Politics & Government

PSC pushing to keep two rail inspectors

Mar 21, 2017

The Public Service Commission is asking the state Senate to restore one of the positions the House cut in the state rail inspection program.

The budget request calls for two full time employee. The House cut it to one.

"One of them is considered temporary, the other is full time," said Commissioner Julie Fedorchak. "The temporary employee is working full time. We invested in his training and his certification, and he's highly qualified to act independently as a rail inspector."

Fedorchak said he's doing some important things, including mechanical inspection.

ND Legislature

The House has passed a measure that keeps secret the names of applicants for public sector jobs.

The names of the final three vying for the open job would become public.

Supporters of the measure say the state’s current open records law discourages some of the best people from applying.

Earlier, the House passed a measure to keep confidential the names of people applying for college presidencies. Rep. Mary Johnson (R-Fargo) used a recent search at UND as an example.

ND Legislature

The House Energy and Natural Resources Committee is looking at a bill that would require approval from a county commission and a regional water resource board before any disposal site for out of state nuclear waste is located in a North Dakota county.

A Fargo businessman is working on an initiated measure to do away with the law that prohibits retail stores from being open before noon on Sunday.

That –after the state Senate rejected a bill to make that change. It had earlier passed the House – on a second try.

ND Legislature

03036 Property tax social services new                           3-15-17 ddt

Representatives of county governments packed a House hearing on a bill that would have the state take over funding of social service programs offered at the county level.

Counties have a special property tax levy for social service programs. And they say the proposal is property tax relief – and property tax reform.

The Legislature has voted to de-fund the Tobacco Control and Prevention agency – also known as “Breathe ND.”

That agency’s tobacco prevention functions will be taken over by the state Health Department. Seven staffers and a temporary employee will lose their jobs – and one position will transfer to the Health Department.

The agency was created by initiated measure in 2008 – and receives its money from the lawsuit settlement states reached by the big tobacco companies.

The Senate already voted to defund “Breathe ND.” And the House has now followed suit. 

Dave Thompson / Prairie Public

A bill to remove the remaining “trigger” in North Dakota’s oil taxes is now before a senate committee.

The bill – authored by House Majority Leader Al Carlson (R-Fargo) – would remove language adopted two years ago, when most of the tax triggers were removed. That bill lowered the oil tax from 11 ½ percent to 10 percent – and got rid of tax reductions tied to lower prices. It did have a provision that if oil went back up to $90 a barrel, the tax would go to 11 percent.

Proposal would get the state into the casino business

Mar 13, 2017
Dave Thompson / Prairie Public

A House committee is studying a Constitutional measure to allow up to six state owned casinos to be built in rural North Dakota.

House Majority Leader Al Carlson (R-Fargo) authored the measure. He said the casinos would be built to be “destination locations.” They would be 5 miles or more from cities of 5000 people or larger, and they would be at least 20 miles from the reservations, which have their own casinos.  It would be put on the statewide ballot in 2018.

Carlson told the House Judiciary Committee the "face of North Dakota has changed."

Dave Thompson / Prairie Public

A new state revenue forecast shows tax collections will be about $46 million less than what lawmakers had expected in January for the current biennium.

It also shows a $103 million shortfall for the 2017-2019 biennium.

The big driver – lower than expected sales tax revenue.

The House Finance and Taxation Committee is studying a Senate-passed measure that would consolidate all statements of estimated property tax changes into one statement.

Right now, each taxing district sends notices of the changes – and tells taxpayers the time and place of hearings on those changes.  And those changes are often expressed in mills. The measure before the Committee would put all those notices together in one document, and would express changes in dollar amounts.