessary to provide the level of detailed data needed to identity local road project funding priorities across the state. The UGPTI road study has also been used as a basis to calculate the distribution of county road funds in the past as was as in the future through HB 1066, Operation Prairie Dog, which was approved earlier this session. 

The bill also includes $870,000 that will go to restore the funding formula between Extension and Counties for County Extension Agents. Due to the budget cuts in 2017 and allocations, Extension was left with a shortfall. Counties negotiated a one-year agreement to increase their portion of the funding. The restoration of these funds will allow the formula to be returned to a more equitable level. 

House and Senate Approve Bill that Improves Asset Forfeiture Process
HB 1286 has had many transformations since being introduced. As introduced in the House, law enforcement opposed the bill. However, they worked diligently through the process to offer suggestions for improvements. The Senate made many changes to the bill, many of which law enforcement saw as positive. The conference committee expanded on the improvements made in the Senate. Overall, the bill increases transparency of the asset forfeiture process by: 
  • Requiring an annual report
  • Providing additional oversight of funds from forfeited property by requiring them to be deposited into the local political subdivisions asset forfeiture fund that can only be appropriated by the local political subdivision
  • Increases the burden of proof to the highest level possible to “beyond reasonable doubt” the property was used in the commission of a crime or involved in criminal activity, for situations where there is no conviction
Lawmakers Approve Increase to Public Guardianship Program
Legislators approved an increase of $400,000 for the public guardianship program to bring the total funding to $1.95 million. Although the request was for $2.33 million, this funding is a considerable increase to the current $1.32 million appropriation in this biennium. Public Guardians provides assistance to the state's most vulnerable adults. These are individuals who the district court has determined are incapacitated and unable to adequately make decisions on their health, finances and other affairs due to their age, dementia, physical disability, mental illness, addiction, etc. The current funding level has remained level for the past three bienniums. Due to that, caseloads have been frozen at 205, it is estimated there are about 150 additional individuals who would qualify for the assistance who are unable to receive it due to the lack of funding. 

DOCR Facility Changes to be Studied
During the Governor's budget speech, he introduced major shifts in Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (DOCR) system which included moving inmates from facilities and shutting down one of the prisons. Lawmakers instead voted to study a plan to conduct an assessment and review of the DOCR facilities and report it's findings to the 67th Legislative Assembly. This will allow DOCR and the State to thoroughly study the facilities available, the needs and best options for the future. 
The DOCR Budget also includes $750,000 and 7 FTE's to establish a pre-trial services pilot program.   

Legislators Approve Small Increase to Infrastructure Loan Fund 
The conference committee for the Industrial Commission Budget rejected the proposed $500 million bond to enhance the local government infrastructure loan fund. The bill however now contains a mechanism  to supplement the existing Bank of ND $150 million 2% interest revolving loan fund with an additional $40 million from the SIIF.  This addition will be after the balance of this oil royalty and tax fund reaches a $750 million balance, so it is essentially the “final bucket” and likely won’t be filled until near the end of the upcoming biennium.

House Rejects Change to Posted Land
The private property rights bill, SB 2315, failed in the House after lengthy discussion. The bill essentially closed all land except for to hunting. Posted signs would still be required to close land to hunting.  However, the ITD budget includes a provision to study access to private and public lands including trespass violations and penalties as well as explore a land access database with the capacity of electronic posting.

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Day 73 Update

Compromises Reached on Feed Lot Zoning Regulation
Both chambers approved a bill relating to animal feed lot zoning regulation, HB 2345. This bill makes a change from the House version. The House originally struck the counties ability to vary setback distances as established under State law but after some negotiations the county’s 50% variation was restored. The only change in the final bill is that the county must establish by compelling evidence the need for the variation and that decision can be reviewed by the Agricultural Commissioner and the Attorney General. It also retains the "shot-clock" for decisions at 60 days.

Legislature Approves Health Department BudgetThe Department of Health budget, HB 1004, passed both houses Monday after adopting the conference committee report. As when first introduced in the House, the question regarding vital records fee increases was brought forth. It was explained that fees for vital records have been stagnant for a few decades and that the increase aims for a break even scenario. The bill provides for excess funds to go the general fund. On the Senate side, the only change from the version that was previously passed was the addition of authority to apply for a CDC grant. The conference committee members decided to remove the CDC grant because of attached CDC requirements. The passage of this budget bill provides level state aid funding from the previous biennium to the local public health units.

Senate Defeats Firearms BillSenators defeated SB 2172, which had been changed to allow certain individuals to carry in public. The Senate bill was introduced to allow only retired Judges to carry in public, but was amended heavily in the House and later changed in conference committee. In the latest version, the bill allowed retired judges, staff members of the Attorney General's office, a member of Congress, and paramedics or emergency responders while on duty to carry in public buildings and public events. This would include county buildings, courtrooms, schools, school events and churches. There was a requirement for these individuals to obtain the same level of firearms proficiency as is required of law enforcement by the Peace Officer Standards and Training board. The bill failed with a 4-43 vote.

Counties Invited to Ceremonial Bill Signing for Social Service Redesign
The signing of the Social Service Redesign bill is an event worth celebrating! NDACo President Scott Ouradnik, Kim Jacobson of Agassiz Valley Social Services Director and NDACo Executive Director Terry Traynor were invited to a ceremonial signing of SB 2124. Special thanks to our partners who worked diligently on this important legislation. This bill will improve the quality of services, increase the speed of delivery, reduce cost and continue to provide property tax relief.