North Dakota Legislative Review 1904
Articles,  Blog

North Dakota Legislative Review 1904

– [Announcer] Welcome
to a weekly review of North Dakota’s
legislative news. Now here’s your host
Dave Thompson with North Dakota Legislative Review. – And this is North
Dakota Legislative Review, I’m Dave Thompson. The Senate Appropriations
Committee passed a two and three pay plan for state employees. What happens with the two
and three plan is that it’ll be 2% the first
year, 3% the second year, and state employees will
get fully funded insurance. Now the committee decided
to make it more than just a two and three pay plan
for state employees, K-12 increases and
higher education and also for human services employees
will all be going up two and three, two the first
year, three the second year. Committees began work on ethics
and limitation bills today or this week I should say, and
there’s one in each chamber. There are a few differences,
one thing they do agree on is they’re going to be
interim two year studies to work out the rules and
get everything together, but they’re going to try to
appoint five member commissions that are going to
take a look at ethics and to go with the
reviews as well. Also UND and NDSU have
some research money they’re asking for, they
had asked originally for a hundred million dollars, but
now the bill that’s in will be 45 million dollars
over the next two years. The money will come from the
proceeds of the Legacy Fund, that will be one to watch. We’re ready to cheer on
the Rams or the Patriots in the big game this weekend, but state law makers are
hoping by this time next year you might be able to
even bet on the game. Last year the US Supreme
Court paved the way for individual states to
legalize sports gambling. Our political
correspondent Chad Mira talked to a congressman who
wants to make that happen. – The side just started session, there are two bills
pertaining to sports gambling. The sponsor of one of
those is joining us now, Representative Jason Dockter, Representative thanks
for being here today. – Thanks for having me. – There are two bills, just
some minor differences between the two, tell us how your bill
differs from one of the other ones that we’ve seen. – My bill allows that
you can do sports betting on college and professional
where the other bill that they have is only
professional sports. – So yours would be a
little bit more broad. – Yes and the reason why I put
my bill in to include college is you know a lot of people
will be on March Madness, on college basketball and so
I felt if people are already betting on those why
not allow them to do it if we pass the sports
betting law in the state of North Dakota. – So why do you feel
North Dakota should legalize sports betting? – Well you know the Supreme
Court willing in New Jersey here about a year ago and we
already have a lot of gaming in the state, we already
allow blackjack and pull tabs and other gaming. In the state of North Dakota
all the gaming revenue goes, it’s charity based, where in
other states they have more casinos that are for profit,
all these are run through non profits. So I feel if the federal
government allows states to allow sports betting
and we already have gaming in the state that this
would be a good revenue generating option for the
charitable organizations in the state. – One of the concerns we
heard brought up in committee was that of gambling addiction, we heard the statistic close to 3% of North Dakotan’s
might struggle with gambling addiction. Do you think, is that an area
that we can address or do you think that we need another
gambling option to help ease some of those concerns? – Well we already have in the
budget we already have money set aside for addiction
which includes for gambling addiction. I look at it that people are
already doing sports betting, they’re already doing it
online so I don’t think this is going to create any more
problems than there already is with gambling but I
think the state we’re trying to address that with having
funding and having different programs you’re always
gonna have a segment of the population who are
gonna struggle with addictions. If it’s gambling or if
it’s alcohol or drug abuse we’re always gonna have those
issues that we gotta deal with and the state’s trying to
fund those programs properly so we can help those
people that are in need. – Very good. Representative Jason Dockter
thanks for your time. – Thank you. – And we are now joined by
the Senate Minority Leader, Senator Joan Heckaman, she’s a Democrat
from New Rockford, Senator thank you
for being here. – Well thanks for
the invitation. – So we’ve got a lot of
issues to talk about, the first thing I wanted
to get to is your reaction to Senate Appropriations going
with this two and three plan, not only for state employee
raises but for things like K-12 and for human
services and other things. What was your
thought about that? – Well our caucus has stood
strong on the fact that we would like to go three
and three with a minimum. We set up several scenarios
on that today when we presented to appropriations
and we’re a little disappointed that we
couldn’t get a minimum for some of the state employees. If you’re on a 2% you
may not get very much if you’re one of the lower
workers on the salary schedule, so we were disappointed in that. That doesn’t mean we’ll
quit working on that. There are still some
opportunities for us to move forward with that and also
look at other opportunities for higher ed long
term care, DD, and some of the other things. – Wasn’t your proposal to go
