North Dakota Legislative Review 1915

North Dakota Legislative Review 1915

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– [Narrator] Welcome
to weekly review of North Dakota’s
legislative news. Now, here’s your
host, Dave Thompson, with North Dakota
Legislative Review. (energetic music) – Hello there, I’m Dave Thompson with North Dakota
Legislative Review, and we are approaching
the two-minute warning, to use a sports analogy, in the North Dakota
legislative session. There are a lot of issues still
out there to decide, though. One thing that has come
up is this latest override of a governor’s veto. The veto concerned
the powers and duties of the legislature’s
budget section. Well, the governor
vetoed that bill, and one of the reasons
he did, is he feels that it’s an unconstitutional
delegation of authority to a subset of the legislature. Well, the legislature
overrode the governor’s veto, and now we’re hearing
some whispering, at least, that there could be
another lawsuit over this. There was a lawsuit
about it two years ago. Meanwhile, as we
mentioned before, you know the old saying
is, whiskey’s for drinkin’, water’s for fighting,
and there’s going to be some fights
over water funding. It sounds like there
might be a conclusion. I’ve been hearing that, but the FM Diversion
Project wants $820 million from the state,
and the legislature so far has okayed $703 million. That may still be a fight, too. Also, there’s been
talk about what to do with the proceeds
of the Legacy Fund. There’s going to be a study. At least that’s where
it is right now. There’s a study about
the Legacy Fund earnings and where they go. Legislators wanna
create new buckets, or as Senate Majority Leader
Rich Wardner calls them now, silos, with a focus on roads
and one-time spending projects. So after debating
a number of ideas for Legacy Fund earnings,
lawmakers will now try to come up with a more
permanent solution. This study is being formed
to look at setting guidelines for spending Legacy Fund
earnings in the future. Political correspondent
Chad Mira talked with the House Minority
Leader about that idea. – Joining me now is
House Minority Leader, Representative Josh Boschee. Representative, thanks
for your time today. – Thanks, Chad,
great to be with ya. – Now, one thing that
we’ve been discussing most legislative
session this time around is what to do with
Legacy Fund earnings, and it looks like it’s a topic that could merit a
study moving forward. What’s the latest with that? – We’re starting
to look at the fact that in the next
biennium it’s anticipated to be about $450
million of earnings, and while that’s much
more than anyone expected, we also have a variety of,
probably 141 different ideas on what to do with
the Legacy Fund, so by putting it into a study, it allows us to have a
direct, focused conversation, are we gonna focus
on property taxes? Are we gonna focus on buildings? Are we gonna focus
on health care? Kinda to allow groups
and people to meet and talk about the
issue and hopefully come to some sort of resolution as
we go into the next session. – And do you have your own ideas of some things you’d
like to see it used for? – Well, I know when I
voted for the Legacy Fund when it was on the
ballot, my first thought was to help fund education. We continue to want to make sure we have high-quality education
throughout the state, and so for me, my preference
automatically is to see how we can continue to
support local education through the K-12 system,
but also that’s a way that we can reduce
property taxes. So that’s my first
bet, but like I said, there’s 140 other opinions. – Like you said,
141 other opinions, and we’ve seen a
lot of ’em come up this legislative session. Moving forward, if we look
ahead to the next session and we do have something
more set in stone, what these funds
would be used for, how would that affect
what you guys are trying to get done here
during your session? – Well, I think
first and foremost, it would help us kinda
know ahead of time. Let’s say there is a
great collaboration. We all agree it’s gonna
be on K-12 education. Well, then we know as
we start the session that the money that
we’re already putting from the general fund to K-12
education might be offset with this investment
from the Legacy Fund, but it also may mean that
we’re going to add more money to K-12 education as well. So it allows to look
at the fluid dynamics of the investment and
how strong that’s been, as well as the cash
that’ll come to the state and how we can hopefully
invest it for the future. – It would also help,
maybe, with the workload, so many bills looking at ways
to spend the Legacy Fund. If this was more concrete,
would it help kind of weed through some of those things? – I think so, especially
knowing that, again, any bill’s gonna need 51% of us, or 50% plus one, to support it, so I think it’ll
give us a direction of where these monies are
gonna go, especially as, like I said, we’re looking
at $450 million potentially in the next biennium. The following biennium, it’s
gonna be even more money, so we’re looking at
large sums of cash. – Potentially a big impact. – Right.
