Politics & Government

ND Legislature

The majority leaders in the House and Senate said they believe the Legislature could end its session Saturday.

When the session started, they had hoped to have 10 days in the bank in case they needed to come back – but that’s not going to happen – and  both House Majority Leader Al Carlson and Senate Majority Leader Rich Wardner said it’s more likely they will get done this weekend.

"I'd like to be done before Saturday, but I think that's probably as good a guess as you can find," Wardner told reporters.

As to what could be roadblocks to adjournment?

Xcel and buried power lines in Fargo

Apr 17, 2017

The Public Service Commission said a plan to have Fargo’s Xcel Energy electric customers to pay for a project in downtown Fargo is raising questions.

Fargo city leaders have asked Xcel to bury power lines in the downtown area. It proposes a “special facilities rider” on Fargo’s Xcel customers’ bills.

"It basically allows a company to develop a plan," said Commissioner Julie Fedorchak. "They (Xcel) would account for the costs that are higher than standard construction parameters. If the city agrees, Xcel would allocate it to all the city customers."

Its sponsors call it “landmark legislation.”

The state Senate has passed a bill that rewrites the medical marijuana initiated measure – to make sure the state can regulate it. The bill sets out the allowable forms medical marijuana can take – including smoking. It sets limits on the amount of allowable THC in the product. And it works to make sure it isn’t used for recreation.

House says 'no' to parking meters

Apr 13, 2017
ND Legislature

The House has said “no” to parking meters.

The meters have been banned in North Dakota since the 1950s. The House had earlier amended the bill – saying parking meters could be allowed in a city if voters okay it. But a conference committee  came back with the original Senate language – allowing that decision to be made by local elected officials.

Rep. Jim Grueneich (R-Jamestown) said he doubted whether many cities would install parking meters.

ND Legislature

The House has passed its version of a property tax relief bill.

Like the Senate version , it achieves relief through the state picking up the costs of county social service programs. This will replace the 12 percent buy-down program currently in state law. But the House plan only buys down what a local county levies for those programs, whereas the Senate’s version gives those counties that don’t levy the maximum 20 mills a pot of money to make up the difference between what they  actually collect and what property taxpayers would receive under the 12 percent buy-down.

ND Legislature

A conference committee has reached agreement on the budget bill for the North Dakota Highway Patrol.

Conferees agreed to keep a proposal in that bill for permanent security measures at the state Capitol. Metal detectors were temporarily installed for the 2017 Legislative session because of concerns about Dakota Access Pipeline protests that might have come to the Capitol building.

There's also money in that budget for security guards to carry tasers.

DOT could be asked to study its fee structure

Apr 12, 2017
ND Legislature

A conference committee has begun looking at the North Dakota Department of Transportation’s budget.

In the House version of the bill is a requirement that the DOT report to the Legislature's Budget Section on the fees it charges in comparison to the actual costs of those services.

"We're basically subsidizing the cost of license plates and driver's licenses, at a tune of $4.5 million," Re. Keith Kempenich told the conference committee.

ND Legislature

An agreement is near on a bill to have the state pick up the cost of county social services.

The House Finance and Taxation Committee has aspproved amendments to the bill introduced by House Majority Leader Al Carlson (R-Fargo. The amendments call for a two year pilot project, involving having the state take over all North Dakota counties’ costs for providing social service programs. Then, after two years,

"We're going to ask the Department of Human Services to put in their budget a plan for the future," Carlson told Capitol reporters.

Lawsuit over behavioral health?

Apr 10, 2017
ND Legislature

A Fargo legislator believes the state is going backwards in behavioral health -- and that may lead to a lawsuit.

Sen. Tim Mathern (D-Fargo) said House Bill 1040, which came out of interim studies on the issue, originally had $28 million in it. But that’s now down to $400,000. And he said that has essentially destroyed new initiatives.

Mathern said in the state department of Human Services, over 100 positions have been cut, many dealing with behavioral health.

ND Legislature

A bill supporters call true property tax relief – and reform – is a source of disagreement between the House and the Senate as the 2017 Legislative session heads toward adjournment.

That bill would have the state take over full funding of social service programs now funded by county property taxpayers.

"That really is an important bill as far as getting everything to fall in line," said Senate Majority Leader Rich Wardner (R-Dickinson).

Wardner said he believes it is sustainable property tax relief.