300 dollars the first year as a minimum raise? – Some were 300, we had
several proposals out there, some were 300, some were 200. And we wanna make sure
that the lowest workers have an increase that
they can get by with. You know we haven’t given them
an increase for three years and everything else
is costing more, so we have to look at that. – In the DD and also the
nursing home workers, the Long Term Care
Associations been pushing for a three and three. And in talking to some of
the representatives they, they looked at the two
and three and they said well that’s a start but
we’re really pushing for three and three. Is that still possible? – I think it’s still
possible for three and three. We visit with a long
term care association the other evening and they’re
definitely needed too. The last three years or
four years have been hard on whether it’s DD, higher
education, regular education, and long term care. We haven’t done our job
in the state legislature so we need to step up to
the plate and do that. – Oh I’m sorry I didn’t
mean to interrupt. – I just think that if we
don’t do the three and three, then they’re gonna
look at a provider tax which causes me more concern. – Well that was my next question
because that bill is in, and the Long Term Care
Association is supporting it right now to get
to three and three, but I’ve heard a lot of
discussion from both parties, people from both parties
saying they don’t like the idea of a provider tax and they’d
rather find another way to fund a three and three. – We did look at that. One of our senators had a
bill in to do a 15% surtax on all state income tax and
that would’ve provided about a hundred million dollars
for the state of North Dakota to have for specific
for long term care fund. And they would’ve been able
to use that how they needed, whether it was for operations,
whether it was for raises, however they needed to do that. And I think we have to
look at something else other than a provider tax. – And of course we’ve got
the March revenue forecast coming up too I’m sure that
will really narrow things down to find out what you
can and cannot do. – It certainly will. You know we’re hearing
that revenues are already increasing a little bit. Some of that because of oil, some of that because
of sales tax, we had a great December
sales tax revenue report and that
helped a little bit. But the March forecast
will give us the final, help us make the final decisions as we go through appropriations. – So as I’m thinking
about as we talk, what are you hearing
in terms of collections of online sales taxes, sales
taxes from online retailers? – Sure. We know that they’re have
been a couple million dollars come in on that,
I better back up, maybe it’s a couple
hundred thousand. But we know that there
is some online sales tax coming in on that and so
that’s gonna be helpful to us too. Hopefully as we go along
we’ll have more providers out there you know access
that and report their and bring their
contributions in to the state of North Dakota,
that was a good bill, a good move that helped
North Dakota out. – On another topic you had
the hearings this week, the first hearings
on the ethics bills. You know we passed the
ethics measure as voters in November but there has to be some implementation legislation. Where are you seeing that going? – Well there are two
bills out there right now had hearings yesterday,
one right after the other in the Brynhild Haugland room, I think there were, both bills have something
in common and something different about them. The senate bill implements
only the necessary items for this biennium. That’s good in some ways
because it let’s the, an interim committee
do more work. It also let’s the Ethics
Commission that I’ll be part of appointing the
membership of do other work. So I think the minimum
is what we need to have before the 2021 session. – So explain how that works, how you’re involved in helping
to appoint the commission. – In the measure itself
a five person commission is going to be appointed by
consensus from the governor, the Senate majority leader and
the Senate minority leader. And so right now I’m
directing people to go online to the governor’s boards
and commissions page and go ahead and
file an application, there’s a drop down box on
there and people can apply. And then after that I think
it’s three individuals will sit down together
in a meeting and review those applications and see
where we wanna go from there. – Do you need to have that
appointed by August 1st, July 1st, what are
you hoping for? – There is a timeline on that, I can’t exactly remember
what it is right now but there is a
timeline that we have. I think it’s coming up shortly, and so we will have
done that done in time to meet the deadline. – One very side issue and I
just have to ask you about this, I’ve heard some discussion
and some debate about where this commission
should be housed. Should it be in the Capitol, should it be in the
Attorney General’s office, should it be in the
Auditor’s office, should it be it’s own
thing off campus somewhere in an office say in Parker
Square or something like that? What are you hearing? – Well I think it depends
on what bill you look at. I think the senate bill
has some direction on that. Part of that’s going to be as
the commission moves forward, I think some direction will
be given there and also as the interim committee
moves forward that they’ll provide some direction for that. But there needs to be an
office for the commission, there is some appropriations
for funds for staffing and for equipment and
that will depend on how the chamber is moved
