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Merit-based scholarships made more flexible

BISMARCK -- High school students will have more flexibility with the state merit-based scholarship under a bill passed Wednesday.

The scholarship requires a high school student to fulfill certain courses to qualify, including two units of a foreign language. House Bill 1258 now adds, instead of a foreign language, a student can fulfill two units of a career and technical education curriculum from a coordinated plan of study recommended by the Department of Career and Technical Education and approved by the superintendent of public instruction.

Once a student has the scholarship, he or she is required to fulfill 15 college credits per semester. The bill allows a student to take 12 credits as long as the other three come from an approved clinical, practicum, internship or cooperative program, which are not considered under the current scholarship requirements.

Child care facilities

Child care facilities will be able to apply for up to $187,500 for facility infrastructure needs with a bill passed Wednesday.

Lawmakers approved the Industrial Commission's budget, Senate Bill 2014.

In it, $2.6 million will be given to the Department of Commerce to provide grants to child care facilities during the next biennium. The department will create guidelines for child care providers to qualify for a grant, which will include a requirement of $1 of matching funds raised by the child care providers for every $3 of grant funds, with a maximum grant of $187,500.

Another $2 million will be allocated under the bill so the department can provide grants to homeless shelters during the upcoming biennium.

Western housing

Lawmakers said Wednesday that providing housing in western North Dakota for essential public employees is a top priority.

The Legislature sent Gov. Jack Dalrymple House Bill 1029, which provides $20 million in tax credits through the Housing Incentive Fund for individuals or businesses that provide financing for the construction or rehabilitation of a multifamily housing facility in a developing community.

The funds will be distributed with top priority to essential service workers, followed by low- or moderate-income families.

The bill requires the Housing Finance Agency to monitor housing units owned or leased by a public entity such as a school, city or county, as the bill aims to reduce the number of units owned by these groups.