Politics & Government

A subcommittee of the Senate Appropriations Committee has begun studying the higher education budget.

The subcommittee is working off the new budget proposal submitted by Gov. Doug Burgum. That proposal is for $507 million for the University System. That’s down from the original 2015-2017 base budget of $614 million. And it's down from the post-allotment base of $567 million.

The state of North Dakota has launched a new Website that Governor Burgum is touting as a one-stop shop for people looking for information during a significant public event – such as a disaster.

The Website is NDResponse.gov.

"That Website is going to be a way for us to have one-stop shopping for North Dakota residents and the media, when they search on-line for the state's response during any major event," Burgum told reporters.

A Senate committee is looking at a proposal to have the state take over the costs of delivering human service programs at the county level.

Right now, counties levy a property tax for that.

Supporters say this would be real property tax relief – and reform.

A coalition of North Dakota anti-smoking and health groups is asking the Legislature to continue the funding the state’s Center for Tobacco Prevention and Control Policy.

The agency was created in 2008 by initiated measure. It’s funded through an additional settlement in a lawsuit against several big tobacco companies.

House rejects money for new voting machines

Jan 25, 2017
Courtesy ND Secretary of State

The state House has rejected a measure to buy new voting machines.

Secretary of State Al Jaeger had asked for a $9 million appropriation to replace the current machines – which he says were already obsolete when the state bought them back in 2003. Money to buy them came from the “Help America Vote Act” – but Jaeger says that federal money was a one-time appropriation.

Courtesy ND Legislature

A Bismarck lawmaker has introduced a bill allowing parents to set up “educational savings accounts.”

"It is a bill that could be described as 'The Money Follows the Child," said Rep. Rick Becker (R-Bismarck).

Parents would have to opt out of sending their children to public school. Becker said it’s a school choice bill – that allows parents to save money – tax free -- to send their children to private schools. He said not only does it help families, it will inspire public schools to improve.

Dave Thompson / Prairie Public

A House committee is looking at a bill that would do away with the prohibition that retail stores can’t be open before noon Sundays.

Rep. Pamela Anderson (D-Fargo) is the bill’s sponsor. She told the House Industry, Business and Labor Committee that individual stores should be given the choice of when to open on Sundays, or being closed that day. Anderson said stores like Hobby Lobby do not open at all Sundays -- and that's their choice.

"State law should not get involved in that argument," Anderson said. "We either believe in free market -- or not."

VCSU proposes a $22.5 million integrated carbon plant

Jan 23, 2017

Valley City State University wants to issue $22.5 million in revenue bonds to build a new integrated carbon plant – with an eye toward selling a by-product.

It would replace the current power plant.

The plant would use lignite coal. It would capture the carbon, turn it into “activated carbon,” and sell it – using that money to pay off the bond.

A new report shows state revenues tracking very close to the December state revenue forecast.

The numbers are running only about $171,000 behind forecast.

"Budget forecasting is always a tug-of-war between reality and fantasy," said Sen. Ray Holmberg (R-Grand Forks), chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee. "I believe these preliminary numbers indicate reality won out."

Holmberg said when the December forecast was prepared, state lawmakers wanted to be on the conservative side when it came to tax collections.

'Marsy's Law' cards coming

Jan 23, 2017

When voters approved "Marsy's Law" -- the Constitutional measure on crime victims' rights -- the law required "Marsy's cards" to be given out by law enforcement.

Those cards were to spell out a victim's rights.

"Across the state, different jurisdictions were doing different versions of a 'Marsy's Card,'" said North Dakota Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem. "Some had a simple business card-sized document taht had a link to a Website. Others were handing out the entire Constitutional provision. Neither one of those are very helpful."