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Rep. Rick Holman – Week Seven Legislative Report

Rep. Rick Holman, February 23, 2015

Seventh Week of the ND House of Representatives

We’re just a few days away from crossover, the time when remaining House bills go to the Senate and Senate bills to the House. This is the time when legislators put in long hours to make sure that all legislative proposals sent to the other house are in good form for additional review.

In Appropriations, we have completed our work on half of the departmental budgets. March 4th, we will begin working on the departmental bills received from the Senate. The six-member House Human Resources Committee (HR) will have several with the largest being Health and Human Services, the largest single state department with a budget of over three billion dollars.

Much of our time has been dealing with issues that provide help for North Dakota’s growing economy and the resulting growing pains. The Health Department’s Environmental Health Division needs more employees to deal with inspections of, not only spills and accidents, but also, of new construction which is exploding in all parts of the state. The Industrial Commission needs more employees in the Mineral Division to oversee the issues surrounding the activity from the operation and related activities of 150 to 200 oil rigs, each drilling a new well every month. Law enforcement needs more officers to monitor the cultural shift when thousands of new workers, many with families living elsewhere, are added to the population mix. Law enforcement is busier, courts are busier, county jails are nearly full and the ND Department of Corrections (DOCR) has experienced a ten percent increase in prison population.  That requires more officers, more judges, more guards in the prisons and jails and more parole and probation workers. One must remember that the benefits from increased population and economic activity come with significant additional expenses. The state’s budget has to grow to deal with these new responsibilities.

We’ve seen a change in the acceptance of certain types of legislation dealing with services that help people in problem situations. Proposals dealing with addiction treatment, spousal abuse, domestic violence, sexual abuse, behavioral health, traumatic brain injury (TBI), human trafficking, homeless shelters, and veterans, have been coming forward. Often, the proponents don’t get all they ask for, but the process and the education resulting from the discussion is beneficial to all. Change is incremental.

Two major bills will likely be passed out this week. By the time you read this SB 2103, the Surge bill, will have been signed by the Governor. Some changes were made in the allocations, but the total amount will provide immediate help throughout the state with special emphasis on the needs of the oil producing region. We must take care of the region that is responsible for the generation of much of the money we are using throughout the state. Many benefits, however, do come to our part of the state. For the three counties in District 20, the amounts predicted are Traill: 2.5 million, Cass: 10.5 million and Grand Forks: 7.8 million. Townships will each receive 10,000 dollars. One has to remember that state funds are usually blended with local and federal funds to maximize the benefit of the allocation so the actual money available may be much more.

HB 1176, when passed by the House and sent to the Senate, will adjust the distribution of oil tax revenue to political subdivisions. There will be amendments to increase the share of the oil tax being distributed to political subdivisions within the ten oil impacted counties but the legislation will still provide significant funding to the rest of the state. Currently, 25% of the income is distributed to the oil counties but proposals on the table could change that to 50% or 60%. At this stage of the process, it’s hard to predict what the final numbers will be. I’ll have a better handle on that in a future report.

We hope to have all bills done by Crossover, Feb 26th, followed by a short break until March 4th.

Think Spring! I know it’s coming, a snowbird told me so.

Rep. Rick Holman,

Email: rholman@nd.gov, Call or Text: 701-238-1124

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