through the bills. – Suffice it to say there’s
a lot of moving parts to this and trying to get
everything together, get the rule making going, it’s gonna take a little
time to get it integrated. – It is and that’s why I
really like the senate bill because it does only
what’s necessary right now and gives the interim
committee and the commission the authority to go ahead
and do some of the other work that’s needed before
the 2021 session. – Now going to higher
eduction you are a member of the Commission on Governance, the task force on governance, You came up with a
three board solution, now I’m hearing some
back channel talk about a two board
solution and I know Senator Beckett
also came at that. – There’s a number of
propositions that we could have had out there, one,
two, three, and four. The governor took the
one board off the table because he knew that
there may be a legislator putting in something on that so we were left with
the two and the three and the four board models
to make our decisions. Our first vote was
for a two board model, there was more
discussion after that, we voted for a four board
model and the 15 of us couldn’t decide so
it’s gonna be difficult to bring something forward. So then one of the members
of the committee said to me well why don’t we just put
the three board model in and that will give
the legislature
something to work with to go down to two
board model or up to a three board model easier,
so that’s what we did. That doesn’t mean that
all of us are supporting the three board model, but it’s a starting
point as we go forward. Now I’m disappointed in
the fact that that bill isn’t it yet. The bill is in but it isn’t
being heard in committee yet. – Yeah I noticed that, it
hasn’t been scheduled yet. – So I don’t know what
the drawback is or what’s holding that back cause I
think we should be having a conversation on
that right now. – If you had your druthers,
which model would you like? – If I had my druthers I’d
stay with the current model, the one board model. I think there was
consensus on a few things in the governance task force
and that is that we need to have additional members on the Board of
Higher Education, we all agreed to that. We feel that instead
of two four year terms it should be possibly
one six year term and that the student member
should be a voting member. And then there’s some discussion
on out of state membership on that commission
or on that board. So I would prefer what
we have right now, I think our models
going forward, I think we’ve got good
members on the board. And the thing that I took
away when we had a consultant is that it doesn’t matter
what your model is, it matters who the
people are in that model and that’s basically
where I’m coming from. – Would you consider the
chancellor looking at restructuring his committees
at the current board to deal with some
of these issues at the different colleges. – I think he’s
doing that already. I think I saw in the paper
that they’re looking at additional committees and
additional responsibilities and there are good people
on that board right now and they’re doing a good job. I think that changing
the governance model would put a little
hiccup in there, I think it’s gonna take a
while if we go to a two board or a three board model or
even a four board model that there would be some
delays in implementation and moving from the one board
model to a different model. – Do you think there’s
appetite for change? – You know I don’t know. In conversations with
others I think possibly not. You know I hear there’s
still people in favor of the one board model
but with some adjustments. – What else do you think
there might be hidden issues out there that might
bog things down? – Oh my goodness. There’s a lot of things
out there right now. You know we’re looking
at still the Legacy Fund, I have a bill in on the
principal of the Legacy Fund. We defeated a bill, a measure today to
take 800 million out of the Legacy
Fund principal. My bill’s a little bit
different than that, I’m directing 100 million
investments that are out of state right now that
the State Investment Board would bring those back and
invest them in North Dakota. It doesn’t remove the funds, it just changes where
the investment is made and those funds could be used
for quality of life issues and for behavioral and
mental health issues, addiction, and the homeless. – Is it a bigger issue
that maybe the Legacy Fund is not well defined about
what you can use it for and what you can’t? – Oh absolutely. I think that that’s one
of the issues that we’ve come across every session
that I’ve been here since the Legacy Fund has
been approved by the voters is that what will you able
to access and what will you be able to use and
now we are accessing the interest off of that. And that’s been beneficial,
we know that there’s probably going to be more interest
than even we anticipated and that’s sort of a
moving target too because that depends on the stock
markets because a lot is invested in markets. But my bill looks at the
35% that’s in fixed assets that we could return a 100
million of that to North Dakota and provide some
benefits to our state. – What would you
use that money for? – Well a lot of
different things. It could be a child care
center needs a new roof, they could apply for that,
it could be a swimming pool, it could be a park, it could
be an addiction center, it could be a program
for homeless people. There’s a lot of different
things that in it, I’ve been working with
the Bank of North Dakota and they’ve been very
cooperative and very supportive of the idea. – It might be fair to say