– Representative Boschee, thanks for your time. – Thanks, Chad. – And we’re now joined by
Senator Nicole Poolman. She’s a Republican
from Bismarck. Senator, thank you
for being here. – Thank you for having me. It’s nice to be here. – And you are now on the
Appropriations Committee, and I’ve wanted to
ask Appropriators, you used to be on
Policy Committees. – Right. – Why go from Policy Committee
to a numbers committee? – Well, initially I thought I would miss the
Policy Committee, but what I have recognized
over the years as a legislator is that the
Appropriations Committee is where all of the
big decisions are made, all of the real decisions
are made, because in the end, policy usually costs money,
and so in order to have a seat at the table and
the conversations that are most important
to my constituents, I thought that appropriations
was the best place to be. – So is it harder work
being on Appropriations? – It’s just different work. It’s a slower pace in the
beginning of the session, and then it’s a much faster
pace now, here at the end. The decisions that get
made in the final period of the session are usually
made in Appropriations, so it’s busy now, but I have
really enjoyed my time there. – It is a sprint now
is what you’re saying, pretty much.
– It is a sprint now. – Well, you heard
about the Legacy Fund and this potential study
that’s going to happen. Are there any thoughts that you
have about what the earnings of the Legacy Fund
should be used for? – Well, I think that the
study is so important, and I think it’s probably one
of the most important things we will study over the interim,
because if you ask anybody, how do you think the Legacy
Funds should be spent? Everyone has a different answer, and so for us to come
to some consensus as to what that money
will be spent on, because you have to remember,
we do still have people saying we shouldn’t
be spending a dime, not even of the interest. And so to have some consensus
over what types of projects, and what types of
spending, would be good. I think is the most
important part of that study. And certainly, I liked
Governor Burgum’s concept that they would be
legacy projects, big things that leave a legacy. I do enjoy that piece of it. Certainly, I thought
about when we went through the Statewide Interoperability
Radio Network conversation. I thought this is a
project that we have tried to fund for a
number of sessions, and we’re finally
figuring it out now. This would’ve been
a prime opportunity for a Legacy Fund project, so I think there are lots
of options out there. I’m not really thrilled
about the concept of buckets or silos. I think we have enough buckets, and so I’m hoping that we
get away from that concept as far as Legacy Fund
dollars concerned, but it’s so important for
us to come to consensus on what Legacy Funds
should be spent on. – One of the suggestions
of the Legacy Fund earnings is coming from the House, and the Senate overturned
it at one point. That House passed,
we overturned it. I’m talking about the
Income Tax Buydown Plan. It’s back in a budget bill for
the State Tax Commissioner. How do you feel about that? – I’m frustrated that it’s back. I just don’t think that that’s
the way we want to spend those Legacy Fund
dollars, certainly as
early in the process as we are, in terms of
having a Legacy Fund. And I just think that
after we saw what happens when the commodities
we depend upon go down, I really don’t like
taking a stool-leg out of that three-legged stool. So I think it’s important for us to maintain the
income tax for now, and make sure that
we some continuity and just a reliable source
of income for the state. So I’m not in favor of
that, little frustrated because I think we pretty
decisively defeated that in the Senate, but
everything is up for discussion in the final days. – As we know, nothing is final
until the final gavel falls. – Correct. – But your point is well
taken about commodities, and commodities are
volatile by their nature, and that’s two
legs of our stool. – It’s is, and so
that third leg, making sure that that’s
a pretty consistent and dependable revenue
source, I think is important at this stage of the game. – In your Appropriations work, what’s been the most
challenging bill you’ve had to deal with? – Wow, that’s a great question. I think one big challenge that
we’re facing here at the end is on the ITD budget,
information technology, we have been talking
about unification, which is one of the
governor’s main initiatives, and they have done a lot
of work going into that, The House was adamantly
opposed to unification, and didn’t include it
in any of their budgets. The Senate took
the opposite state, and so now we have a compromise
that has been worked out. Initially it should
have been 14 agencies and about 145 employees that
would unify our technology, and now it’s down
to five agencies and, I think, 95 employees. And so there was a lot of
debate on the Senate floor as to whether or not that’s
a time to compromise, I think that that
conversation may shift as this bill goes into
Conference Committee because they’re
some people who say, there are plenty of
times to go halfway, and unification is
not one of them, and so I think that
that’s been one of the more complex issues
that we’ve had to understand. – And one of the things
I’ve heard about it, that it’s a pilot
project, the five agencies would be a pilot project. – Right, and from the
governor’s perspective, I think he considers
the Cabinet agencies, the original 14 agencies,
a pilot project. And so they want to see up
to $14 million of savings, they want to see
unification of technology, not just on the
cyber-security side, but on the customer
service, right? People in the private sector
are working with Amazon, and they can click on
something they want and it’s on their
doorstep the next day. The way our technology
interfaces with the
folks who use it, the taxpayers aren’t really
getting a very good experience, and so they really see that
as part of the advantage of this. – We’re still trying to
find our way, I think, and that’s probably general,
not just state government. But I think everybody’s
trying to find their way, as you start talking about
artificial intelligence. – Absolutely.
