Legislative Update: April 14th, 2017

Conference committees are in full swing and we are working with the Senate to put bills in the best possible form before they are sent to the Governor’s desk. We have been working around the clock to defend the House’s position on conference committees and have had much shorter floor sessions. We are still hoping to be able to save a few days and not go a full eighty days.

The controversy regarding NDSU Sanford Nursing school has been resolved and an amendment to the lease agreement has been made. This involves setting the rent back to $1 per year for the remaining two years of the lease. This saves the taxpayers money, ensures that students will not have to carry the burden of paying for this huge increase in rent, and helps NDSU maintain their program in Bismarck. The legislative body never had an intention of closing the school. The newly revised agreement will be on the agenda of the State Board of Higher Education at the end of the month.

A bill to absorb county social services in a two-year pilot program into the state health department was debated on the floor for over an hour on Wednesday. The House Finance and Taxation committee amended the bill to take away the 12% buydown for property tax relief and automatic inflators. The state is going to provide over $1.1 billion dollars in property tax relief in the next biennium and take away 20 mil levies of local property tax authority. By doing this, the state will be providing permanent property tax relief and make the government more effective. This bill has begun conference committees on this issue.

This week, the Senate elected Sen. Dave Oehlke of Devils Lake to be the next President Pro Tempore. He was sworn in on Thursday and exchanged gavels with Sen. Gary Lee, the Senate’s previous President Pro Temp. He will preside as the President of the Senate whenever Lt. Gov. Brent Sanford is absent. A few other senators were recognized in the last week as well. Sen Jerry Klein was named the Emergency Medical Services (EMS) Legislator of the Year, and Sen. Janne Myrdal was named the state chair of the National Foundation for Women Legislators (NFWL).

This week, SB 2186, the innovative education plan, was signed into law by the Governor. This bill establishes an innovative education program that allows schools and school districts to apply to the superintendent for a waiver of certain chapters of state law and associated rules if it will improve education delivery, administration of education, provide more opportunities, or improve academic success. The bill was the result of a bipartisan effort to give teachers more creative control over their classrooms.

The journeys of a few major bills came to an end in the Senate this week. SB 2344, the medical marijuana bill, was sent to the governor on Thursday after the Senate concurred with House amendments. In addition, the Senate chose not to pass HB 1436, choosing to put the idea of self-funding health insurance for state employees into a study instead.

Many of the large budgets and issues will not be finalized until the final days of the session.