Western ND issues wait for green light at special sessionBISMARCK — North Dakota legislators shot down a variety of bills suggested for discussion this week, including several aimed at western North Dakota. During a special session, legislators need to propose bills to Republican-controlled delayed bills committees before their issues can advance.
By: Teri Finneman , The Dickinson Press
BISMARCK — North Dakota legislators shot down a variety of bills suggested for discussion this week, including several aimed at western North Dakota.
During a special session, legislators need to propose bills to Republican-controlled delayed bills committees before their issues can advance.
Here are issues that haven’t received a green light:
- Rep. Ed Gruchalla, D-Fargo, proposed spending nearly $1.4 million to add four traffic troopers and three motor carrier troopers in western North Dakota. Two of the traffic troopers would be in Dickinson and two in Williston, he said.
House Majority Leader Al Carlson of Fargo advised Gruchalla to propose amendments to the disaster bill rather than submit a separate bill. He said he didn’t want to discourage Gruchalla, but preferred not to have a long list of bills to discuss when those items could fit into the disaster bill.
- Rep. Dave Weiler, R-Bismarck, proposed a $750 million bill to fix the state’s flood-related issues.
“I believe that the current plan is a Band-Aid approach. There’s not enough money in there (the disaster bill),” he said. “We have a lot of serious issues out in the state, and it’s time that we take a bold approach and take the money that we have in this state and fix the problem once and for all.”
House Minority Leader Jerry Kelsh of Fullerton called the proposal “a noble effort,” but said there are too many other issues to restrict that much money to one area.
- Rep. RaeAnn Kelsch, R-Mandan, proposed adding three legislators to the Education Standards and Practices Board. North Dakota is struggling with a shortage of teachers, particularly in the western part of the state, yet teachers wanting to move here from out of state are being denied licensure, she said.
She proposed adding legislators to the board “so we have a better grasp on what’s happening out there and why teachers are being denied their licensure.”
“It’s not making sense why some of these individuals who have held licenses in other states and now come to North Dakota, and they’re not able to get their license,” Kelsch said.
Carlson said there’s no question there are concerns, but he didn’t know if it was fitting to take up the issue during the special session.
“If I were them (ESPB), I would be put on notice, and they better be listening,” he said.
- Rep. Kenton Onstad, D-Parshall, proposed providing oil and gas impact loans from the Legacy Fund, a new savings account of oil tax revenue. Political subdivisions that receive impact grants typically don’t receive enough to finish projects or aren’t able to start projects due to uncertainty of future funding, he said.
The bill duplicates a successful program already in place for coal counties, he said.
Rep. David Drovdal, R-Arnegard, Drovdal agreed there are needs, but said voters approved the terms of the Legacy Fund. This includes keeping the fund frozen until 2017. Carlson said the fund just began receiving money.
“This thing’s just getting going,” he said. “I’m not sure now is the time to start making big loans out of there.”
- Rep. Keith Kempenich, R-Bowman, submitted a bill for the Legislature to meet annually instead of every two years. He said he hasn’t supported the idea in the past but said there are so many issues now for the Legislature to address. Rep. Mike Schatz, R-New England, also supports the idea, pointing to all of the needs in the western part of the state.
“What I’m seeing out there is near emergency situations going on with transportation and infrastructure that we need to deal with on a yearly basis,” he said. “We need to get ground moved and roads done and bridges built as soon as we can out west because we have to stay ahead of what’s coming.”
The House Delayed Bills Committee voted against discussing the issue during the special session. Drovdal, R-Arnegard, said the bill should be left until the next regular session when more public input can be received.
- Senate Minority Leader Ryan Taylor of Towner proposed an additional $50 million for oil and gas impact grants. He also proposed his “Lasting Harvest” initiative to create a long-range statewide plan.
- Sen. Karen Krebsbach, R-Minot, proposed a sales tax rebate for certain purchases of replacement property for property damaged or destroyed by 2011 flooding.
Legislative leaders have repeatedly said the session would be limited in duration and scope. They hope to wrap up the special session on Friday.
Finneman is a multimedia reporter for
Forum Communications Co.