Legislative Report, January 20, 2013
Representative Rick Holman, ND District 20
Nine days down of the potential 80 day session. Most of the bills coming to the floor for a vote are tied to actions that make the many departments of state government run a little more efficiently, hence, not much difference of opinion yet. As topics become more debatable, the Senate and House floor sessions will become more lively. With the improved video system, you can watch the floor sessions on your computer. Go to the legislative Web site, click on VIDEO on the top bar and watch the session. http://www.legis.nd.gov/assembly/63-2013 (Sessions are also archived for later viewing)
There are many different ideas of how North Dakota should handle the issues coming forward. Many obvious needs have been delayed for years while others are a result of fast paced oil and gas development. Now that the state has the means to fix problems, why not use a portion of the state’s surplus to do catch up? Some legislators, however, want to give more tax breaks to the oil companies who are rapidly harvesting our oil resources. Do we need to accelerate oil development when counties, cities and townships, and people are struggling just to take care of things? To paraphrase one person’s comments, “If you think of oil as the goose that laid the golden egg, it’s important that we maintain the integrity of the nest.”
Higher Education budgets were on stage this week in Senate Appropriations. Later, after crossover, the same (or altered) proposals will come forward to the House. Most colleges and universities are supportive of the Executive Branch proposals for funding the next two years. Nothing is final, of course, until the last vote in late April and the Governor’s signature makes it a reality.
Local fire and rescue units are stressed for funding. Money from the Insurance premium tax has not been increased to keep up with inflation. House Bill 1145 (http://www.legis.nd.gov/assembly/63-2013/documents/13-0207-04000.pdf) will grant local units a greater share of the Insurance Reserve Fund’s proceeds. As it moves through the legislative process, we will need to monitor it to insure that it does what is needed to support our local units. As a reaction to news of the Newtown school shooting, several proposals came forward to protect the use of firearms. One, however, will actually hamper effective law enforcement, by not allowing local law enforcement to cooperate with federal officials. Sharing of evidence between agencies is an important part of keeping us safe. Attorneys and law enforcement officials will work with legislators to remove the negative consequences of that bill.
Legislation to increase the penalty for drinking and driving received attention this week. The car in which the Deutcher family was killed by a person driving the wrong way on the Interstate was on display bringing graphic evidence of the tragedy caused by one man’s bad decision.
I also had a brief visit with Juan and Sandy Ruiz, who lost their two sons while camping at Lake Metigoshe. A drunk driver ran over their tent, injuring Juan and killing their 5 and 9 year old boys. Lives are cut short, and lives changed forever, by an irresponsible action. Sometimes, new laws are needed to force a change in behavior of individuals who fail to act responsibly.
We all know that what occurs in the first few years of a child’s life will have lifelong consequences. Child care, Head Start, Pre-K education and Day Care access are all important issues. Bills have been proposed in support of early education programs. Waiting lists for child care are long, often forcing parents to line up child care well in advance of making the decision to have a child. With the influx of young workers in oil country, child care combined with the need to find affordable housing creates an even greater problem. A coalition of supporters and providers was present this week to highlight legislative proposals to help with the care, protection and education of our youngest and most vulnerable; our future.
Visitors to the Legislature this week were: Local leaders from Ag Commodity groups, Early Childhood advocates, Area Health Education (AHEC) directors, Sheriff’s Departments, College administrators, Governor’s School graduates, and MPCG sophomores, who joined us on the floor. We don’t always have a lot of time to visit, but appreciate making the connection to those from “back home” because that’s who we represent.
If you have questions or comments, contact us: Sen. Phil Murphy, Rep. Gail Mooney or myself.
Rep. Rick Holman 701-238-1124
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Web Page: d20news.com, or http://www.district20.com,