that there’s a lot of ask for the assets of the, or
not necessarily the assets, the earnings of the Legacy Fund. – Right. – Fifty million dollars for
a Theodore Roosevelt Library for example and a museum. Forty six million now that’s
in senate appropriations for research at the two
research universities. Is it a case of too many
asks not enough money? – You know I don’t know I
think we’ve got good people in appropriations that are
gonna make those decisions based on what they hear
and I know they’re visiting with people,
legislators, they’re
also visiting with people around the state to see
what they should be doing with those assets. There’s other asks
out there for that and one things that I really
support that’s coming from, it’s in both, I think the
governors request and also a request from the House
is that we had 40 million in the Challenge Grant Fund. Those are important dollars to
give out to our universities and our campuses where
they raise money and we put a match in for them so. – What do you think is
the appetite for building a Theodore Roosevelt Library
and museum in Medora? – It varies with who
you talk to out there. There are some people that
are really excited about it and think it’s a one
time opportunity. I can’t disagree with that, but then I look at the 50
million and I see the needs we have across the
state of North Dakota, I see the bills that
appropriations are looking at and trimming down because they
feel we don’t have the money. So I think it has to be a
balancing act when we get to the end of the session, I know the governor’s working
very hard on this initiative. And we visited with the Waltons, family came in last week and
we had a nice conversation with them and they’re
willing to be very supportive of the project too. While I don’t know what’s
gonna happen in the end, I think it would be
very nice for the state but then I have to look at
everything else as a legislator and as a minority leader and
say well are we able to fund what we do have for programs
and needs out there. – I think that
proposals still in the Commerce Department
budget correct? – I think so yeah. – Yep, what about the other
thing that the governor was really talking about
this idea of moving the women’s prison
out of New England, moving it to the
MRCC in Bismarck, moving the men out of
the MRCC to Jamestown. Have you looked at the
more and what do you think about that proposal? – I think that was
sort of surprise to
a lot of legislators, you know there was
no interim study, there was no discussion
on whether this
should come forward, it was the governor’s
initiative. While I don’t know
that it’s wrong, I think that there’s
some appetite out
there to have a study and to put this off for a
couple of years to find out what the cost would actually be. What are we gonna have to
do to retrofit the Missouri River Correctional Facility
and the Jamestown facility, also the building of the
state hospital is in there joined in with that somehow. And all those take money, and again it’s where
the appropriations feel that the best use of
those dollars will be. – I’m glad you brought that up
because I have enough memory to remember when the MRCC
was almost declared unfit and they were gonna tear
it down and make that park down there and then they did
something about a man camp and moving it down there. That seemed to help but I
know there’s some question about what the new
Jamestown State Hospital is going to look like and
people like Senator Mathern have talked about really
do we need to do that when we need to
put more money into treatment at the local level. – I agree with Senator
Mathern on that. I’ve worked with kids that
have a number of issues and the families that
they come from and if we’d had a child that had to be
placed out of school district, it’s very devastating for
that child to come back and to integrate
back into the family and into the district. I think services at the
local level are the best however we have to
have funds to do that, and that’s where the bill
that I had with the principal from the Legacy Fund could
be helpful because it could be used to build
regional centers. And the issue is also making
sure that we have funds in to train people to
work in those centers, that’s a big issue
right now is workforce. – I know recruiting workforce,
trying to get people, especially in western North
Dakota there’s a real need for that workforce
for treatment centers. That brings me to
another question, do you think that there’s gonna
be major progress this time in terms of treatment
more at the local level? – Well I hope so. The human service committees
in both the Senate and the House have a ton
of bills that integrate a lot of services through the Department of
Public Instruction, through corrections, through
the human service centers, and I just think that we’re
gonna come out here with a plan that’s been better than we
ever had in last session, the other sessions
I’ve been here. – Now thinking about
the Schulte report and then the last report,
there was some movement, you can call it baby steps
or whatever you’re saying, do you think that we could
see some significant progress that way? – Oh absolutely, we’ve got
such great people working from the Department of
Human Services. We’ve got great people in
the House and the Senate Human Services Committee
that are doing a ton of work. They’re working
late on these bills, they’re working on integrating
services and funding together the revenue is
also an important issue and making sure that we have
the revenue for the programming that we want to do. – In the few seconds
