By Craig Whitney | Photo courtesy of FMWF Chamber of Commerce
Late in April, the state of North Dakota wrapped up its 66th Legislative Assembly. There were many interesting outcomes, developments, funding decisions and, of course, a few disappointments.
We were fortunate to have five local legislators join us at a recent event to tell us more about what really went down in Bismarck. I want to thank Senator Judy Lee (District 13), Rep. Shannon Roers Jones (District 46), Rep. Josh Boschee (District 44), Senator Ronald Sorvaag (District 45) and Rep. Thomas Beadle (District 27) for taking the time to speak to our membership.
Among the items they discussed were social services redesign, addiction treatment and criminal justice reform, pre-trial services programs, behavioral health funding, budget decisions, status of the legacy fund and more.
As always, we applaud Senator Lee for her deep knowledge of human services and especially the work this session as it pertains to the ever-growing issues in the behavioral health space.
House Minority Leader Boschee shared several outcomes that pertain to gun safety, including one that passed and now authorizes school boards to decide if non-law enforcement staff (such as school resource officers) can have access to firearms.
We also appreciate the attention to detail that Sorvaag provided regarding the “prairie dog bill,” which provides state oil tax revenue to non-oil producing counties across the state to use for road and airport improvements, property tax relief and other infrastructure projects that local leaders will determine. Locally, we’ll see about $25 million per biennium come available.
We extend a heartfelt thank you to Senator Sorvaag who was seen as a leader and workhorse as he diligently navigated the legislative seas and helped push this bill through that will be very important to non-oil producing areas like ours.
Regarding diversion funding, we know that the state has committed to $750 million, which leaves the project $120 million short, in light of increased costs and changed plans. Beadle told the crowd that he felt hopeful that the rest will be provided in the next session. As others have mentioned, things will be looking up once shovels hit the ground.
And after many attempts, North Dakota’s blue laws were repealed. This will go into effect August 4 and allows businesses to open prior to noon on Sundays.
The previously voted in law to allow medical marijuana has a new expansion to include autism and brain injuries.
After the voter passing of Measure 1 last fall, an ethics commission has convened and is underway. It now has become Article 14 of the state constitution.
I also want to take a moment to give credit to the work of The Chamber’s Public Policy Committee, led by chair Tim Flakoll of Tri-College University, who stays tapped into legislation and policy work that affects our community. I also invite you to check out an upcoming Eggs & Issues event, where we will talk about the timely topics affecting us all. Upcoming events will feature talks on higher education, safety and crime, the impact of our military and more.
January 3 to April 26
905 bills and 79 resolutions introduced
326 House bills and 253 Senate bills adopted
Signed 527 bills into law and vetoed three bills