– You start to talk connectivity, new,
what do the call it? 5G.
– Mm hm. – But I remember the days
of old Teletap machines, and they used to type
on manual typewriters, so we’ve come a long ways,
and so we’re just trying to get our arms around this. – Absolutely, and our arms
are getting around it. It’s a big project, even
in terms of security, that’s a whole new issue too. Cyber-security, we have 5.7
million attacks every month on government entities
here in North Dakota, and so we have invested
11 million more dollars in cyber-security,
also another initiative of the governor’s, and of ITD. – And that’s something
people do not realize, that even a state
like North Dakota, you think is a small,
small potatoes, but 5.7 million attacks
per month, that’s huge. – It’s significant, and
tax-payers don’t have a choice as the whether or not they
share their information with state agencies, and
so it’s our obligation, I think, the protect
that information, and to protect the
millions of dollars that could also be at stake. So cyber-security
is very important, and like I said,
unification is complex, and those conversations
are still ongoing. – Now, the Senate
Appropriations Committee had kind of informal
sub-committees looking at particular budgets, what were the ones you
were most interested or what you were on? – I have focused mostly on
Career and Technical Education and the Department of
Public Instruction. Those are my
wheelhouse as a teacher and someone who came from
the Education Committee. I enjoy those issues, and
I really feel strongly about certain things
that need to be funded, and so those have
been the two budgets that I’ve been
most interested in. – So did the Committee
get into on-time funding? – We did, there are two
versions of on-time funding, and so as you know, bigger
districts, growing districts are, and have been,
asking for on-time funding for quite a long time. Smaller districts
are a little bit more concerned about that. So there are two versions. The Senate has a version
where on-time funding happens in the second
year of this biennium, and they’d get the full payment. And the House version
does the same thing, only they give you
only half the payment, 50% of the per-pupil payment,
and they’d gradually phase in, 60%, 70% over five years,
and so both Chambers understand the need to
move to on-time funding, they just have
different approaches, so it will be interesting to
see what the Policy Committee decides in terms of what is
best for on-time funding. The House thinks theirs is
better because it coincides with forcing everybody
onto the formula. We have lots of schools who
are on the funding formula, and then we have lots
of schools who are off, and that’s starting to be a
little bit more controversial between school districts,
and so we want to make sure we get everybody on the formula,
and they have a timeline to do that over the
next five years. – Have per-pupil
payments been set now? – They have, we’re
doing 2-in-2% increases, and we had talked in
the Senate about 2-in-3, but then when we looked at
all the different tweaks that we need to make,
whether it’s on-time funding, or getting baseline
resets in there, we’ve made some
changes to the formula that actually cost far
more than the $11 million that that extra percentage
point on per-pupil payment would have made, some
it’s a strong investment in public education, and I
think the school districts across the state are pleased. – Now this is something
where, you know, you’ve been around as long as
I have, I remember the days where we talked about
declining enrollment, and all of sudden
the oil boom hit, and school districts
across the state are seeing growth in enrollment, and we’re talking about
growth for a while, and you know, two years
ago the legislature had to do flat funding. There wasn’t any
cuts in K-12 funding, but there wasn’t any
increases either, and you could argue that
with increased enrollment and just the cost
of doing business, school districts did get,
in effect, less money, so you’re trying to get
that back up if you can. – We are, and like
I said the 2-in-2% certainly helps all districts,
and then the other tweaks that we’re making
in the formula, the on-time funding helps our
big districts significantly, the growing districts, and
some of those baseline resets can help with the smaller
districts as well. – I’d also like to talk a little
bit about higher education, that, I think that
bill is still pending? – I believe so, yes. They are still discussing
a number of things. – How do you think it’s gone
in terms of higher education, and maybe restoring some
of the funding there? – I think that they have done
a good job with that budget, you know higher education,
a few years back we moved to the funding formula
based on completed credits, which I think has been a nice,
dependable source of revenue, and also holding
universities accountable for making sure students
aren’t just taking courses, but they are finishing
them and graduating, so I think that’s important. There’s been a lot
of conversations about different buildings
on different campuses, and how we will decide
which buildings go up and how we will decide
how to fund them. Both the Senate and the
House have different opinions on bonding, and so that’s
been a big conversation. We have, a lot of us
have been in the Senate and the House since… We haven’t bonded at all,
we’ve always paid cash because the state was in
pretty good fiscal condition. So a lot of people
in the legislature hear that word,
bonding, and they start to have a little bit
of a panic attack, and so–
– A bit of nervousness at least.