we have left, what’s your prediction
for sine die? – Oh my goodness, you’re
asking me that now. I forgot that you, I knew
you would ask me that. I don’t have a
prediction really. The Senate is working
hard, we’ve been diligent, had our nose to the grindstone, we have lot less bills than
the House does so it depends on how, you know the House
has about 150 more bills than we do and so total
of about 200 more bills than we’ve had in
other sessions recently so we’re gonna have to
work hard to get done in I would say 75 days maybe. – Alright Senator Joan
Heckaman thank you very much. – Thank you. – Self driving cars on our
roads might not be too far off. Lawmakers are now considering
multiple bills regarding autonomous vehicles. As our political correspondent
Chad Mira tells us, the could be the first step
in making the idea a reality here in North Dakota. – [Chad] A vehicle
driving itself. – These are gonna be you
know whether they’re smaller vehicles or busses that
would run in certain controlled areas that
would be used for public transportation. – [Chad] Representative Dan
Ruby says with the right laws in place, it could
happen in our state. – A lot of it too is
some of the basic stuff, who’s required to, that the
vehicles are required to be registered and
carry insurance. – [Chad] Questions that
can’t be answered yet. But after a DOT study
this past biennium, Ruby has submitted a bill to
address the new technology. – They worked with a
lot of varying groups, manufacturers of these types
of vehicles and technologies and came up with basically
a footprint of what they would need to have to
give them some flexibility to work with changing laws. – [Chad] Bismarck city
engineer Gabe Schell said it could do a lot of good. – Whether it’s a senior
or a young person or a person with disabilities
that might not be able to otherwise drive themselves
would certainly be able to drive, use an
autonomous vehicle. – [Chad] These self driving
vehicles are a part of Bismarck’s long term
transportation plan, but that plan requires
a lot of prep. – Whether or not that’s
the roadway itself, the pavement markings that
those vehicles would look for, or the intelligent
infrastructure whether it’s a fiber optic communication
backbone so we can talk to everyone of our traffic
signals and then therefore the traffic signals might
be able to talk to those autonomous or connected
vehicles in the future. So those are the steps
that we can take now. – [Chad] And Schell said it
helps having the state try to stay ahead of the
industry trends. – And Chad Mira joins us on set. Chad just to follow up on that, what do you think is
possibility or the likelihood we could see some legislation
about autonomous vehicles? – Well it looks like
there’s two bills, they’re not necessarily
competing bills. When I was talking to
Representative Ruby there he kinda said we have a
couple different proposals but we really wanna work
together and get some of these basics in place. That doesn’t mean
we’re gonna be seeing self-driving cars on
the road next year, but as we heard from the
Bismarck city engineer there it’s part of a long term
plan for some cities and so getting the groundwork
in is really important to them and it’s something
they studied last session, it’s coming up
again this session, so we could be seeing
it before we know it. – Since you mentioned roads
I just have to bring this up, we had the transportation
report card, we’ve seen the
infrastructure report card, not a great… – Not the best review
for the states, it’s from the American
Society of Civil Engineers gave the states
infrastructure a C grade on the report card this week. And the reason that’s important
to bring up is because we have some bills that
deal with infrastructure obviously there’s a bill that
would increase the gas tax, there’s obviously some
debate over the Legacy Fund, could that be used to improve
infrastructure projects and so it’ll be interesting
to see if this report card kinda drives some debate
when we start talking more about those bills. – And we haven’t even talked
about the Prairie Dog Bill which is still in committee
somewhere and being discussed and I know there’s a lot of
give and take on that one. – Yeah absolutely. – And you mentioned the gas tax, there’s also a bill to
raise registration fees, there was a bill that
was going to raise fees on electric cars but that
was maybe turned into a study I’m not exactly sure, but
there’s a lot of things at play. – Sure the idea that
those electric cars, they don’t fill with gas so
they don’t provide as much gas tax revenue so they
wanna look for a way to make sure those people switch to electric vehicles that
the state can still bring in some money that
can be used toward infrastructure projects. – And one other thing
that I’ll just mention, it looks like we’ll see
the House go to longer floor sessions because
they’ve got a lot of bills, about 400 plus bills
that are still pending, and they’ve gotta get work
done as we approach crossover. – It’s a lot of work and
you can see ’em when they’re at the Capitol how
hard they’re working. It’s always interesting
when you ask all the guests what’s your prediction
for sine die, I always wonder are the
senators going to be a little bit more optimistic
than the House members, we’ll have to wait and see, they still got a
lot to get through. – They sure do,
thank you so much. And you have been tuned
in to North Dakota Legislative Review,
I’m Dave Thompson, thank you for tuning in. (news theme music)

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