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.

Friday, April 19, 2019

Lawmakers Approve SIRN Funding and other updates

Day 71...And Counting
We are in the last leg of the Legislative Session. We expect lawmakers to wrap up their work late next week.  Friday was Day 71. The Legislative Session is limited to 80 days, and it has been the goal of the legislature to avoid using all 80 days.
There are still several bills being worked out in conference committees. The NDACo legislative team has been busy sitting in these meetings monitoring the negotiations and helping to educate where we can. There are still a few of our issues yet to be decided. Funding for Public Guardianships (SB 2015) and funding for NDSU Extension & Upper Great Plains Transportation Institute (HB 1020) are two of the top budget bills we are watching. Asset Forfeiture reform (HB 1286) has had three conference committee meetings, but little movement. Overall there are about 50 bills we are tracking that we are still awaiting final action on.

SIRN funding bill, HB 1435, receives final approval
The House and Senate both gave final approval to HB 1435, the bill that authorizes the funding for the entirety of the Statewide Interoperable Radio Network (SIRN). The bill includes $40 million of state funds, which was a great accomplishment. NDACo and other public safety associations articulated the importance of state funding to demonstrate the state's commitment to the project. The project will be financed by a .50 9-1-1 fee that was approved during the 2017 Legislative Session, along with local dollars. The passage of this bill will result in an interoperable and dependable radio network for our public safety officials.

House defeats Cottage Foods bill
Lengthy and lively discussions concerning the state’s cottage food laws eventually led to the defeat of Senate Bill 2269 yesterday on the House floor.  The bill was initially brought forth to clarify language in the cottage food law which passed in 2017.  After amendments were made on both sides, the bill was further amended in conference committee and passed in the Senate.  Representatives in the House took issue with some of the final changes and felt the bill ultimately placed too many restrictions on cottage food producers.

Other updates
Governor Burgum signed the Social Service Redesign (SB2124) bill .This has been a top priority for ND Counties and has been an issue we have worked on for more than a decade. Here is the Governor's news release on the bill: Governor Burgum's Release on 2124

Also this week, the Senate defeated a bill that would have printed constitutional measures up to 500 words on the ballot. Auditors opposed this bill because of how this would make ballots longer in length or possibly multiple page ballots. 

A publication related bill was passed by both chambers. The bill shifts the cost of election notices for commodity groups to those commodity associations. The bill also included a date change for a notice for financial statements. 

Monday, April 15, 2019

Social Services Redesign Heads to Governor

One of the greatest legislative priorities for ND Counties this session has been to continue the Legislature's efforts to fully fund the direct costs of county social services with state resources rather than property taxes. We are pleased to report that the legislature has made it's final action on SB 2124, the Social Service Redesign bill. The Senate voted to "concur" with the House changes with a vote of 46-1. The bill now goes to the Governor for his signature.

We have reported at length on this legislation, but it goes beyond just permanent state funding, it redesigns the system allowing for enhancements to be made in delivering services across the state. The Social Service Directors worked tirelessly with the Department of Human Services on this bill through the session and during the interim to develop the redesign plan.
Some highlights include:
The development of up to 19 multi-county zones
Local decision-making in zone creation
Zones to be approved and implemented by Jan. 1, 2021
Employment and salaries of existing employees will be preserved

This bill is the culmination of more than a decade of work. The work will now shift to guiding counties and social service departments to implementing the changes set forward in SB 2124. Thank you to all of you who have been involved in providing input and dedicating time to guide the legislative effort.

The House approved the Secretary of State budget, SB 2002 with a vote of 84-6. This bill includes the $12 million requested for election equipment. The bill also included an emergency clause so the work to purchase the equipment can start as soon as the Governor signs the bill. The Secretary of State's office has said counties will be provided training and the equipment will be ready for use for the June Primary. There are not many changes between the Senate and House versions, it is unknown at this point if the bill will go to conference committee. 

