Today is the 72cnd of this session and we only get 80. There was talk earlier about getting done at around day 75 so that we could come back later, but that is not going to happen. Some around this process are now saying Tuesday, April 30th will be the out day, but no one knows. All of the work now is in conference committee as three Senators and three Representatives square off advocating (mostly) the position that their respective houses took on whatever bill is at issue. I could go “inside baseball” on you in this column, but to drag you through the intricacies of rules, rules ignored, the importance of personalities, etc. would exhaust this space with little of importance communicated. Suffice it to say that this ending process is one in which a lot gets done with relatively little input from stakeholders and even less oversight.
For an example of this in real terms, take the budget of Mayville State University; The Governor’s budget (following the recommendation of the ND University System Office) had MASU’s capital projects ranked #1&2 for a total of about $8,000,000. The Senate approved of this and supported the entire operating budget as well. What did the House do? They yanked all of the capital projects and put the money in a pool which was to be reassessed by the university system. They also reduced the operating money by about a third and if that sticks it will move a tuition increase at MASU from about 1.7% to 8.9%… in other words; it is a mess with great uncertainty causing more than a little stress in our universities and colleges across the state.
Speaking of Higher Education, House Resolution 3047 has passed both houses and if it clears this session it would go on the ballot. If voters approve it the effect would be to eliminate the Board of Higher Education and the Chancellor, replacing it with three commissioners. One of those would have to be from a position in the Higher Education profession and another from the private sector.
One quick note; the House has resurrected the oil tax cut from 6.5 to 6% on the extraction tax. This idea was defeated by the Senate, but there are always ways to bring anything back until the final hammer falls. It makes no sense to me as these oil companies are going nowhere. They are getting better and better at getting more and more oil out of each frac and the amount of extractable oil is growing by many billions of barrels. It was proposed by Rep. Drovdal , a mineral owner who has oil coming out of his property…glad he has that going for him.
Concerning flooding, there is to be an announcement this morning by the National Weather Service with their latest crest prediction for the RRV. As someone who grew up on the banks of the Red River and sandbagged too much, I have spent about 50 years making my own flood forecasts like many of you. This morning I ran into General Spryncynatyk (in charge of ND flood fighting) while we were waiting to see the governor and I ran this by him: “General, what are the chances that the cracks in the soil from last year’s dryness combined with the super slow melt and the resulting transpiration and evaporation might be helping?” He looked at me and said “Senator that is exactly what we are hoping for. It depends a bit on how fast now it gets hot, but this unprecedented slow melt has set us up with a chance.”