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Journal Archives

Lawmakers attempt to strike business friendly balance

With the state facing a budget crunch for the first time in several years, lawmakers are trying to strike the right balance between thorough review of tax incentives while maintaining a business friendly climate.

“We’re winning some, and we’re losing some,” said Andy Peterson, president of the Greater North Dakota Chamber of Commerce, of bills relating to business this session.

Items in the win column include a top legislative priority of not raising taxes. One loss for the group was the elimination of a tax credit for manufacturing machinery purchases and equipment for automated manufacturing processes.

“The Legislature has been very friendly toward us,” Peterson said.

Read more: http://bismarcktribune.com/news/local/govt-and-politics/lawmakers-attempt-to-strike-business-friendly-balance/article_ca3cbe37-47c8-5289-93a1-7a0f6595c4ab.html

North Dakota Legislature OKs hidden firearms without permit

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — The North Dakota Legislature has voted to allow most adults to carry a concealed firearm without a permit, but it's not clear whether the governor will support the move.

The Senate approved the measure 34-13 on Tuesday and the House passed it last month. It would allow people 18 and older to forgo background checks and classes that are now required.

Supporters say the bill promotes constitutional rights and allows protection from criminals. Critics worry it could lead to more shootings as people with less training would be carrying weapons.

Approval of the bill in both the Senate and House generally fell along party lines in the Republican-led Legislature. GOP Gov. Doug Burgum hasn't said whether he would support the measure and sign it into law.

Read more: http://bismarcktribune.com/news/state-and-regional/north-dakota-legislature-oks-hidden-firearms-without-permit/article_09b5bc90-a49d-5159-ae97-1805c2a8381d.html

Oil spill in creek originally underestimated, making it one of largest in North Dakota history

BELFIELD -- An oil pipeline spill that contaminated a tributary of the Little Missouri River last December is now estimated to be three times larger than originally thought, making it one of the most significant pipeline spills in North Dakota history.

Belle Fourche Pipeline Co. reports about 12,615 barrels, or 529,830 gallons, of oil spilled as a result of a pipeline leak the company now believes started on Dec. 1 and was discovered by a landowner on Dec. 5, said spokeswoman Wendy Owen.

The spill contaminated a hillside and Ash Coulee Creek about 16 miles northwest of Belfield.

An earlier estimate put the spill at 4,200 barrels, or 176,400 gallons, but was revised after the company was able to pinpoint when the spill started and review metering data, said Owen.

Read more: http://bismarcktribune.com/news/state-and-regional/oil-spill-in-creek-originally-underestimated-making-it-one-of/article_93c58fa0-3d22-554c-a1ae-cfb08b248aee.html

County social services bill highlights tax reform efforts

A permanent shift in state property tax relief policy is navigating through the Legislature in a difficult budget climate: a proposed state takeover of county social services funding.

During the interim, a formula for the state taking on all funding and eliminating the 20-mill cap for social services to each county was developed. A legislative committee based the formula on K-12 funding passed in 2013.

The proposed formula could be a tough sell but, if approved, would provide reimbursement to counties based on such factors as total caseload, the county’s size and inflation.

The cost estimate for the 2017-19 biennium in Gov. Doug Burgum’s budget is about $275 million. Payments to counties would be made twice a year under the proposal.

Read more: http://bismarcktribune.com/news/local/govt-and-politics/county-social-services-bill-highlights-tax-reform-efforts/article_1bcc9930-8eaa-568f-9147-11103161b7fe.html

Lawmakers working to plug budget gap

Slashing state budgets has been so significant that it has been characterized by Gov. Doug Burgum as a historic move on the part of lawmakers, who will continue to adjust the bottom line during the second half of the legislative session as they face a budget gap of more than $500 million.

Legislators have tackled the challenges of the second half of the session with pledges to not raise taxes. Any remnants of optimism have been dashed as tax revenues continue to decline.

Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Ray Holmberg, R-Grand Forks, said there have been no surprises, albeit painful, and “most of the agencies were up front and most were very supportive of the governor’s budget.”

Not that Burgum saw full support for some of his cost-saving initiatives.

Two of Burgum’s budget ideas were rejected by lawmakers early on: one for a 5 percent nursing home tax and the other for state employees to pay 5 percent of health insurance costs. Though Burgum said it’s disappointing to have those ideas rejected, they could emerge again in the second half of the session.

Read more: http://bismarcktribune.com/news/local/govt-and-politics/lawmakers-working-to-plug-budget-gap/article_07af3725-6ee0-5b9f-8d6e-8afbfbc9f9b9.html

Is Public Employees Retirement System battle looming?

