North Dakota Legislative Review 1913
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North Dakota Legislative Review 1913

– [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 with North Dakota
Legislative Review, I’m Dave Thompson. The governor’s first veto of
the 2019 legislative session has been upheld. Now, the bill would have
expanded license fees for driver’s license from
$15 to $30, double it. The Senate decided
to override the veto. House, however, upheld the veto. One of the other things
that happened is that we saw more action
on expanding the Board of Higher Education. It would go from eight
members to 15 members. It passed the Senate, and
then it was up in the House. At first, it failed in the
House, and it came back. It passed, but it was amended
so now it goes back to the Senate for
further discussion. And one other thing,
the House and Senate have now agreed to
a pay plan for state employees for the
next two years. They get two percent
raises in the first year, two and a half percent
raises the second year, and the first year it’s
a minimum of $120 a month and a maximum of $200 a month. And by approving this,
legislative leaders are now saying this could end
the legislative session a little bit earlier. And we are now joined
by State Senator, Erin Oban of Bismark. She’s a Democrat. Senator,
thank you for being here. – Hi, Dave. Thanks
for having me. – You’re on the
education committee. – Mmhmm. – And we just talked about
an education bill and that’s that expanding the
board of higher education. You know, there was
a two board bill that failed in the House earlier. There was a three board bill
that came from the task force. Where do you come down on that? – So, I was not sure that
I could entertain the idea of having separate boards,
because I think we’re supposed to have a unified system
and I didn’t feel that that would create the
unity that we want in our University system
across North Dakota. So, I did support the
expansion of the board, because I’ve seen the
pressures that are put on voluntary, you know,
volunteers, as board members. I thought if we could add
a few people to that board, spread out the
work a little bit, maybe allow them to
work in committees, which I know some of them
would like to be able to do to create more focus
on specific initiatives or on, whether it’s our
four year or two year colleges and universities, it
will allow them to do that. – One thing the
students are asking for another full-time board member. They have one that’s
a voting member. They’d like to go to
two, especially if you’re going to have
these subcommittees. One that is gonna look
at the University, the research Universities, one that’s gonna look at
the four year schools, one that’s gonna look
at the two year schools. How do you feel about a
second student member? – To me, it makes sense to
at least entertain that idea if you’re nearly doubling
the size of the board. It might make sense
to make sure that that student voice is
represented in the same proportion as we have now. I also know how difficult it
is to be a new board member and if that term is
shorter for a student, it takes longer to sort of find your legs in those positions. So, I think it will be
a worthy discussion, whether it not it
comes out in the end to add a student member I
think is yet to be determined. But it’s an important
discussion to have and actually one I
brought up in committee when we were discussing
it the first time. – So, you’ve already talked
about it in committee then. – We discussed it and
just decided we would see how we could deal
with increasing the
size of the board. I know that was a little
harder sell over in the House and now that it’s
coming back and we’ll go into
conference committee, I’m sure that will
be a discussion
between both chambers. – There at least seems
to be some recognition among legislators that
the current system does need to be tweaked somehow. – And I always believe
that governance is as good as the
people governing. So, I have a hard time
believing that big changes need to be made just
to make sure that our system is as
quality as students, and families, and tax payers
demand that it should be. So, providing an
opportunity to spread out some of that work, I
think, again, that we ask for volunteer
board members to have is in my opinion a
better way to do it than kind of uprooting
the whole system. – Now, one of the things
that’s been a priority of legislators for
time and memorial, at least for the number of
sessions I’ve been covering it, is spending on K12 education. Status seems like it’s
in pretty good shape now. – I think it’s settled right
now around two and two. I’ve made it clear
that I would prefer closer to three and three. Not just because I think
it’s what schools need, especially after going for
buying with no increase at all, but also because that is
direct property tax relief and when everybody I’ve
heard, whether it’s right here in my district
or across the entire state, the only complaints
I’ve ever heard about taxes in North Dakota
are about property taxes. When the state decided
to take on a bigger share of funding K12
education, that was a real way to provide property
tax relief and it’s also a way to
make sure that we continue to maintain
that equity and adequacy in funding K12 education. – But your point about what
happened two years ago, K12 was held harmless, but
because there were no increases. – I always do this
when held harmless. – The cases they
were actually behind. – Right and we also had
to dip into basically the reserves that kept
K12 education whole, so not only did they
not get an increase, but they would have been
cut with the governor’s allotments had we not
had that fund available and we were able to
access that, because the public told us on
the ballot that we could. to hold K12 education harmless. Really, what it
comes down to for me, kids have nothing to do
with the budget decisions that are being
made in Bismark and I really think we have
some catching up to do. And I’m fairly in tuned
with the challenges that schools are trying to meet,
and that administrators are trying to meet, and school
boards are trying to meet with finding that right balance
between what schools need and what taxpayers want. – Well, you brought