Thursday, April 11, 2019

Legislative Update for 4-11

Next week will be very busy with conference committee action. As this schedule is very fluid, it is difficult to plan ahead. Below is the schedule for Friday and Monday. You will notice two of our priority bills are listed. HB 1435 - SIRN funding will have it's first hearing at 11:00 Friday. HB 1286 - Asset Forfeiture Reform will be heard for the first time in conference committee 9:30 Monday morning.  See updates on other action below the schedule...

The House Thursday afternoon divided SB 2315 which relates to private property and posting. All private land is automatically posted unless you are hunting. Because this version is different from the Senate version, we expect it to go to conference committee.

The House also passed SB 2172 - which they amended to allow for a new class 1 exempt firearms license to allow those individuals to carry in public buildings and public events including courthouses, schools and churches. This bill will go to conference committee.

This week, the House Appropriations began a discussion of the extraordinary road costs incurred by some local governments due to heavier than normal snowfall. Struggling with an appropriate means to address the concern, the Adjutant General/DES Budget (SB2016) was amended to include a $5,000 allocation out of the Disaster Relief Fund for each non-oil township. As with such past allocations, we understand that the amounts for unorganized townships would be granted to the county. We suspect there will be much more discussion of this in conference.

Also this week, the Senate Appropriations Committee amended the Industrial Commission Budget (HB1014) to add Sen. Wardner’s local government infrastructure loan program that was killed as SB2275 in the House. Obviously a big conference committee debate to follow.

House Appropriations passed out SB2012, the DHS Budget, with a new section segregating the funding for county social service for the first time. The bill now contains $173.7 million as appeared to the $161 million allocated for the current biennium. This correlated with the fiscal note approved with SB2124, the Redesign bill.

SB2124 has not made it to the Senate floor with the house amendments, but there are indications that the Senate is likely to “concur” and not take it into conference.

On the other hand the Senate has decided to Not Concur with the House changes to SB2345, regarding feedlot zoning. Amendments are being drafted to restore the 50% variance on setbacks allowed to counties and township zoning authorities. The role of the Ag Commissioner in reviewing and mediating zoning conflicts is expected to also change. This may take a rapid response if changes aren’t made as hoped.

The House passed its amended version of SB 2139 which clearly restores eligibility for state cost share for snagging and clearing of watercourses. Supporters are urging the Senate to concur with the House version.

Monday, April 8, 2019

House Passes Feedlot Bill Restricting Local Zoning

House members voted 71-19 to pass SB 2345 which relates to animal feeding operations. Amendments made in committee restricts local zoning authority by repealing the 50% variance on setbacks that is currently allowed and requires a local decision within 60 days. During floor debate, members of the House Agriculture Committee acknowledged the push back on the setback changes but stressed that they would like the chance to address this concern in conference committee. 
Several members expressed that they would be voting against 2345 because of the restriction this would have on local control. The bill will now more than likely end up in a conference committee with house and senate members. 

Saturday, April 6, 2019

Call to Action: No on 2345 - Restricting Local Zoning Authority

As you may be aware from our Legislative Blog postings, we have followed closely SB2345 that would modify some of the zoning and siting requirements for “animal feeding operations”. At the direction of our Legislative Committee, we had not engaged in the debate, as it was felt that some of the requests for greater certainty were reasonable, and the stakeholders had worked with everyone to advance changes that did not directly diminish local land use control. The changes primarily dealt with timely decision-making.
The bill was amended this week in the House Committee, and many of these changes were also reasonable. However, the elimination of the local zoning authorities’ (counties’ and townships’) ability to modify setbacks by 50% was viewed by our legislative committee (many of them producers themselves) as unacceptable. After meeting today, they unanimously directed that we now oppose the bill.
As this bill is on Monday’s HOUSE floor calendar, we are asking our membership to contact their Representatives urging a NO vote. The link to each House member’s email address can be found below – although don’t hesitate to talk to them personally if you see them this weekend.
Please communicate your own thoughts, but ask that they “VOTE NO (RED) on SB2345 to preserve reasonable local zoning control.”

