Politics & Government

Senator calls it 'real property tax reform'

Mar 2, 2017
ND Legislature

A bill is making its way through the Legislature that its sponsor calls “real property tax reform.”

"It's going to change the way folks get notified of a potential property tax increase," said Sen. Dwight Cook (R-Mandan), the bill's sponsor -- and the chairman of the Senate Finance and Taxation Committee.

The bill requires all potential property tax increases – whether it be county, schools, park districts or some other taxing entity  -- to be provided to taxpayers on one single form.

Secretary of State's office

Secretary of State Al Jaeger is hoping the state Senate will restore funding for new voting machines and new electronic poll books.

Jaeger proposed a $6 million expenditure to replace the voting machines, as well as another $4 million to have electronic poll books in all the counties. But the House nixed both items.

Jaeger said the current voting machines were purchased in 2004 as part of the federal Help America Vote Act. He said the counties have had to cannibalize existing machines for parts to keep some of the machines running.

ND Legislature

A potential disagreement looms between the House and Senate over the budget bill for the Public Employees Retirement System.

The House made several changes to the make-up of the PERS board, and would make it a cabinet agency, giving the Governor appointment power for the agency director. It would also give the Legislature’s Employee Benefits Committee more oversight.

That issue boiled over two years ago, after the PERS board changed health insurance carriers. It led to a special session.

Coffee With Cramer: Hot Coffee and Heated Dialogue

Feb 23, 2017
T.McDonald / Prairie Public

A crowd of 200-plus filled a Fargo coffee shop Thursday afternoon for a town hall meeting with Representative Kevin Cramer. Reporter Todd McDonald was on hand and files this report…

Courtesy ND Legislature

03039 Breathe ND                                                   2-22-17 ddt

The Senate has voted to dissolve the Tobacco Control and Prevention agency.

That agency is funded by part of the so-called “master settlement” on a lawsuit states filed against big tobacco companies. Both the Dalrymple budget and the Burgum budget called for the agency’s elimination, and the duties to be transferred to the state Health department.

The agency was created by initiated measure passed by voters in 2008.

Medical Marijuana Bill passes Senate

Feb 23, 2017
Courtesy ND Legislature

The state Senate has passed a bill to regulate medical marijuana.

The new regulations are designed to implement the initiated measure passed by voters in the November election.

"The main objective was to insure the voters are going to get medical marijuana," said Senate Majority Leader Rich Wardner (R-Dickinson), the bill's main sponsor. "All parties involved were committed to doing the right thing. And I think we got it."

The state Health Department will administer the program.

House passes 'shared parenting' bill

Feb 22, 2017
Courtesy ND Legislature

The House has passed a “shared parenting” bill that supporters say is much better than the initiated measures voters rejected.

The bill says there is a “rebuttable presumption” that divorced parents should equally share custody of their children. The bill says it could be 50-50, but could be as low a percentage as 65-35. But Rep. Shannon RoersJones (R-Fargo) said the judge will still have the final say concerning custody.

Higher Ed budget bill passes Senate

Feb 22, 2017
Courtesy ND Legislature

The state Senate has approved the University System’s budget.

It’s a $65 million reduction in general fund spending from the 2015-2017 biennium.

"It's a large decrease," said Sen. Ray Holmberg (R-Grand Forks), the chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee. "But I think with good leadership at the campus level, and at the board level, they can continue to grow."

House rejects further limits on weaponizing drones

Feb 22, 2017
Courtesy ND Legislature

The House has rejected a bill to prohibit law enforcement from using less lethal and non-lethal weapons on drones.

Two years ago, the Legislature prohibited the use of lethal weapons on drones.

The bill’s sponsor – Rep. Rick Becker (R-Bismarck) – said North Dakota was the first state in the country to allow any kind of weapons on those unmanned aerial vehicles. He told the House allowing weapons removes what he calls the “humanity” of law enforcement officers.

Courtesy Lynn Helms

North Dakota Mineral Resources Director Lynn Helms believes the state needs to rethink how it handles sales taxes in revenue forecasting.

Helms said during the oil boom, sales tax rose rapidly – and as things slowed in the oil patch, sales tax collections dropped.

"Of course, there was the materials that go into wells when they're drilled, and the materials that go into hydraulic fracturing," Helms said in an interview. "Those two things will come back when drilling activity increases."

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