Politics & Government | Prairie Public Broadcasting

Politics & Government

Taxable sales and purchases in North Dakota were up 10 percent for the second quarter of 2018, compared to the same period a year ago.

Tax Commissioner Ryan Rauschenberger sais taxable sales and purchases for April, May and June were $5.15 billion. Rauschenberger said a lot of the growth is coming from western North Dakota.

"The growth is coming from oil exploration," Rauschenberger said. "If you look at Dickinson, taxable sales and purchases were up 14 percent. In Williston, it was up over 30 percent."

The director of North Dakota’s Housing Finance Agency said there appears to be a shortage of home builders who are willing to build single-family homes at the price point that’s affordable for first-time homebuyers.

"What we're hearing is that if the typical buyer is looking for a $450,000 house, that's what they're building," said HFA director Jolene Kline. "There's less profit in the lower, entry level homes, and they're not willing to target that market today."

Kline said the search is now on for builders willing to take on the more modest priced homes.

The Legislative Procedures and Arrangements Committee is now on-record supporting pay raises for state employees.

The Committee approved a proposal to give Legislative branch employees two percent raises each year of the upcoming biennium.

Senate Appropriations Committee chairman Ray Holmberg (R-Grand Forks) made the motion to put money for those raises in the branch’s budget proposal.

"We are sending a message," Holmberg said in an interview. "The Legislature feels state employees deserve a pay raise."

Riemers officially off the ballot

Sep 4, 2018
Dave Thompson / Prairie Public

It’s now official – Roland Riemers won’t be on the November ballot.

And that means the Libertarian Party has some work to do before the 2020 election.

Riemers, from Grand Forks, ran for Secretary of State as the lone Libertarian on the primary ballot. He received 247 votes in the count just after the primary election. He needed 300. After that, a recount was ordered by the state Supreme Court. The recount gave him 248 votes.

Wardner: Infrastructure bill taking shape

Sep 4, 2018

North Dakota Senate Majority Leader Rich Wardner (R-Dickinson) said a bill for infrastructure spending is almost ready to go.

Wardner and a number of Legislative colleagues announced the proposal earlier this year. It would create three new “buckets” for oil tax revenue -- $115 million for cities, $115 million for counties and $50 million for airports.

Wardner said tweaks are being made to the proposal. But he said there’s a lot of support for the plan, because the benefits are statewide, not just in the oil patch.

As activity ramps up in the Bakken, sales tax collections from that part of the state are also ramping up.

Sales tax collections declined when the oil boom slowed down – and that was a big part of the reason the 2017 Legislature had to cut budgets.

And it also affected city sales tax collections.

"We're experencing a bit of a decline in those collections," said Bismarck city administrator Keith Hunke. "In 2015, we collected about $17.5 million; in 2016, we collected $16.7 million; and last yar, we collected $15.7 million."

Secretary of State's office

The state of North Dakota has received $3 million from the Federal Election Assistance Commission.

The money was approved by Congress. It can be used for such things as election security or new voting systems.  

Secretary of State Al Jaeger said for North Dakota, he will be asking the 2019 Legislature to use that money to upgrade North Dakota’s voting system.

Morton County Sheriff's Office

$12.8 million.

That’s the amount still owed to the Bank of North Dakota for law enforcement’s efforts in the Dakota Access Pipeline protests.

"As you know, a lawsuit has been filed against the Corps of Engineers to recover some of that cost," National Guard Adjutant General Alan Dohrmann told the state Emergency Commission. "We continue to work primarily with Sen. John Hoeven (R-ND) to se if we can again access Department of Justice grants."

'State needs to stop criminalizing behavioral health'

Aug 24, 2018
Dave Thompson / Prairie Public

Behavioral health professionals say North Dakota is on the right path to get those services to people that need them.

But they say the state has a way to go.

The Legislature’s interim Justice Reinvestment Committee heard from representatives of the state Department of Corrections and from Human Services about treatment – how it works and what the needs are.

Dave Thompson / Prairie Public

An interim Legislative committee continues to work on a bill that could allow the state to adopt a self-insurance plan for state employee health benefits.

Right now, the state is contracting with Sanford Health to provide that benefit. But House Majority Leader Al Carlson (R-Fargo) had suggested the state go to self-insurance – as a way to control costs.

The Public Employees’ Retirement System selects the health insurance provider. Under a bill draft the committee is now studying, the PERS board could select the self-insurance option.