It’s positively unbelievable how quickly time is passing. Week one was a blur of dignitaries, introductions, and renewed relationships. Week two was a rush of bills, information sessions – and the flu. Uffda. Thrown a bit off our game for a couple days, as a bug worked its way through the House, we still managed to barrel through a couple dozen of the simpler housekeeping-type bills. Week three ramped up to full speed ahead as we began to dive into the more extensive bills.
Fast and the furious. That’s the pace as week four unfolds. As I write this, both committees I sit on are officially in overdrive. The “A” committee, House Human Services, is considered the heavy committee and meets Monday through Wednesday. Government and Veterans Affairs is the “B” committee and is intended to be a lighter committee, meeting on Thursday and Fridays. Already, though, both committees are stacked with bills – big bills – dealing with a wide range of topics that affect a wide variety of services throughout North Dakota. To date, we have a total of 854 bills and resolutions filed for the session; 26 more than the 2013 session.
Some of the bill highlights of the past few weeks include:
Behavioral health: As a result of the interim committee work, we have a number of bills related to the behavioral health system in North Dakota – or more specifically to address the lack of systems in many cases. The issues are many, and will no doubt take several biennia to make gains for a more comprehensive delivery system of care, but the interim study work has a number of solid bills that will be heard in the Human Services Committee.
HB 1049 and HB 1115 relate to loan and grant programs for certain behavioral health professionals as a means to attract more students to these professions, and HB 1039 would allow individuals with substance abuse the ability to apply for insurance coverage for treatment – each has been heard in committee, but not yet voted on. HB 1048 is a bill that focuses on streamlining the acceptance and licensure requirements for out-of-state substance abuse counselors in North Dakota – a profession we’re in dire shortage of. This bill has passed through the House and will be heard in the Senate in early March.
Traumatic brain injury: Also studied during the interim period, there are several meaningful bills moving through the House related to TBI. HB 1046 is a bill that provides for a TBI Registry, contracted resource facilitation and a return to work program. The point of the registry is to establish an entry – a “one-stop shop” for people who have suffered a brain injury. From there, the facilitator would assist individuals and families in navigating available services through the Department of Health, and the return to work program would assist individuals in re-establishing a productive life with their injury. Another bill, HB 1256, if passed, will adjust the definition of traumatic brain injury to include people with acquired injuries through lack of oxygen, toxic inhalations and other types of accidental occurrences – very important inclusion for a population currently falling through cracks of service availability.
As week four draws to a close, we begin to look forward to a new week and a new month. For all you political junkies out there, don’t forget to check in on us through the state website at http://www.legis.nd.gov. Here you can browse bills by subject or bill number and watch live or archived floor debates. Please share concerns, issues and priorities with us by e-mail or phone. And, if you can make it to Bismarck, we’d love to see you!
Till next time… Enjoy that sunshine!
District 20 Representative Gail Mooney