Friday, April 5, 2019

Update includes - Social Services, Extension, Criminal Trespass and Feedlot Zoning

SB2124, Social Service Redesign, passed the House today with only 3 votes against, and virtually no debate. Human Services Committee Chairman, Robin Weisz, provided a high level explanation, and there were no questions or other comments. As there were some changes from the Senate version of the bill, it will now go to the Senate Human Services Committee to review and determine if a conference committee is warranted.

The Senate Appropriations passed out HB 1020 the NDSU Extension and Upper Great Plains Transportation Institute. The committee restored the cuts made by the 2017 budget cuts effecting the funding formula between the state and counties to fund Extension program. $870,000 was added to the NDSU Extension budget to restore the funding which would return the formula to the more equitable method. The committee also fully funded the UGPTI road and bridge study. These two funding priorities were of high importance for counties. This bill will go to the House floor and more than likely be further negotiated in conference committee.

The House Agriculture Committee voted 9-3-2 Do Pass today on SB2315 – Criminal Trespass/Posting. The amended version leaves private land open for hunting unless posted and establishes a “Land Access Committee” tasked with studying access to public and private lands in the 2019-2020 interim. The Committee shall provide recommendations regarding electronic posting of land by August 1, 2020 or all land will be considered closed (posted) on that date. The approved version also provides for law enforcement to issue citations for trespassing on private land.

The House Agriculture Committee voted 11-2-2 Do Pass yesterday on SB2345 – Animal Feeding Operations/Zoning. Amendments in the approved version included a requirement for local zoning authority decision within 60 days, repeal of the fifty percent variance on setbacks currently allowed, and added in grandfather permit language for existing operations.

Thursday, April 4, 2019

The Week Ahead... Includes Appropriations Committee Work and Conference Committees

There has been a lot of work in Appropriations this week as committees are working to kick out bills. 
Conference committees started meeting today and will really pick up next week. Those meetings are set a day in advance or maybe even in a matter of hours. Stay tuned for updates. 
The House Appropriations passed out SB 2002, the Secretary of State's budget which included $11.2 million for new election equipment. They also passed out the Social Service Redesign bill, SB 2124. Watch for both of those on the House floor next week. 
The House also approved SB 2278 Thursday which relates to the farm residence exemption. This bill requires the individual who wants the exemption to provide the information necessary to determine their eligibility for the exemption, it also offers that the information is a confidential record. 
Follow the link to view a status of our priority bills:

Wednesday, April 3, 2019

Legislative Update 4-3-19

Governor's Veto on Drivers License Fees Stands
The North Dakota House failed Tuesday to get enough votes to override the Governor's veto on a bill to increase Drivers' License fees. The bill sought to raise the cost of a non-commercial license from $15 to $30. The cost has not increased in 32 years. Currently, the state is subsidizing the cost of driver's license because the fees do not cover the cost of a drivers' license. the DOT has stated that they will be $5 million short of running the program in the 2019-21 biennium. NDACo supported the bill because that $5 million is being taken from road funding to make up the loss. The House's 47-44 vote fell short of the two-thirds majority needed to override the Governor's veto. The Senate voted last week to challenge the Governor. 

HB 1534 - DUI Clean Up Receives Final Passage
The Senate approved a bill to clean up the DUI statute and comply with recent Supreme Court cases. HB 1534 does not address penalties but only seeks to modify the procedures officers must undertake during the DUI arrest process. Unfortunately, as there are approximately 6500 DUI arrests each year in North Dakota, the Courts are constantly being asked to interpret our DUI statutes. A prime example of this came in 2017 when the North Dakota Supreme Court determined urine tests fall into the category of tests requiring a warrant. This decision modified our current statute thereby causing confusion for officers on the street.

This bill seeks to take a different approach. As opposed to specifying the procedure by statute which may have to be modified after every court case, this bill simply says officers should comply with the requirements of the State and Federal Constitution as expressed by the Courts. That way if or when a court case changes the procedure we do not have to come back and again rewrite the statue.

