Report from the Sixty-Third Session of the North Dakota Legislature.
Representative Rick Holman
March 24, 2013
Our next forum will be at the Hunter Café at 9:00 a.m. on Saturday, April 30.
Since the Human Services Appropriation Sub-Committee is working through the Department of Corrections budget, it seemed appropriate that we visit the State Prison. Friday morning we spent two hours at the existing prison and then moved to the new 64 million dollar addition which will be operational by summer. From an old Alcatraz type facility (which will be torn down) to the state of the art new facility changes in incarceration were evident. Instead of 20 or 30 cameras, the new prison will have ten times as many. State of the art technology was evident everywhere. A new pharmacy will dispense medications to all facilities and a modern clinic will provide health care on site. Security and separation of prisoners will be enhanced. LeAnn Bertsch, originally from Hillsboro is the Prison Director. In conversations with her and her staff, I believe that our state system is in good hands.
Some issues are so emotional and polarizing that any vote is considered wrong by someone. Friday afternoon was reserved to vote on the much discussed bills known as abortion bills or women’s rights bills depending on which side of the issue you are on. This is the third session where I have had to deal with this issue, with each session moving a little more toward passing a North Dakota law that would attempt to make all abortions illegal. Present were the usual lobbying groups in support, mainly the Catholic Church and Family Alliance, but, for the first time, groups and individuals opposed to the additional legislation were highly visible. My e-mails and letters in opposition to the new laws and resolutions have far outnumbered those in support. I believe that we are on the verge of a cultural change as new laws being proposed put up more roadblocks, some clearly unconstitutional. My position has been consistent. We need to follow the Constitution, but fund and support those measures that make abortion unnecessary. Education of our young people will insure that they understand the consequences of sexual behavior. One of the bills that passed with huge Republican support will limit that type of education of young high school age people. Health care for pregnant women to insure that they have proper support for themselves and a developing baby is important. Many of those who support the bills to limit abortion rights have voted against the medical support that would decrease the need for an abortion. Financial support for young single mothers will also decrease the need for a pregnant woman to consider an abortion. Services that provide birth control and counseling for young women will decrease the number of abortions. A great number of my colleagues who are attempting to eliminate the Women’s Clinic in Fargo vote against the very issues that would lessen the need for the clinic. Of the three bills considered on Friday, three passed and one failed. Now it will be up to Governor Dalrymple and the people of North Dakota to give voice to this issue. Is your voice being heard?
A Republican measure to cut the oil extraction tax had earlier passed the Senate, but because of public outcry, was voted down in the House. Legislators, who had supported the 30% cut in the oil extraction tax, went home and found that the majority of North Dakotans would vote to defeat any such cut if it were put on a statewide ballot. I believe that it is too early to make such a drastic cut when the oil development, which, according to expert estimates, will go on for another thirty years. We have a charge from the people to cut property tax and maintain our infrastructure. We must do that. Cutting the oil extraction tax at this early date could put future tax reductions and infrastructure projects in jeopardy. In two years, we will have better data and long range forecasts and can revisit the issue at that time.
Looking at the schedule for policy committees, I notice that many are nearing the end of deliberations. Hopefully, we can finish our responsibilities in the next four weeks and let the executive branch and the many departments of our state get back to a normal routine.
You can get more information or watch a video of 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.
622 153rd Ave NE,
Mayville, ND 58257-9000
“I never considered a difference of opinion, in politics in religion or in philosophy
as a cause for withdrawing from a friend” Thomas Jefferson.