– Yes, a little, considerable trepidation,
especially on the House side, when it comes to
bonding, and even though the Bank of North Dakota
has come to us and said, the levels that we
propose are responsible, this is a good idea, I think
that you’re still going to see some reluctance
on the bonding concepts, and so they’re tying to work
a way where they can pay some cash for some
of these buildings. – It seems like one
of the biggest areas of consternation now
on the bonding bill is that ag building at NDSU. It’s out in one Chamber,
it’s in, in another Chamber, Conference Committee working
that out, where do you see it? – I’m not sure
where that will go. It’s difficult because it’s
a building that I know, NDSU, has international
visitors too, right? It’s not just about NDSU, but that’s about the
state of North Dakota, and showing off, and showcasing
the research done here. It’s also one of the
buildings that was initially in that bill, and
certainly other buildings have come in and out of
that bill in the meantime, so it’s a little
bit controversial
that it’s not there. I’m not sure where it
will end up, in the end, if it will end up in the
final version or not. – Two buildings seem to be,
there’s agreement at least, that they need to be done, and that’s the
Dunbar Hall at NDSU, and also that building at
Valley City State University to replace the buildings
that are on the wrong side of the dyke. – It’s on the wrong
side of the dyke, and literally on the
shores of the river, and so we certainly hope that that will be in
the final version because they have been waiting
a long time to get that fixed and it’s just a necessity. – Where did you graduate from? I just have to ask. – I’m a UND grad. – Okay, so I have the ask you. You’re familiar
with Gamble Hall? – I am familiar
with Gamble Hall, and I was referring
to Gamble Hall as one of those buildings
that was not initially in the original bill,
and has made its way in, and the reason it’s
made its way in is because it’s such
a worthy project. They have a $20 million
donor ready to go. That wasn’t there when
the session began, and so we are
excited about that. I think it will really transform
the way the campus looks when you drive down university, and more importantly, it’s
going to give a much more modern business environment to
your business majors there, so I think it’s just gonna
be great for the education of our students,
recruitment of new students, and it’s going to
look beautiful. – One thing that’s
come out of the session that probably doesn’t
get a lot of attention but is really important, has
to do with Human Service, and these Human Service
zones, these 19 zones, That really sailed
through, almost. – It did, and I think
it’s just something we’ve been talking
about for so long. It’s one of those initiatives
that we really tested the waters first
in prior sessions, and saw that this was
really the way to go to create efficiencies,
and more importantly, to ensure that
services are provided to people no matter
where they live, right? Whether you’re in the rural
area or the urban area, we wanna make sure that
everybody has access to all the important services
provided by Human Services. – And of course, there
was all the discussion about Behavioral
Health, and there seems to be quite a bit of movement. When the Schulte report came
out there was not enough money to do a lot of things, then
there was the subsequent report, now that the
coffers look better, there’s more movement in that. – I’m really proud
of the movement that we’ve made in
Behavioral Health. Certainly the
governor’s attention, and the First Lady’s
attention on addiction issues has been an important factor
on that side of things, and I think that people
realize that we really do have a mental health crisis, a
Behavioral Health crisis not only in the adults, but
in our students as well. One of the pieces of that
puzzle that I am most excited about is the $1.5 million
that we are investing in getting mental
health professionals into the public schools,
so that we aren’t saying, let’s train teachers to be
mental health professionals, because we just know that that’s
not going to probably work. The idea that we would
get professional, mental health professionals
into our schools, and begin to bill Medicaid,
I’m hoping that eventually we bill insurance, so that kids can go see a counselor
while they’re at school. It really changes the way
they feel about themselves, and certainly allows
us to really focus on how to keep those kid’s
mental health in check, and do it in a way where it’s
in their natural environment, and it makes them
feel comfortable, and where really kids see
that it’s just as important as their physical health. So I think that that’s a
transformational shift, where we’re starting to
look for professionals to come into the public schools. – But there’s always
a workforce issue too. – Absolutely, absolutely and
that’s really one of the things I like about that, is because
certainly the professionals coming in, in Bismarck they’re
gonna be employed by Sanford, and so maybe they come
in two days a week, or three days a week, and we
know when they’re coming in but it allows us to share
some of those professionals, but yes, it is a
