Mike Nowatzki reports for Forum News Service. He can be reached at (701) 255-5607.
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BISMARCK -- North Dakota lawmakers delivered more than $1 billion in tax relief, but a backer of last year's Measure 2 says the Legislature failed to provide adequate relief or reform. Charlene Nelson, chairwoman of Empower the Taxpayer, the nonprofit coalition that pushed Measure 2 onto the 2012 ballot, said the Legislature only "set the clock back," arguing that it's temporary relief and only a matter of time until it's gone. She also said there was no tax reform, which was the large focus of Measure 2, a citizen initiated measure to abolish property taxes.
BISMARCK -- Reversing a vote from Thursday, House lawmakers today defeated Gov. Jack Dalrymple's proposal to increase state aid to K-12 school districts while providing about $714 million in property tax relief. Lawmakers spent the first hour of their last legislative day debating House Bill 1319, arguing whether it had the right provisions to provide property tax relief, though the bill's supporters continually said it was an education funding bill, not a tax relief bill. The vote tallied 46-46 with two not voting, it needed 48 votes to pass.
BISMARCK -- Rep. Bob Skarphol said late Wednesday a bill to provide $1.1 billion to western North Dakota communities will deliver ample funding to address infrastructure and other needs, but will not provide the long-term help the bill was intended to do. House lawmakers passed House Bill 1358 by a unanimous vote, but the bill was amended from its original 10-year plan to end in 2015. "It's not a long-term plan of any kind," said Skarphol, R-Tioga, who sponsored the bill.
BISMARCK -- Child care facilities will be able to take on more children, and families will be in a better position to afford child care with a bill passed Tuesday. The Legislature sent Gov. Jack Dalrymple House Bill 1422, which bumps up the state's cap on the number of children a provider can watch at one time. It also provides financial incentives, with $1 million in grants for the recruitment, training and retention of child care workers to meet demand. An additional $300,000 will create two new positions, one on each side of the state, to help with the training.
BISMARCK -- The Legislature's promise to provide tax relief for North Dakota residents still hangs in the balance during the session's final days, and large tax cut packages have yet to be passed. Sen. Dwight Cook, R-Mandan, chairman of the Senate Finance and Tax Committee, has said throughout the session that the Legislature will provide $1 billion in tax relief, and points to four remaining bills that total over that mark. Gov.
BISMARCK -- The North Dakota judicial system will have three new district court judges once Gov. Jack Dalrymple signs off on the budget for the state's judicial branch. House lawmakers passed Senate Bill 2002 Monday morning 87-4 with the Senate unanimously passing it Friday. Two judges will be placed in the Northwest District and the other in the East Central District. Chief Justice Gerald Vandewalle asked lawmakers for the three new judges to help handle the large increase in court cases that have come largely, in part, from the increase in population due to the oil boom.
BISMARCK -- With three families who have lost loved ones in the past year standing behind him, North Dakota Gov. Jack Dalrymple signed a law Monday he says a clear message: "Driving under the influence of alcohol and drugs is a very serious offense and will not be tolerated." Tom Deutscher said many more are now going to benefit from the new laws, which his family has lobbied for all session.
BISMARCK -- President Barack Obama, pledging to fight state efforts to ban abortion practices, said Friday that North Dakota's most recent law prohibiting abortions as early as six weeks after conception is one attempt "to turn back the clock for policies more suited to the 1950s than the 21st century." He pointed out during his speech to Planned Parenthood in Washington that 42 states have introduced laws to limit or ban abortion that would "severely limit access to a woman's right to choose." Rep.
BISMARCK -- After two failed attempts, House lawmakers passed a bill to fund the Tobacco Prevention and Control Advisory Committee. Senate Bill 2024 was defeated by one vote Thursday, and an attempt to reconsider it later did not garner enough support. The bill was considered again Friday, and it passed 68-23. Lawmakers said they voted against the bill originally to help send a message to the committee that some don't agree with how the committee is spending its money and handling its prevention efforts.
BISMARCK -- The internal auditor for the North Dakota University System said Chancellor Hamid Shirvani did not violate any policies or commit fraud in testimony before a House committee, but adds that Shirvani's presentation could have been construed as misleading. A University System staff member accused Shirvani of trying to make the graduation and retention rates at the University of North Dakota and North Dakota State University look bad by using inappropriate comparison schools as he provided an update March 18 to the House Appropriations Committee. The accuser, Linda Baeza Porter, inte