This bill also makes some changes which were missed in the last couple of sessions which has caused for confusing with suspects, officers and the courts. It also includes an emergency clause so the changes will take effect as soon as the bill is signed by the Governor. 

Senate debates bill to prohibit sale of E-Cigs to Minors
The Senate debated an amendment to engrossed House bill 1477 prohibiting the sale of flavored e-liquid to minors.  The proposed amendment
would have made sale or furnishing of tobacco in any form to minors a class B misdemeanor.  The bill was ultimately divided and the Senate amendment failed.  The Senators then passed the remaining section of bill which was as received from the House.  As passed, HB 1477 provides for a $500 fine for each e-liquid product or device sold or offered for sale to a minor. 

Appropriations Committees Act on Priority Bills  HB 1004, the ND Department of Health budget, passed out of Senate Appropriations today. No changes were made to Local Public Health funding, meaning the $525,000 reduction in the Governor’s budget which was added back in by the House remains. Senate amendments to the health department budget include $200,000 in general funds for sexual violence primary prevention and intent language to implement electronic access to vital records through web access or kiosk in cooperation with other state agencies. The vital records electronic access was added with regards to the increased fees for obtaining the records. HB 1004 now moves to the Senate Floor. 

The House Appropriations passed out the Social Service Redesign bill, SB 2124 with a vote of 18-2. This includes amendments discussed in a prior blog post from changes made in the House Human Services committee. This bill now moves to the House floor.

Monday, April 1, 2019

SIRN & other law enforcement related bills have successful outcomes

There were four major bills impacting law enforcement that had floor action on Monday. We were successful in getting the bills amended and passed out that we wanted to see advance and we were able to kill two that were very concerning. 

First off, the Senate unanimously approved HB 1435 which has been a high priority for not only law enforcement and our public service community but counties as well. This is the Statewide Interoperable Radio Network (SIRN) bill. The bill provides the last step in the 10 year collaborative to study, develop and fully fund a replacement public safety communication system. The Senate amended the bill to restore $40 million that was included as introduced but was later removed by the House Appropriations. This bill will go to the House to decide if they will concur with the change or not concur, which will then trigger a conference committee of House and Senate members to negotiate. 

The Senate passed HB 1286 (46-1), asset forfeiture reform as amended. Law enforcement worked closely with the Senate Judiciary chair on amendments to address concerns by the prime sponsor but yet provide support from law enforcement. While this was a success for today, the work on this bill is not over. HB 1286 will go back to the House for the Judiciary committee to decide if they will concur with the change or not concur with the senate changes. I would encourage those of you with members on the House Judiciary to urge them to support the Senate version of HB 1286. The bill as it stands now, is about as much of a compromise as our law enforcement community is willing to make.

The Senate killed HB 1290 (4-43), the bill restricting law enforcement on private property without permission. The bill was amended into a study and then defeated.

The Senate also defeated HB 1206, which would have allowed for a new firearms license (Class 1 Exempt) and allowed those individuals with the additional training to be allowed to carry firearms at public events, and in public buildings and churches.

Law enforcement had a strong presence on the Senate floor Monday, thank you to those who were engaging with legislators in person and via email.

Thursday, March 28, 2019

Update for 3-28 and look at week ahead

There is only one bill on our tracking list that is scheduled for a hearing next week. A subcommittee of the House Agriculture committee on SB 2315 the private property rights bill that relates to hunting access is meeting Monday at 3:15 in the Peace Garden room. 

Other than that bill, the week will be filled with floor action and monitoring committee work. In addition, conference committees could be scheduled starting next week on bills where the House and Senate have differences. 

Two major law enforcement bills will be voted on in the Senate Monday. HB 1286 relates to asset forfeiture and HB 1290 relates to restricting law enforcement from searching private property. Law enforcement and state's attorneys worked on an amendment to HB 1286 and supports the amended version. They are asking for a Do Not Pass on HB 1290. 

