Legislative Update: 4/7/17
The Senate and the House continue to meet in conference committees this week, hoping to come to a final agreement on the different versions of bills that passed in both chambers. In addition, we are steadily continuing to chip away at the total number of bills that have yet to be voted on. Some important questions still remain, and our leadership is hard at work determining how we will close up the budget.
This week, the Senate concurred with House amendments and sent SB 2327 to the Governor’s desk. This bill will create a new Dept. of Environmental Quality. By transferring responsibilities into this new department, North Dakota will improve its ability to retain primacy in choosing how to meet federal regulations most prudently. This legislation emphasizes the importance of local control and government efficiency, and it is an effort to re-invent government in order to work more effectively.
The Senate bill regarding campaign ethics and finances was passed in the House this week and the Senate concurred with the amendments. This Republican-sponsored bill will bring more transparency to campaign finance reporting. This bill will promote transparency in elections, will give voters online access to important campaign finance information and prohibit personal use of campaigns funds.
The bill for the implementation of medical marijuana has finally passed both the House and the Senate. Amendments were added in the House to allow for additional forms of the product to be available and also lowered the fees for application fees. The legislation also prioritizes increasing the efficiency and cost-effectiveness of the system without restricting access to those seeking medical marijuana.
An amendment that was widely publicized was on the University System’s budget. There has been much speculation about the continuation of the North Dakota State University Nursing School at Sanford in Bismarck. Republicans have always been very committed to the continuation of expanding education and healthcare professionals, especially in a time of a nurse shortage. The program is not going to be closing, Sanford will be negotiating a better public-private partnership for the University and the students.
The Senate bill to restore the royalty payments to the rightful owners for minerals under the Missouri river, passed on the House floor. This bill not only is the right thing to do, by giving back land that wasn’t the state’s property, but it also could spur more oil development under lake Sakakawea, due to this bill clarifying ownership of mineral rights.
Many of the biggest issues still remain for the next week or two, as the legislature makes difficult decisions on how to fund our priorities and how to go home with the budget balanced.