The members of the House continue to meet in conference committees and complete floor action on any remaining policy bills.
The House completed work on SB 2124 recently and gave it a 82-3 do pass recommendation.
This bill continues the Legislature’s efforts to fully fund the direct costs of human service delivery with state dollars instead of property taxes. The bill also calls for enhancing the delivery of services in the state as they won’t be limited to county lines any longer. The Senate concurred with the House changes on Friday and passed it 46-1. It now moves on to the Governor for his signature.
Late last week, the House Appropriations Committee amended SB2016, the budget for the Adjutant General, the National Guard and the Department of Emergency Services. The amendment provides 8.1 million dollars to townships in non-oil producing counties. The funding comes from the state disaster relief fund and will appropriate $5000 for each township in a qualifying county. The decision was based on the extraordinary snowfall this past winter in the eastern part of the state and excessive cost of road maintenance in western North Dakota. Some areas in the south-central portion of our state received between 80 and 110 inches of snow and are now dealing with washed out culverts and inundated roadways. Recognizing that many areas dealt with difficult winter conditions, it was decided that all townships in the qualifying counties could use some financial assistance. This House proposal will still have to be approved by the Senate.
The House Appropriations Human Services Sub-section completed work on SB2012, which is the budget bill for the Department of Human Services (DHS). It was decided not to accept a plan by the Governor to bring the management of the program into the DHS instead of using a third-party administrator. However, the committee did vote to recommend that management of the pharmacy benefit program be moved in-house. We believe this move will be very positive for rural pharmacies. The committee is also recommending that hospitals continue to get paid on what is called a commercial rate. If changed, it would have cost healthcare providers about $220 million dollars over the biennium. The House and Senate will be taking up the bill in the next few days. We are still visiting with members of the appropriations committee and leadership about increased funding for long-term care.
The House also passed SB2006 which provides an income tax break for the people of North Dakota funded by Legacy Fund earnings. The House previously passed a similar bill but it was defeated in the Senate. We are hopeful this bill will be passed by the Senate and signed by the Governor.
SB2315 was discussed by members of the House on Thursday. It has been one of the most contentious bills we have dealt with this session. Depending on which side you talk to, the bill is either a property rights bill or an anti-hunting bill. The bill will return to conference committee for further discussion following a vote that approved part of the bill.
Finally, House Members joined their Senate colleagues to override the Governor’s Veto of SB2055. The House voted 89-3 for the override and in the Senate, it was unanimous. The bill clarifies the use of the legislative budget section and sets up the standards and guidelines by which it can operate when the legislature is not in session. The change was made to reflect changes that were recommended by some of the Justices of the ND Supreme Court in a ruling after the last session when the legislature prevailed on 4 of 5 challenged vetoes by the Governor. The Court did not declare the Budget Section unconstitutional. The Chief Justice stated the delegation to the Budget Section was not permissible only because the Legislative Assembly did not provide the Budget Section adequate guidelines and standards to make its decisions.
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