Legislative Report for the Week of April 8-12, 2013
Rep. Rick Holman, ND District 20.
As I write this on Sunday afternoon I look out of the window of my motel room and see a full-blown blizzard. We have been wishing for spring but mother nature just gave us another reminder that winter isn’t over yet.
We need to be done in 14 days or less so some of the larger issues are now moving to the front. There are wide differences between House and Senate meaning that conference committees will need to do some compromising in order to complete the process. An issue that cuts across all budget bills is the employee compensation package which shows up in every agency budget.
HB 1319 for the Department of Public Instruction (DPI) provides 1.1 billion dollars to fund Elementary and Secondary Education and seeks to provide additional property tax relief. State funding for school districts will rise to about $9000 per student over the next two years, a significant increase from prior years, with a substantial decrease in the local tax levy by shifting local costs to the state.
SB 2003 and SB 2200 authorize just over one billion dollars to fund the Higher Education system. House amendments are a concern as they are a move toward micro-management of campus projects ultimately delaying and duplicating a process that is already in place with the State Board. Additional restrictions could also place limits on some of the progress being made throughout the system and especially at smaller schools like Mayville State.
SB 2012 funds the Department of Transportation (DOT) with 2.1 billion dollars, providing additional money, on top of emergency funding provided earlier, to maintain and improve infrastructure throughout the state. Counties receive 190 million with 20 million additional for bridges. The DOT has 1079 employees.
SB 2004 for the Health Department provides about 180 million dollars and in some way touches most citizens with activities from public health and other outreach functions. Here too there are significant differences between the House and Senate.
HB 1012 Funds the state’s largest department. With a budget of 2.7 billion dollars the Department of Human Services (DHS), with 2200 employees, administers those programs that take care of our neighbors and friends who need those services to help them live a fuller life. About 60% of the funding comes from other sources, mainly Federal.
These are the “big money” bills that, along with dozens of others, will need a lot of discussion over the next few days as the finer details are worked on in committee. Sometime in the next two weeks we will find that middle ground, that position that we can live with, and add these changes to the State’s Century Code for the next two years.
On a final note, HB 1211 which provides partial funding for the Area Health Education Centers (AHEC) has passed both the House and Senate. With offices in Mayville and Hettinger and working with the Center for Rural Health at UND, AHEC works to build interest in healthcare careers by setting up activities in schools and colleges. The Centers also provide support for healthcare professionals who choose to work in rural areas.
Until next week, Keep thinking spring…………Rep. Rick Holman.