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USS North Dakota submarine 80 percent complete

BISMARCK -- The commanding officer of the USS North Dakota took to the House podium for a rare address to the state legislature Friday afternoon.

Cmdr. Douglas V. Gordon, spoke to a room full of legislators about the submarine and it's impact it will have on the U.S. Navy fleet after it is christened this fall and commissioned in 2014.

Gordon's speech coincided with Gov. Jack Dalrymple's proclamation that Friday was USS North Dakota Day, "a day that honors the second ship in the U.S. Navy named after North Dakota."

The USS North Dakota is a submarine under construction at the General Dynamics Electric Boat shipyard in Groton, Conn. The boat will be 377 feet long, 34 feet wide, 7,800 tons and be able to dive into depths beyond 800 feet. It is designed to carry special operations forces, which is a new feature in modern submarine capabilities. It is about 80 percent complete.

Student loans

The Bank of North Dakota is asking the Legislature to spend funds it has received as a result of the Federal Student Loan Program.

Eric Hardmeyer, president and CEO of the Bank of North Dakota, said on Thursday that the federal government first took away the banks ability to service their own loans as part of the federal loan program, but in return, gave the bank 100,000 student loans it could offer at a fixed interest rate.

The Bank of North Dakota subcontracted those loans to the Missouri Higher Education Loan Authority for an initial $1.65 million plus an annual fee of about $270,000.

State law has kept the bank from spending the money, but Senate Bill 2096 would give the bank the opportunity to put those funds back into higher education, Hardmeyer said.

"We want to plow it back into higher education of some sort, whether that's financial literacy, outreach or scholarships," he said. "The bill gives us authority to spend it over a number of different areas."

The bill was unanimously passed out of committee Thursday with a do pass motion. It will be taken in front of the entire Senate for consideration.

IT projects

The state's Information Technology Department may see some changes to its procedures for large projects totaling more than $250,000.

Two pieces of legislation came before the Senate Government and Veterans Affairs Committee on Friday.

Senate Bill 2033 would define a "large project" within the Department to any project that costs more than $500,000 -- it's currently defined at $250,000.

Lisa Feldner, Chief Information Officer, for the Information Technology Department, said there are a few projects now that are less than $500,000. Being defined as a large project increases the amount of oversight and paperwork on the a project.

"In order to increase workload, we can take staff from projects less than $500,000 and apply them to those over $500,000," she told the committee. "That would also increase oversight on the larger projects."

Senate Bill 2034 followed Beldner's testimony and highlighted the need for oversight on large projects.

The bill would create an executive steering committee consisting of the Office of Management and Budget and the Attorney General to oversee the procurement, contract negotiation and administration of the project.

No committee action was taken on either bill.