Senate Appropriations will hear HB 1435, which funds the Statewide Interoperable Radio Network (SIRN). The Senate GVA voted to restore $40 million of state funds included in the bill when introduced but was removed by House Appropriations. We will be urging the committee to keep the $40 million in the bill to illustrate the state's commitment to the project. 

The House approved the amendments on the Social Service Redesign bill, SB 2124, it has been referred to House Appropriations. 

The Senate over turned the Governor's veto on increasing driver's license fees. The proposal raises the cost of a non-commercial driver's license from $15 to $30. At current levels the fees do not cover the costs. Fees have not been raised in more than 30 years. 

Expect to see numerous gun related bills on the Senate floor Friday or Monday including one to allow for armed first responders in schools and to allow for a new firearm license, Class 1 exempt, that requires more training but would allow the licensee to carry in public places. 

Here is a summary of bills on our tracking lists that had floor action this week: 
  • Edible medical marijuana - defeated in Senate
  • HB 1270 which required counties to consult with district party leaders and legislators on precinct boundaries - defeated in Senate
  • Increased EMS levy if approved by voters - passed in Senate  
  • Crime to damage infrastructure - passed in House
  • Operation Prairie Dog III bill which would have allowed a revolving loan for infrastructure funds to be available to political subdivisions - defeated in House

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Senate Judiciary hears law enforcement related bills including asset forfeiture

***UPDATE Senate Judiciary committee amended HB 1286, Asset Forfeiture reform, and gave the bill a Do Pass recommendation - following the recommendation from law enforcement. Bill will be voted on the Senate floor Thursday or Friday.

The Senate Judiciary heard testimony Tuesday on HB 1286 which is a bill to reform the asset forfeiture process. NDACo along with State's Attorneys and Sheriffs oppose the bill. However, Chair Diane Larson presented an amended version of the bill that our county and other law enforcement can support. We have been involved in the development of the amendment in order to hopefully reach a compromise on this issue.

In summary, the amended version:
  • In situations where there is no conviction, a forfeiture is allowed if the court finds there is evidence "beyond reasonable doubt" the property was used in the commission of a crime or involved in criminal activity. This change increases the burden of proof required.
  • The amendment we support also requires political subdivisions to create a civil asset forfeiture fund. If a political subdivision does not do this, funds from forfeitures would be deposited into the Attorney General Asset Forfeiture fund. 
  • Still remaining in the bill, that we support, is a reporting requirement for law enforcement to report their asset forfeitures to the Attorney General and restricting forfeitures that are unconstitutionally excessive by requiring that forfeitures are proportionate to the crime. 
Law enforcement along with several state agencies also opposed HB 1290, which restricts law enforcement from searching private property without permission. Several concerns were brought forward outlining how this bill will restrict law enforcement's ability to do their job including serving civil papers, conducting searches for missing people, following up on investigations and checking for things like oil spills, water related issues or complaints. The opposition from Department of Mineral Resources, Department of Health and Game and Fish were helpful in conveying that this is more than a law enforcement issue.

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

SB 2124 - Social Service Redesign Update

The House Human Services passed SB 2124 (Social Service Redesign) out of committee Tuesday, as amended, with an unanimous vote. The amendments will be on the house floor next, then the bill will be re-referred to House Appropriations.

Key changes outlined in the amendment include:

States Attorneys: There will be flexibility provided to zones to select a state’s attorney to represent the zone (ex. for personnel matters, board representation, etc.). The zone will be able to work with the state’s attorneys in the zone to develop a plan for child welfare and other needs. Each state’s attorney will be ensured individual discretion in court filings and representation. Collaboration is encouraged and supported through amendment.

DHS Authority Over Hiring and Dismissal: Language was amended to ensure DHS has the authority to authorize or deny requests to fill positions as well as authority to “veto” employment terminations if determined necessary. DHS will also be provided authority to “veto” an applicant for the Zone Director position if determined necessary. This was done to ensure accountability and state voice recognizing that salaries are paid in full with state dollars.

Zone Board Membership: Language was amended to simplify this section. Zone Board membership will be expected to reflect the community served. In addition, legislators will no longer be required to serve on the board. However, they may fill a community leader slot on the board.

