Politics & Government

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.

ND Legislature

A House committee is looking at a bill that could lead to North Dakota collecting sales tax from on-line retailers.

The bill could set up a court case to overturn the Supreme Court’s ruling in “Quill v. North Dakota.” In that case, the Court rejected the idea of states collecting sales tax from Internet retailers. Sen. Dwight Cook (R-Mandan)  is the sponsor. He said one of two things would have to happen to allow that tax collection.

ND University System

A House Appropriations subcommittee is now working on the budget for higher education.

This week, the University System and its 11 campuses are making presentations to the Education and Environment division. The Senate has already made some significant spending cuts. Its version proposes general fund spending of $616 million. That compares with $837 million in the current biennium.

ND Legislature

The state Senate has turned down a study to see if the Life Skills and Transition center in Grafton should be replaced with more community-based services for individuals with disabilities.

That facility is formerly known as the Grafton State School.  If it was to be closed, a Constitutional amendment would have to have voter approval.

The Senate Human Services Committee voted 6 to 1 for a “do not pass.”

The Legislature is working on a measure to bring North Dakota into compliance with the “Real ID” federal law.

That law is fully implemented in October 2020. North Dakota has had a waiver – but that waiver expires this October. And a failure to comply means North Dakotans will not be able to use a driver’s license to board airplanes or enter federal buildings. People would have to use a passport to accomplish those things.

The state Department of Transportation is proposing an “opt-in” option. 

PERS changes studied by a Senate committee

Mar 3, 2017
ND Legislature

A Senate committee is looking at a proposal to change the governance of the Public Employees Retirement System.

As it is now, a board oversees the system. That board is also responsible for picking a health insurance carrier for all state workers and retirees.  The House made changes in that structure – so that the current Board would become an advisory board, with the director of PERS being appointed by the Governor, and the Legislature’s Employee Benefits Committee having more of an oversight role.

People from the eight North Dakota cities that would lose their local Department of Transportation shops packed a hearing room at the state Capitol – to try and get the House to restore those cuts.

The reductions already passed the Senate – and a hearing was held before the House Appropriations Government Operations section.

Boyd McKenzie is a businessman from Courtenay – one of the cities that would lose a DOT shop. He said his concern is about snow removal.

ND Legislature

A Bismarck lawmaker wants the Legislature to study whether the Life Skills and Transition Center in Grafton should be closed – and replaced with community based services.

That center serves people with disabilities. In the 1980s, when it was called the Grafton State School, it was one of the focal points for a lawsuit brought by the Association for Retarded Citizens. That lawsuit led to the closing of the San Haven State Hospital.

ND Legislature

Supporters of replacing buildings on the Valley City State University and NDSU campuses say they hope to keep the discussions alive – until the new state revenue forecast is issued March 9th.

VCSU wants to replace Foss Hall, the fine arts building – which will be on the wrong side of the proposed Sheyenne River dike. That building was the only one to make the list in the Board of Higher Education’s budget request.

NDSU wants to replace Dunbar Hall.

Neither project was approved when the Senate passed the higher-ed budget.