It was great to have company from home this past week! Sheri Paulson of Galesburg was out to the Capitol for Disability Awareness Day. She and others were here on behalf of MS Society, which coincided with Giving Hearts Day – double the impact!
Sheri was able to sit on the floor with Representative Rick Holman and me in the afternoon, and had the opportunity to sit through floor action on HB 1327, which would provide for sales-tax exemption to non-profit thrift stores. Lively debate ensued as we wrangled the merits of not charging sales tax on used items sold in thrift stores that typically serve a more disadvantaged population, but it ultimately died on the floor. The good news… it received more yes votes than it did the 2013 session, so maybe the third time will be the charm in 2017!
Traill County 4-H’ers came for a visit this Monday. They were able to sit in on a committee hearing, toured the House chamber with me, and then the Senate chamber with Sen. Phil Murphy. While most of them had to return for a girls basketball game later that same day, Dietrich Schlichtmann and his mom, June, were able to sit on the House floor in the afternoon with Rick and me. Always eager to jump in to the middle of things, Dietrich kept track of the floor votes and did a great job of helping me arrive at the best votes for our district!
HB 1235 was an interesting bill that came on the floor while Dietrich and June were with us. This bill would provide for an expansion of charitable gambling to include electronic bingo. Originally opposed to the expansion of gambling, we decided we should consider the benefits of a yes vote to some of our communities who rely on charitable gambling for a number of great causes and projects. In our area, we have Hillsboro Economic Development, which benefits the Hillsboro community at large, and the Buxton Daycare, whose gaming supports the daycare’s operations. Ultimately, the bill died by a very close vote, but was brought back for reconsideration on Tuesday when it passed by a healthy margin.
Some of our regulars around the Capitol include Kim Jacobson, Traill County Social Services Director, who, along with other county directors, is tracking legislation to benefit local services and potential funding. One of these, SB 2206, is a funding bill that came as a result of the governor’s property tax task force and would provide as much as 5 to 6 mills of funding and property tax relief for Traill County. It passed through the Senate this week and will be on the way to the House following cross-over.
Larry Syverson, president of the North Dakota Township Association, is a regular fixture here at the Capitol as he dogs every bill related to townships, and by default, counties. The “surge bill” is the big one that everyone is waiting for news on. Ostensibly, this bill was supposed to be pushed through very early in the session to allow for project bidding processes to begin in the early spring for summer construction. Already later than the 2013 surge funding, SB 2103 is expected to make it to the House floor this Friday. With an emergency clause, there is still the potential to get these funds moved out in the early days of March.
Much to do! As we continue to chip away, we find moments of progress amongst the battles to hold ground. The community forums will begin this week, with the first scheduled for 10 a.m. this Saturday, Feb. 21 at the Thompson Community Center in Thompson. Please join us if you can – we’d love to share more, and hear your concerns and questions.
Have a great week!