Zone Changes: Permissive language was provided for a process to be developed to allow an individual county to change zones if warranted.

Pilot Projects: Language was included to require all counties to participate and execute pilot/expansion projects in accordance with the provisions of the pilot/expansion.

Salaries and Compensation: Bottom line is equal pay for equal jobs. Parameters were put in place to ensure progress is made towards compensation equity.

Reporting: Addition of reporting requirement for DHS to appropriations committees each session on the metrics, costs, trends, etc. of the redesign work.

FTE's: The number of positions that can be transferred from the zones to the state was reduced to 140 from 223. Specific positions are detailed. Biggest change is the reduction in economic assistance related transfers and the addition of HCBS related transfers. We requested from the Department background on this change. We will forward that additional information as soon as it is available.

Zone Development: All counties will have the flexibility to present plans partnering with whatever other counties they determine to be in the best interest of their areas. This addresses the concerns from Burleigh and Morton. The language continues to reflect that the department has final say over zone membership.

Office Equipment: Permissive language is included to allow transfer of equipment, furnishings, etc. between the zone and the state when an employee transitions from zone to state employment yet remains housed within the zone. This allows for the process but does not require such transfer.
Chairman Weisz introduced a separate amendment that included the items outlined above with the addition of making the Zone Director a state employee. That version was not passed. 

Thursday, March 21, 2019

Schedule for week of March 25th and Update for week

Of course the big news this week is the signing of Operation Prairie Dog. You can read more about that in our last blog post.

You will notice a great deal of slow down in committee work on the schedule for next week. Many committees have finished hearing all their bills and are completing their work on several of the bills yet in committee. A couple bills being heard next week that we want to draw your attention to are HB 1286, asset forfeiture reform and HB 1290 relating to restricting law enforcement on private property.
Your NDACo lobbying team will be spending most of the week monitoring committee work and floor sessions.

Here is the schedule for next week:

NDACo offered support for HB 1020, the NDSU Extension budget and again make a strong pitch for funding to be restored to the level prior to the 2017 state budget cuts. In 2018, ND County Commissioners Association approved a temporary funding formula which shifted an additional $820,000 to counties to continue the county-extension partnership. NDACo along with Bowman County Commissioner, Lynn Brackel provided testimony on the importance of the restoration of funds to this program. 
NDACo in addition to Stark County Engineer Al Heiser also provided testimony in support of the budget for Upper Great Plains Transportation Institute and focused on the need to restore funds to support the work that UGPTI does in support of North Dakota's transportation infrastructure. Supporters are seeking $525,000 in additional funding to update the local roads study.

The Senate GVA amended HB 1435, the State Interoperable Radio Network (SIRN) bill, as requested by the bill sponsor and supported by NDACo and the public safety community. The amendment puts in $40 million of SIIF funding into the project. State funding is critical in order to show statewide commitment to this important project. The bill received a strong Do Pass recommendation. The amendment should be voted on the Senate floor Friday. The bill will then be referred to Appropriations for their review. NDACo will provide updates regarding the timing of this bill and when we will need you to reach out to your Senators.

A few major bills that had floor actions:
- HB 1432 - Senate approved by unanimous vote the bill to allow counties to purchase used machinery at public auction or surplus auctions and equipment.
- HB 1296 - Senate approved to create a new crime for aggravated fleeing
- HB 1210 - Senate defeated bill requiring counties to hold elections for ETA proposals. 

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Governor Burgum Signs Landmark Infrastructure Funding Legislation

Governor Doug Burgum signed legislation Wednesday that provide $250 million to help cities, counties and townships in non-oil producing counties pay for infrastructure needs. Burgum also used the bill signing as an opportunity to urge local leaders to invest the dollars in existing infrastructure areas to limit the growth of property taxes. 

House Bill 1066, also known as "Operation Prairie Dog", passed 80-12 in the House and 46-0 in the Senate. 

