August Legislative Report, Senator Murphy Soybeans and Scooters
This month I spent a few days in Bismarck at our special session. We had to plug some holes made in our budget by declining revenues. The plan that passed included taking $100 million from our state bank. During the session, I spoke with the Eric Hardmeyer, president of our state-owned bank (the only one in the nation) and asked him how he felt about our grab. He said he was not at all troubled by it, which I found to be comforting. Former Lt. Gov. Lloyd Omdahl termed it “robbing“ our state bank, but to me it seems hard to rob something when you own it in the first place. Lawmakers who have been around a while said they used to routinely take $60 million or so every session, but we had not needed to the past six years. The bank has over 7 billion in assets with hundreds of millions in profits. Another action was to order another 2.5% in across the board cuts. I do not like that – would prefer prioritizing needs. However, I guess it looks bad to squabble over what is most important and it takes time as well. So, while many wanted to vote for the package that Democrats proposed which would have taken about 10% out of a rainy day fund with about $330 million in it to help out Long Term Care facilities and their workers along with funding autism and behavioral (mental) health care, the Republican caucuses held their troops in line saying we will need the money for next session. Which is true, but instead of helping needy folks now, the money sits idle.
The day after session ended I got home, got up in the wee hours and flew to Taiwan on an Agricultural and good will mission. Completely on Taiwan’s dime because they want our country to like them, it was pretty educational for me. The only difficulty besides the 13 hour time difference (still struggling with that as I write this at 3 a.m.) was that the delegation needed to be in formal attire almost every day of the 8 day trip while the humidity and temps were always in the nineties. But we spent days visiting different ministries and departments including Agriculture – Taiwan buys about 10% of our soybeans while nearby China buys the monster share of those from us. Also included were, Ministry of the Interior, of Foreign Relations and so on. I was able to thank them for their business (as suggested by our ND soybean officials before the trip) without screwing it up. About 23 million people on an island less than a quarter the size of ND, the one beautiful touristy spot they took us to via high speed rail – a smooth ride at 200 mph – was a lake that was too polluted to swim in according to the hotel staff. Pretty, though. Bajillions of motor scooters instead of cars in Taipei, they park on the sidewalks because there is not much room for parking lots and cars. Beautiful people, food and transportation infrastructure. I gained weight even though their sweets aren’t very sweet.
ANYWAY, I will be attending Elbit’s and the NDSU extension services roll out of the agricultural and drone partnership near Hillsboro on Monday, Degelman’s open house Tuesday, Women Lead ND on Friday and have my ticket for the MASU Sportsmen’s raffle Saturday. Then to Bismarck for Energy and Natural Resources committee next week. Truckin’ on…