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Rep. Rick Holman – Week Six Legislative Report

Rep. Rick Holman, February 16, 2015

Sixth Week of the ND House of Representatives

On Wednesday, Feb 11th, in a packed room filled with city and county officials, the 1.1 billion dollars of badly needed surge funding for all parts of the state was the topic of a long hearing. SB 2103 currently authorizes 300 million for the Department of Transportation (DOT) but according to DOT Supt., Grant Levi, 450 million is needed. He said, ” Not fixing deteriorating infrastructure in a timely manner will cause costs to skyrocket, costing state and local governments even more”. For our part of the state, this funding is important to help counties, cities and townships catch up on millions of dollars of deferred maintenance. Fixing a damaged road costs much less than waiting until the road has to be completely redone. It’s important to get this bill done and passed so work can begin soon.

Later on Wednesday we had a two hour debate on HB 1461, which would remove North Dakota schools from the Common Core Curriculum Standards and the Smarter Balanced Assessment. Seeing that parts of the original bill were problematic, sponsors used a strategy to divide the bill in to two parts forcing House members to vote on each part. The first vote after an hour and a half of discussion was on the part that removed the state schools from a nationally normed assessment, weakened the authority of the DPI Supt. Kristin Baesler, and established a legislative committee to develop a new test. This could put this years high school seniors and juniors in a problem situation because the first testing is scheduled for this spring. How would a new assessment be completed in that short time?  After a long discussion with what seemed like a couple dozen long speeches, some pointing at perceived federal government intrusion into our children’s lives, and others describing the value of comparing our schools to others and pointing out that nearly all teachers and administrators support the existing standards, a vote was taken. It failed by just a few votes, 43-46. A second vote on the other part had lots of red votes, hence putting the issue away for good.   This change in school oversight would have caused major problems for our teachers, administrators and school boards. It has gone away for now..

Soon, we will complete work in House Appropriations on HB 1377, the property tax relief/school funding bill and send it to the Senate. Because of growth in the state’s economy, the tax savings for local property owners from lower tax rates and increased state funding does not show up on many individual tax bills because of increased valuations. Increased net worth does not always increase your disposable income. This bill, with1.22  billion dollars of local tax relief, will hopefully continue to lower taxes and assist counties and schools as they develop their budgets for the next couple of years.

Call or email if you have questions. Rep. Rick Holman, rholman@nd.gov, 701-239-1124

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