The key components of HB 1066, is 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. Starting in the 2021-23 biennium, the bill will direct $115 million to cities, $115 to counties and townships, and $20 million for an airport infrastructure fund. It 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.
"The greatest feature of this bill is that it does not include a sunset, meaning this formula will provide funding long-term to our local political subdivisions," said NDACo Executive Director Terry Traynor. "Our counties, cities and townships will have the opportunity to plan ahead knowing funding will be attained. This bill allows them to save their allocations and apply them to meaningful projects they otherwise may not have been able to do without burdening citizens with special assessments or property taxes." 

“One of the pillars of our Main Street Initiative is smart, efficient infrastructure, and we know communities across North Dakota have significant infrastructure needs. We also support local control, and this bill gives communities enormous latitude to use this bounty of oil tax revenues. If used wisely, these grant dollars represent a golden opportunity to improve the economics of cities, limit the growth of property taxes and create healthy, vibrant communities, enhancing the quality of life for all North Dakotans,” Burgum said.

The law requires the funding be used for essential infrastructure projects, which includes roads, bridges water and sewer lines, and electricity and natural gas infrastructure. 

"The Governor as well as Legislative Leadership acknowledged the strong support and assistance from county and city leaders in designing a workable infrastructure package," Traynor said. “State Government has been a solid partner through the years in addressing local infrastructure needs, and this bill is an excellent example of that partnership.”

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Schedule for week of March 18th & Highlights from week...

Schedule for next week can be found here: Week of March 18th

Highlights from the week:
Revenue Forecast
Legislators received an update on their revenue forecast. It was good news. The projected revenue increases for 2019-2021 are significantly higher – an additional $160 million in general fund revenues and $1 billion in oil tax revenues, reaffirming the ability to fund our state’s priorities.

Operation Prairie Dog Passes Senate
The bill that is one of counties greatest priority, infrastructure funding, received its final vote – passing it and sending it to Governor Burgum. The Senate approved HB 1066 unanimously Thursday. The bill, nicknamed “Operation Prairie Dog”, allocates gross production tax revenue to fund infrastructure needs in cities, counties and townships in both oil and non-oil regions. There are also several state funds like the general fund, property tax relief fund and Strategic Infrastructure and Investment Fund (SIIF), that will receive oil tax funding through the new formula established in this bill.
A majority of the floor discussion on this bill revolved around the “buckets” and their placement. The House moved a SIIF bucket, placing it in front of the county/township distribution. Senator Rich Wardner pointed out that the forecast indicates all the buckets will fill and the county/township distribution should fill.
Under the formula, several state buckets receive funds followed by: $30.4 million to city, $30.4 million to county/township and $169.2 million into a joint non-oil city/county bucket to be split evenly.
The bill specifies funding is to be used for “essential infrastructure projects” which are defined in the bill. Wardner also highlighted how this bill allows political subdivisions to save their funding for use on large projects. He also illustrated how the bill will result in alleviating some pressure on property taxes and special assessments to fund infrastructure projects.
In total, this bill will result in at least an $800 million investment for local infrastructure. The bill will be effective for taxable years after June 30, 2019.

Statewide Interoperable Radio Network (SIRN)
HB 1435 which provides allocation of funding for the Statewide Interoperable Radio Network (SIRN) was heard in the Senate GVA committee Thursday. The committee heard testimony from numerous individuals who depend on the radio network for the safety of themselves and our citizens. The public safety community provided real-life examples of the importance of the radios along with the failures they have currently experienced due to the aging radio network currently being used.
A proposed amendment was provided by the prime sponsor of the bill to restore $40 million of state funds that was removed by House Appropriations. The $40 million of state funds is an important component of the bill as it reflects the state’s share and its commitment to the project. Currently, the bill authorizes the use of the .50 9-1-1 fee approved last session to be used in providing a$120 million line of credit to fund the $206 million project.

