Representative Rick Holman August 6, 2013
Interim Report from the Sixty-Third Session of the North Dakota Legislature.
A unique feature of the North Dakota Legislature is that it meets every two years instead of annually. During the period between adjournment and the next session, however, quite a bit goes on. Many issues that were worked on during the session have been assigned for further study by twenty-five committees made up of both Senators and Representatives. http://www.legis.nd.gov/assembly/63-2013/committees/interim.
Senator Phil Murphy, Representative Gail Mooney and I serve on several interim committees which have the potential of bringing forward additional legislation for the 2015 Session. They are: Energy Development and Transmission (Murphy), Government Services (Holman & Mooney), Government Finance (Holman), Health Services (Holman), Human Services (Mooney) and Budget (Holman).
In this report, I will address some of the study topics being addressed by the Government Finance Committee which had its first meeting on July 30th. A few are listed below.
A presentation by Mr Lynn Helms, Director of the Oil and Gas Division indicated that oil production continues at a rapid pace with about two-hundred new wells each month. http://www.legis.nd.gov/files/committees/63-2013nma/appendices/gf073013helmspresentation.pdf?20130806123128. This will continue for many years into the future. He pointed out two problems caused by the rapid growth; that of fracturing crews not able to keep up with the speed of drilling and the amount of natural gas being burned off. Natural gas is a valuable resource that is being wasted due to the lack of infrastructure in place to process it or deliver it to a market point. According to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) the average price of ND oil stays at about $75 per barrel with 800,000 barrels per day coming from 8900 producing wells. In just a couple of years since the voters of ND approved setting aside a portion of the production tax into the Legacy Fund the fund has grown to 1.3 billion dollars.
Mr. Grant Levi, Director of the Department of Transportation reported on the progress of road and bridge construction throughout the state, with emphasis on what is being done in the Western oil producing counties. He pointed out that the cost of purchasing land for right-of-way has gone up, increasing the cost of all projects. http://www.legis.nd.gov/files/committees/63-013nma/appendices/gf073013dotpresentation.pdf?20130806123251.
Part of the committee’s assigned responsibility is to examine salary and benefits for state employees. During the regular session, a significant amount of time was spent looking at what it takes to keep a stable workforce in the public sector. The discussion continues in the interim. Over the next year we will examine job classification levels as well and whether to limit the amount paid for health insurance. Any proposed changes in those areas will surely create much debate. Currently, the state pays for a health insurance family plan for those who qualify. The study will also focus on employee retirement benefits. Currently, employees and employers pay into a defined benefit plan that provides a guaranteed amount upon retirement based on the salary. Some legislators wish to move toward a defined contribution plan that would pay benefits tied to the amount deposited in the fund. The first is a guarantee of a secure retirement, while the second is more tied to volatile economic forces. We need to be careful as we examine this as many individuals with a defined contribution plan saw their retirement benefits and plans change as a result of the 2008 recession. A predictable salary and benefit package is needed to keep a stable workforce.
I will address the Health Services Interim meeting in a subsequent report.
Rep. Rick Holman. ND District 20 701.238.1124 email@example.com