BISMARCK — Majority leaders in the North Dakota House and Senate say they're working to avoid a battle that prolonged the Legislature's work two years ago.

Disagreements over the Public Employees Retirement System budget forced lawmakers to reconvene in June 2015 after adjourning more than a month prior.

This session, House Majority Leader Al Carlson, R-Fargo, has proposed several PERS-related changes, including amending its governance structure, calling for the state to self-fund its health insurance plan and limiting the contract period to two years. But the Senate amended the PERS budget bill Tuesday, March 21, removing the governance changes and proposing a study of the ideas Carlson has put forward.

Carlson said the two chambers were seeking to work out their differences, but added the self-funded insurance plan is his most important proposal.

Read more: http://www.inforum.com/news/4240277-north-dakota-capitol-notebook-pers-battle-looming

North Dakota Senate committee steers toward study of autonomous vehicles

BISMARCK—A North Dakota Senate committee is seeking to study autonomous vehicle regulations as automakers asked legislators Thursday, March 23, to avoid hampering the technology's development.

The Senate Transportation Committee gave a unanimous "do-pass" recommendation to a bill requiring the state Department of Transportation to work with the autonomous vehicle technology industry on a study of current laws on licensing, registration, insurance, data ownership and inspections. It would require the DOT to suggest any law changes to the next legislative assembly.

House Bill 1202 originally required the DOT director to adopt regulations on integrating and testing "automated driving system equipped vehicles" on public highways. But the bill's primary sponsor offered an amendment Thursday to study the issue instead.

"Every major manufacturer is working on this right now," said Rep. Dan Ruby, R-Minot, the chairman of the House Transportation Committee. He noted there are several classes of automated technology, some of which are already in use today, such as parking assistance.

Read more: http://www.inforum.com/news/4239631-nd-senate-committee-steers-toward-study-autonomous-vehicles

It's no dice as North Dakota House rejects casino resolution

BISMARCK -- House lawmakers defeated a resolution opening the door to off-reservation casinos in North Dakota in convincing fashion Thursday, March 23.

In a 28-63 vote, lawmakers shot down House Concurrent Resolution 3033, introduced by House Majority Leader Al Carlson, R-Fargo.

The resolution was introduced to allow up to six state-owned casinos away from Native American reservations and the state's larger cities, but it was amended to allow no more than six private casinos at least 40 miles from the reservations with no other location restrictions. It would have created a state commission to regulate the industry.

The resolution would have asked voters in next year’s general election to amend the state Constitution to allow the casinos.

Read more: http://www.inforum.com/news/4239448-update-its-no-dice-nd-house-rejects-casino-resolution

Sen. Franken hears concerns of HealthFinders in visit to Faribault

As a HealthFinders Collaborative community health worker, Raquel Rendon sees firsthand the difference the nonprofit makes in Rice County.

Many of the people she serves in the community are referred to the organization from community partners, like Allina Health District One Hospital in Faribault and Northfield Hospital, due to being un- or under-insured.

Both Stephen Pribyl, CEO of District One, and Steve Underdahl, CEO of Northfield Hospital & Clinics, believe partnering with HealthFinders is a natural extension of their mission to fully serve the community.

“One thing that HealthFinders does is it meets people where they are,” Underdahl said. “These folks don’t trust us often times until they’re really sick.”

Read more: http://www.southernminn.com/faribault_daily_news/news/article_a10ed3ee-8df8-5eaa-8e0e-dc15daa85ad1.html

Some question Salvation Army homeless shelter on rehab or comfort

MANKATO — The Salvation Army’s men’s shelter underwent major changes when it opened its doors for the winter season in November.

Gone was the low tolerance drug and alcohol policy of past years, replaced with zero-tolerance including drug tests upon intake. If you didn’t pass, you were told to come back when you could.

Case management plans were also put in place for each shelter user based on goals outlined during one-on-ones with staff. After a seven-day grace period, the men needed to demonstrate they were vigilantly looking for work if they were able or seeking a diagnosis for disability benefits if they weren’t. If the men kept up on their plans, they'd be allowed to stay for 90 days max.

The idea was to motivate the shelter users into finding work and a permanent place to stay, said Leslie Johnson, Salvation Army's director.

Read more: http://www.mankatofreepress.com/news/some-question-salvation-army-homeless-shelter-on-rehab-or-comfort/article_a0a8685a-10dc-11e7-85f4-e3b6cc05c821.html
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