What a week in the LegislatureWhat a week that was! When you vote on 100-plus bills in three days, it’s hard to remember all the details of each bill.
By: Rep. David Drovdal, North Dakota Legislature
What a week that was! When you vote on 100-plus bills in three days, it’s hard to remember all the details of each bill.
The House had several bills that made some changes to voter requirements. I received an email from AARP that said the requirement of having an ID would prevent senior citizens from voting. I can’t remember the last election that I didn’t have to provide ID before voting so I couldn’t figure out what they were talking about.
Another bill that caused confusion was to fund a heritage committee with $15 million dollars. Most of the farm organizations and the Greater North Dakota Organization back the bill and I couldn’t figure out why. Finally, I was told they were scared that a petition drive would result in the voters approving up to $100 million to this new committee. The bill was sold on the idea that we needed new parks, more access for wildlife and fish habitat, conservation cover programs, land buffers for lakes and streams and sustainable cropping systems.
I agree with the objectives but we have a parks and recreation department that should be asking for new parks if needed. We have the Game and Fish Department in charge of fish and wildlife issues, the federal government is operating conservation programs, so why do we need a new committee that include governance from major conservation stakeholders that are most likely out of state and are not accountable to North Dakota taxpayers?
If the voters of North Dakota want to spend $100 million for these programs, then let them vote on it. I have more trust in the voters and think they should make the decision as to starting a program like this.
Sometimes in here you have to be careful what you ask for. I have always supported increasing the premium rebate to fire departments because I know firsthand how it helps recruit and retain volunteers. The Fire Chief Association asked the appropriation committee to substantially increase the rebate, they did but they also put restrictions and reporting requirements on the funding.
I know the funding is not misspent but I also know that how the volunteers use the funds is different than what the committee feels it should be used for. My experience is that currently the volunteer departments receive the money to use as they see fit.
The committee thinks the money is going to the fire district organization to purchase equipment and reduce mill levies. The report requires listing the funds that each group has on hand no matter where or how they received the funds. I fear that the Fire Chief Association may have upset the apple cart.
There are times during the session that you hold your nose and vote, one such time was when we had to finally address the affordable health care act. The act is the law of the land, the rules have been written and the results are before us. There are 18 new taxes in the act, we can opt out and single people with no children between 100 percent and 138 percent income will not get coverage and we don’t receive any of our tax dollars back. Hospitals will lose millions because of lower reimbursements on Medicaid.
If we opt in there is included in the affordable health care act a donut hole for childless adults between 18 and 55 years old, if they are at 100 percent of poverty, they don’t qualify for subsidized insurance, but if they are at 101 percent, they do. This results in adding 7,000 individuals and the cost to cover them will be up to $26.6 million in additional premium for state payers but the adults would be covered and hospitals would save on Medicaid write-offs.