huge workforce issue, and if I could tell all those
kids going into college, or technical school
today, you know, go into addiction counseling,
go into psychiatry. Going into a mental health
field right now is so important, so we do need to continue to
work on incentivizing people to go into that line of work. – Okay, in the few
moments we have left, I have to ask, ’cause
I asked everybody, when does the gavel fall? – Well, I was
predicting April 26th, but I’m hearing
whispers in the Chamber that maybe that won’t
be adequate either, so I predict that maybe
the 27th, or the 28th, that they would keep us here
at the end of next week, and not allow us to go home, and that they would just keep
us here until we get done, to motivate us to work. – Sounds good. Senator Nicole Poolman,
thank you very much for being our guest. – Thank you. – Pleasure. The State House has proposed
a plan to help counties struggling with snow
removal costs this year. An amendment on the table
would give the National Guard budget an $8 million boost,
as political correspondent Chad Mira tells us, that
money will help towns dealing with snow, and
also with flooding costs. – [Chad] It’s been
a tough season for road crews across the state. – It’s just been a
interesting winter, and a interesting spring. – [Chad] Morton County
Engineer John Saiki said the expenses have piled up. There’s overtime pay
for the plow drivers. – This winter we’ve done
a lot of Friday, Saturday, and Sunday work, a
lot of night work. – [Chad] And maintenance. – We had a lot of repairs
that we had to make. A lot of maintenance, and
that goes along with running the equipment 10,
14 hours a day. – [Chad] So state
law-makers wanna help. An amendment has been added
to the National Guard budget that would provide
more than $8 million for non-oil-producing
counties across the state. A township could be
eligible for $5000 to cover snow removal and
floor response expenses. – It’s really expensive to take
of those things this spring, so most of the
counties needed help. – [Chad] Representative
Jeff Magrum’s district has been hit especially hard. Ashley alone has seen more than a 110 inches
of snow this year. – [Ashley] A lot of ’em have
a little reserve, hopefully, so it could really be hard
on most of the small towns. – [Chad] Small towns
that are still waiting for things to dry up. – Well as the clocks winds
down we have Chad Mira here. As the clocks winds
down on the session, what have been your
most interesting issues that you’ve been following? – Oh yeah, there’s been a lot
of interesting ones this year. One that sticks out, and we’ve
heard a lot about from people here at the newsroom,
the Sunday closing laws, the repeal of the
Sunday closing laws. Very interesting story, and
Representative Roers Jones even convincing her own
father on the Senate’s side to vote for the bill, so that
one sticks out in my mind. Another one that sticks
out are some of the changes to the medical marijuana
laws that we’re seeing, the roll-out has been
taking a little longer than initially expected,
therefore enrollment in the program, the patient
count is a little bit lower than expected at this
point in the program so they’re still looking
at ways to expand access to medical marijuana, and
we’ve seen a lot of ways to address that this
session as well. Anything that you
think stands out? – The whole discussion about the new Theodore Roosevelt
Library and Museum has been fascinating. Also, all the ideas about
the Constitutional Amendments to put a few limits on the
Constitutional Amendments that are introduced
by initiative, that’s been
interesting to follow because they’ve come
up with something, and that has to go on the
ballot and be voted on, which is a little ironic twist. – Yeah, that is a big one. We had two Constitutional
Amendments on that last ballot, so that is something that
could certainly shack up the election process
moving forward. And you mentioned
the library as well, we’re still waiting to
see how that shakes up, but this latest funding
proposal doesn’t include money from the Legacy Fund, it
includes funding for the library but from different sources,
so it will be interesting to see if that gets approved. I know that’s one
that Governor Burgum has been pushing
throughout the session, and a lot of eyes have
been on that as well. – And the thing that
you referenced early
on in the program, the idea of studying
what happens with the Legacy Fund earnings. I think that’s
going to be a study worth watching in the interim. – Absolutely, you
know as time goes on those earnings are growing,
and now we have a chance to use some of them, and so as
Representative Boschee said, there’s 140 plus ideas
on what to do with these. We’ve heard that from
other law-makers as well, so hopefully from this study
they can come up with a plan to give them more concrete ways of how they’re gonna use
these fundings moving forward, so in future sessions this
isn’t repeated debates with 140 more ideas
every couple of years. – Well, we’ll be
following all this issues. We still have some
issues to follow. For Legislative Review,
I’m Dave Thompson. Thanks for joining us.

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