Social Service Redesign
The social service redesign legislation (SB2124) had its first House hearing on Wednesday in the Human Services Committee. The overview by DHS Exec. Director, Chris Jones, and the section-by-section explanation by DHS legal counsel, Jonathan Alm, consumed the entire morning due to the length and complexity of the bill. Returning in the afternoon, NDACo presented county support and testified to the desire of some counties for more time to develop multi-county zones. It was also noted that county state’s attorneys would like to have a clarifying amendment regarding their role in representing human service zones. Kim Jacobson, Agassiz Valley Social Service Director, provided thoughts from the local social service perspective. A Morton County Social Service Board also spoke in support but urged the preservation of local decision making in the determination of zone partners. There was no opposition testimony.
Other bills of note:
Senate defeated bill to eliminate sobriety checkpoints
House passed bill related to centrally assessed deadlines
Senate defeated bill to allow one license plate for sports cars
House Finance and Tax committee passed out a farm-residence exemption bill that changes the eligibility so that 66% of their gross income, including spouse, is from the farm.

Thursday, March 7, 2019

Schedule for Week of 3/11/19

Schedule for Week of 3/11/19 found here: Week 11 Schedule

Primary Seat Belt Voted Down
House members voted Thursday to defeat the primary seat belt bill. There was lengthy debate on the issue. Supporters referred to data that illustrates how seat belts are key in saving lives in traffic crashes. A recent survey of North Dakotan's shows that 62% support mandatory seat belt use. Opponents of the bill argued that it should remain a secondary offense and be a personal choice. SB 2060 was defeated 38-54.

House Tax & Finance Holds Hearings on Farm Residence Exemption 
NDACo provided testimony Wednesday to the House Finance and Tax committee on two bills related to the farm residence exemption. SB 2278 seeks to improve the administration of the farm residence exemption by shifting the responsibility to the individual wishing for the exemption to provide the information necessary to prove their eligibility. The bill also ensures that the financial records of the landowner are kept confidential. The committee gave this bill a Do Pass recommendation. NDACo provided information to the committee in a neutral position on SB 2360. Supporters say the proposal modernizes the definition of "farmer" and updates the farm home exemption. The plan would allow for farmers to be eligible as long as 66% of their gross income is from farming activities, this also includes the gross income of a spouse. The farm residence exemption has been in place since 1919. There are approximately 13,000 individuals receiving the farm residence exemption. In addition there are 30,000 farms in North Dakota. 

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

Supporters Stress Importance of Infrastructure Funding

Counties along with others once again stressed their support for "Operation Prairie Dog" the infrastructure funding bill being proposed this Legislative Session. The Senate Tax and Finance Committee heard HB 1066 Tuesday. This was the first look at the bill for Senators. The bill passed the House in February.
The bill utilizes the state's oil and gas tax revenues to provide infrastructure funding for oil and non-oil cities, counties and townships as well as continuing to flow into several state funds including the general fund, property tax relief fund and the Strategic Investment and Improvements Fund (SIIF). The House did move the SIIF bucket above the non-oil county bucket.

Senate Majority Leader, Rich Wardner, reassured the committee that under the current oil price assumptions; all "buckets" will fill. "This is an investment into North Dakota," said Wardner. "If we want people to move here and to continue to live here, our cities and counties need to have good infrastructure. While this bill isn't intended to be a property tax reduction bill; over time it will reduce property taxes because this will relieve some of the burden of relying on property taxes to fund major road, bridge, water, sewer and other infrastructure projects."

Morton County Commissioner Bruce Strinden stressed the function of certainty that is provided in this bill. "The Legislature has been wise in its past efforts to address local infrastructure needs, and county officials are extremely grateful for those efforts. The way you have addressed gross production tax allocations and the multiple times that you have allocated one-time funding have been significant in addressing the enormous unmet need for local road improvement.  This bill today will improve upon these efforts by bringing a degree of certainty to future funding – allowing counties to more effectively plan and program improvements for greater efficiency and cost-effectiveness," said Strinden. 
Mountrail County Commissioner Trudy Ruland and Grand Forks Highway Engineer Nick West also testified in support of the bill on behalf of oil and non-oil counties. 

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