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Lawmakers propose changes for driving suspensions

BISMARCK -- Lawmakers are discussing a bill that would allow an individual with a suspended driver's license to obtain a temporary license sooner from the Department of Transportation.

Under House Bill 1027, the DOT would be able to issue a temporary license after one year's suspension, rather than the current two-year requirement, provided the individual shows proof of financial responsibility, proof of required treatment attendance and proof of compliance with the 24/7 alcohol program if required to participate.

The bill came out of the 2012 Interim Commission on Alternatives to Incarceration, where judges on the commission said courts are seeing a significant increase in the number of cases of people driving with a suspended license than they should.

A driver with a temporary license would only be able to use it during normal working hours and to drive to treatment programs and take family to school or for medical treatment.

The bill passed the House with a unanimous vote and was heard Thursday in the Senate Transportation Committee where no action was taken.

Higher ed funding

Public universities may soon see a bump in state funding due to a new formula lawmakers have created to fund higher education.

Senate Bill 2200 was passed to the House unanimously, which would change the higher education funding formula to be based on the number of credits completed rather than a mixture of various campus elements which is currently in use.

The bill only addresses the change to the higher education funding formula and does not include any funding for capital projects or university system funds.

The bill's prime sponsor, Sen. Tim Flakoll, R-Fargo, said the formula is transparent, consistent, comprehensive and easy to understand.

The new formula would take a base dollar amount that would vary depending on kind of institution -- two-year schools, such as Bismarck State College, would receive $117 per credit; Dickinson State University and other four-year regional campuses, $110 per credit; and North Dakota State University and the University of North Dakota would each receive $72 per credit -- and multiply that by the number of credit hours earned by students at the school.

The formula also factors in the higher cost of some programs, such as nursing; the fact that larger schools can operate more efficiently; and the physical size of the school's campus.

Wine and grape research

Wine and grape production groups might see a boost in funding for research after the state Senate passed a bill Thursday to provide $100,000 for the state's agriculture commissioner to provide research grants.

Senate Bill 2146 was sent to the House by a 26- 20 vote.

The bill was drafted, "to support growth, education and marketing of grape production and wineries in the state," the bill's sponsor, Sen. Karen Krebsbach, R-Minot, said.

Sen. Joe Miller, R-Park River, chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee, said $100,000 was too much money for a group that already has a large amount of money in their own coffers.

Krebsbach rebutted saying the industry is in its infancy and "it needs help from us."

The funding would come from the agricultural fuel tax fund, which is used for the enhancement of agricultural research, development, processing, technology, and marketing.

The bill would also allow the ag commissioner to appoint a grape and wine advisory committee consisting of two grape producers, one producer of fruits other than grapes, two winery owners and one representative from the North Dakota grape and wine association.