Politics & Government | Prairie Public Broadcasting

Politics & Government

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.

The President of an organization representing state employees is happy to hear talk about pay raises for state employees in the next two year budget cycle.

A Republican State Representative from Minot has filed petitions to run for the State Senate – as an independent.

Andrew Maragos has served in the House from 1993 to 2005, and returned to the House in the 2011 session. He was defeated for the GOP nomination in the June primary.

"Those people who have supported me in the past, and liked the way I represented them, asked me to continue," Maragos said. "When people that have supported you ask you to do something for them after all those years of doing something for you, you don't say 'no.'"

Pay raises for state employees?

Aug 16, 2018
Dave Thompson / Prairie Public

Some members of the Legislature’s Revenue Advisory Committee think the 2019 session needs to seriously look at a pay raise for state employees.

State workers did not get a pay raise from the 2017 Legislature, because of budget issues. And Gov. Doug Burgum is again asking agencies to submit reduced budgets for the 2019-2021 biennium.

House Majority Leader Al Carlson (R-Fargo) suggested pay raises need to be on the table for discussion.

Dave Thompson / Prairie Public

Two Democratic NPL statewide candidates say the state of North Dakota needs to up its game when it comes to information technology.

They say, for example, businesses that have to file registration information with the Secretary of State’s office, or tax information with the state Tax Department are often frustrated with the difficulty in doing that, given the current IT platforms.

Tax Commissioner candidate Kylie Overson told Bismarck reporters she’s been talking with Secretary of State candidate Joshua Boschee about creating a “Hub.”