Report from the Sixty-Third Session of the North Dakota Legislature.
Representative Rick Holman
March 10, 2013
This was a short week filled with the surfacing of some of the larger issues that we will be dealing with for the remaining time. Two water issues, one in the East and another in the West are bringing supporters and opponents to Bismarck to provide input as we iron out the details. Amendments by Majority Leader and Fargo legislator Al Carlson put state support for the Red River Diversion on hold. Cass County leaders are concerned that federal funding for planned flood protection would be put in jeopardy. Another group, representing the area South of Fargo, is trying to make adjustments in the plan to mitigate damage to their area. Without combined federal, state and local funding the project will not move forward. The potential losses from a major flood to an area the size of Fargo would far exceed the cost of the project. Is there a compromise somewhere below the surface?
The second water issue is the conflict between state supported western ND rural water systems much like we have here in Traill, Cass and Grand Forks Counties and independent water suppliers who are also providing water for oil development. The public system wants to have water depots to load water trucks for well sites, but that puts the public system in competition with independent haulers who have put up their own loading facilities. Two cents a gallon does not sound like much until you apply the number to the millions of gallons needed to complete the drilling and fracturing of an oil well. By selling drilling water, the public rural water system can help offset installation costs for providing water in the sparsely populated areas of Western North Dakota. The private haulers say it will put them out of business. Is there a compromise floating by?
My sub-committee work this week and in the coming weeks will continue dealing with budgets for several state agencies, two of the largest being the Health Department and the Department of Corrections. This week we also began examining the proposed budgets for the Indian Affairs Commission, the Tobacco Control Agency, the Office of Administrative Hearings and the Council on the Arts.
In an earlier post, I mentioned HCR3008 which seeks to remove the names of Higher Education institutions from the North Dakota Constitution. This seems to be a return of an issue from 15 years ago from people who think we have too many colleges and need more legislative control over colleges. Sponsors are trying to sell it as a different issue, but changing the color of the paint does not cover up the shape of what’s underneath. This bill is being held in committee along with several other Higher Education issues. Another example of legislative over reach is indicated in HCR 3011 which seeks to make the initiated measure process more difficult by increasing the number of signatures required to get a measure on the ballot from 2 percent to 3 percent of the state’s population along with an additional requirement to gather signatures from residents in half of the state’s counties making it nearly impossible to refer something for a statewide vote. This issue, coming from the far right, is just one example of several issues that seek to limit the open governmental process and broad voter access that we North Dakotans enjoy. North Dakota has a tradition of open government with full participation by all citizens. Any action to suppress that right needs to be defeated.
You can get more information about the legislative process by going to the North Dakota Legislative Web page: http://www.legis.nd.gov/assembly/63-2013/regular and using the links provided.