Wow. Hard to believe an entire month has passed since session began. And, I KNOW! I promised shorter reports, but there’s just so much!
We’re getting into more difficult and complex topics now, which are moving us into more sub-committee work to delve into the deeper aspects of the potential legislation. It’s slowing the pace of moving bills through committee, but necessary for both understanding and insurances of mitigated consequences. The beauty of a committee is it’s ability to see things from so many angles. When a bill comes in front of us, complete with a variety of testimony, each member sees it from a different perspective, has questions and concerns from their points of view or expertise – and as a result, if a bill isn’t spot-on, there is opportunity for the committee to amend and tweak the bill before moving it forward. Or, if it is just not a good bill, recommend a do not pass to the floor.
Once on the floor, one member of the committee will be assigned to “carry”, or present, the bill to the rest of the House of Representatives. Every bill gets to be heard – in ND there is no such thing as a “killed” bill that doesn’t make the light of day. So, once on the floor, the bill carrier will explain the details and impacts of a bill which may lead to lengthy floor debates based on merits or philosophy, or questions to satisfy an understanding. In the end, every bill is voted “Do Pass” or “Do Not Pass” by the entire House before it is then referred over to the Senate for their crack at it. If ever interested, remember that all bills and floor speech/debates can be found streamed live on the nd.gov website (click “Video”, top right) – or if you can’t catch us live at 1 pm, all bill presentations are archived. So – who needs reality TV? You can catch all kinds of drama from right here in Bismarck any time you want!
Hot points of the past week included topics in both House Human Services and Government/Veterans Affairs.
- HB 1422 – a bill to initiate a stabilization fund to begin to address the child care crisis currently being experienced throughout North Dakota. A highly complex subject, it seems reasonable to expect some type of band aid for the immediate needs and an interim study to arrive at long-term solutions.
- HB 1362 is a bill that separates out the money allocated in the Governor’s Budget for Medicaid Expansion, thus allowing for a debate on whether ND should expand Medicaid to include a wider population – or start its own. Since the legislation passed on the opportunity to enter into its own exchange program in the past two years, and with 2014 right around the corner now, it seems a little late in the game to now decide work out the myriad details required to establish an effective program – and most importantly – one that will encompass the broader population.
- HB 1456 is our second abortion bill to come before the House. It relates to the detection of a heartbeat in a fetus and asks for restrictions beyond the federal language. This will undoubtedly (as will the other four) become heated and intense debate in the days to come. Here is my brief standpoint: This is a federal issue. If any of these bills pass, North Dakota will find itself embroiled in litigation that will last years, cost much, and gain none. I’d like us to keep our focus on the many financial issues before us in ND – infrastructure needs, property tax relief, child care crisis/needs… and so much more.
- HB 1345, 1400 & 1402 were all bills related to voting and/or voter ballots. Each of these, plus the several coming up this next week, will prove to be contentious. I happen to be a firm believer in voter rights – and in making the voting process as easy as possible for people. Any bill to move us in a direction to the contrary will be scrutinized – and not just by myself. I suspect (and would hope) the voters would speak out loudly on the topic.
- One topic near and dear to us all that I’d like to emphasize is Senate Bill 2176, which was fast-tracked through both the House and Senate this past week. It provides additional money to non-oil impact counties and townships for roads. Much needed and so welcomed, this one made it through quickly and with little to no opposition. All total, $620 million has been appropriated with $101 million tagged for non-oil counties and townships. This additional funding will continue to help us meet our road needs and will be welcomed!
OK. That’s the week in a nutshell. Don’t forget you can follow these bills – plus the hundreds others! – on the state website at http://www.nd.gov. The bill tracking system is extremely comprehensive and easy to use.
Join us in Bismarck if you can! We’d love to see you.
Rep. Gail Mooney
http://www.d20news.com or facebook/District20Team