Representative Rick Holman April 30, 2013
Report from the Sixty-Third Session of the North Dakota Legislature.
I was saddened by the passing of former Governor Bill Guy but sincerely grateful for the lasting legacy of public service he left behind. As a senior in High School when he was elected governor I remember the excitement. Bill Guy’s leadership, whether it was advancement of important water-related issues, efforts to improve access to mental health care, or work to spawn the public service careers of the next generation of leaders, blended effective advocacy with civility and left a lasting imprint on our state.
By the time many of you read this, the 63rd Session of the ND Legislature should have completed its work. As we begin day 77 of the allowed 80 many issues remain. Whether it is a tax reduction or a spending proposal each involves large amounts of money,. The ND Constitution requires a balanced budget, meaning we can’t go home unless money spent matches money available.
Tax Relief: There will be tax relief but final details are still being worked out. Bills under consideration give tax relief in the form of property tax relief, income tax reductions, and formula changes. North Dakota voters have sent us a clear message that they expect the booming economy to provide some type of reduction. Tax relief, however, must be balanced with needs of the people. This balancing act defines the opposing sides of many of the current debates.
Higher Education: After a lot of discussion building projects as proposed in January are now to be funded. As expected, tuition will rise, as will school budgets, with a new funding formula based on completed credits. In our area this means funding (with some adjustments) for a new Medical School facility and Law School upgrade at UND, a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) Center at NDSU, and classrooms to replace the “Old Gym” at Mayville State. All are needed and are a good one-time use of state funds.
PreK-12 Education: The funding formula for Elementary and Secondary Education has the intention of increasing state support for schools while requiring local property taxes to be reduced accordingly. Since this vehicle for tax relief had been used for the past four years it seems a logical vehicle for providing even greater property tax relief.
Law Enforcement: Due to the growing population in oil country, we have supported an increase in state patrol officers and district judges to handle an increased number of infractions. A stricter DUI law will require more prison space and more parole supervisors. I was disappointed that the signing ceremony for the new DUI law did not include Rep. Ed Gruchalla, a former highway patrolman, who promoted tougher DUI laws long before the tragic accidents that raised awareness of the need. I will always give him credit if the new law decreases injuries and saves lives.
Water: Being mid-continent and subject to weather and climate extremes, North Dakota has to deal with too much water, to little water or just the right amount of water. It reminds me of the porridge in the story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears. Legislation has been passed that will assist with the Red River Diversion, the Southwest ND Water projects, the Sheyenne River, Devils Lake area and more. Water is basic and necessary but seldom in just the right amount. One role of government is to provide solutions.
Child Care: With a lot of young people being added to our workforce, there is a growing need for childcare. We no longer have the ability, as was the case when I was a child, for one income to support a middle income family. That, along with an increase in one parent families indicates a need to adjust how we care for children and how we provide for that care. If we want to have a stable workforce in our growing economy, we must have adequate and available child care. HB 1422 with financial assistance and training is a start in helping insure cost effective and available child care in ND.
Additional notes: A disturbing part of the current session has been the inclusion of ideas from national organizations attempting to transfer their ideas into North Dakota legislation. Sadly, many of my fellow legislators on the other side of the aisle have bought into these bad ideas and included them in legislative proposals. Micromanagement of Higher Education, limits on medical procedures, workers’ rights, women’s’ issues, voter’s rights, religious views and far right tax issues have all been part of the mix. Sadly some have become law without the necessary research to see if we have passed a solution to a problem that does not exist. For some, court action or a vote of the people will determine the final outcome, costing more for our state and its people….
Until next week; enjoy the weather.
Rep. Rick Holman. ND District 20 701.238.1124 firstname.lastname@example.org