up two and two and I have to ask
about the pay plan, because Democrats
supported three and three. – We did. – The House was at two and two, The Senate was at two and three, the governor was
at four and two. None of that makes
any difference now, because it is a two and
a two and a half percent that apparently
House and Senate have pretty much reached
agreement on. Plus, these minimums. – Right. And I think that’s
the big difference for me with being able to
be more amenable to the two and two and a half. It’s gonna ensure that
that minimum is in there. That makes sure that
the lower income folks, the lower earners who are
working for the state, get an increase that
sometimes is going to be higher than two or
two and a half percent. And that’s really
important when we’re talking about cost
of living adjustments and just being able to
make sure that we’re paying people a living wage and one that can continue
to be competitive with the private sector. – And I hear from the
state employees groups that they like this
concept because of that floor especially. – Right, I think that
floor is important and to make sure that it
gets in the right hands of the employees,
doesn’t get suck up in administration somewhere. – I don’t want to get too
far deep in the weeds, but one other thing
in this pay plan is that state agencies
be allowed to roll up for raises at the
higher end about to address compression issues,
to address retention issues, and that’s been a major
issue over the last several bienniums is retaining,
you know, you keep and retain good employees. I know there has been some
resistance to roll ups, but now there seems to be
a lot more, shall we say, acceptance of that. – Again, I think
that’s why making sure that that minimum maximum
language is in there. – You also have
been blessed to be on the ethics committee
in the Senate. – Blessing and a curse. – Yes, and of course,
those bills are still pending out there. And it appears that
the House is going to hold onto the Senate
ethics bill until the Senate takes action
of the House ethics bill, you know, and there are
some differences there. If you had your druthers,
and again without going too far into
the weeds, because that’s really a
complicated issue. What would you like to see? – What I would like
to see is us close to the Senate bill that
we passed out unanimously, I believe, out of
the Senate chamber. That’s not how the House bill
came out of the House chamber and when you can get,
you know, far right Republicans and far
left Democrats and everybody in between
to unanimously support the Senate bill and a lot of
contention with the House bill. The closer we can get to
the Senate bill, of course, that’s going to be
my preference and I think it really was in
the intent of the sponsors of the measure and of
the people who passed it. That, to me, is our
job, is to implement what the people passed no
matter anybody’s personal feelings on it. That is our job. And I think the Senate bill
comes closer to doing that. – And there is some
room for implementation, but there is also some
authority by the commission that’s going to be appointed. – Right. And I
think that’s kind of the fundamental
difference between the House and Senate bill, is
when the measure was passed and is now Article 14
in the Constitution, it creates an ethics
commission and the Senate’s position was
that the ethics commission should be the one kind
of writing the rules and coming up with the
enforcement of some of those, some of the language
that was passed. I think the House would
insert the legislature into more of that and
it’s my opinion that the goal of that ethics
commission is to not play favorites anywhere. – Plus, there is a
study, at least I think, still in the Senate
bill, an interim study. – I think in the Senate
bill, we removed that study, because there were groups
coming to the table saying we don’t want to kick this
can down the road two years. We want to know what
the rules are and the Senate decided let’s
have ethics commission create those rules then. – Senator Hogue, your
chair, said that he would not be opposed
to an interim study, not to change it but to go
out and explain to everybody what the rules of
the ruling are. – Sure, sure. That will
be important regardless and you know, Senator
Mathern and I, who has set on the ethics
commission together, we’re advocating for
that interim study. Whatever that study does maybe
has yet to be determined, but I do think that
it is a good way to try to bring people
together and get people on the same page. – [Dave] Since it
was an initiated
Constitutional measure, your other committee
did take a look on a number of measures
that changes the rules for Constitutional measures. Not very many have
fared very well. What do you think is gonna
come out of this session? – Maybe not many
have fared very well, but there have been so
many introduced that I think whatever
has moved forward is going to be a significant
change compared to what we’ve seen in the last
hundred years essentially. The constitutional
amending process, you know, frankly, the legislature
puts way more on the ballot to amend the Constitution
than the people do and so, I have hard time
believing that there is so much injustice
being done to the Constitutional amending process
that we, the Legislature, has to take the authority
to put that on the ballot for the people to decide. And I just said this
in committee today, if the people felt that
the constitutional amending process was broken, they
would be initiating a constitutional
amendment to change it and I haven’t heard that
outcry from the public. I’ve heard that outcry
from legislators. I haven’t heard that
from the public. – You don’t see any
legs, so to speak, on going to 60 percent
of voter approval? – Oh, I think there are legs. – There are some legs on it? – I think there are legs. So, again, these games that
happen at the end of session are happening in both chambers. There are a couple of bills
still left over in the Senate and there are a couple of
bills, at least one bill, over in the House. One of them would require
the legislature to approve any constitutional amendment
that the people approve before that can become law and another would increase
that threshold to 60%. There was one suggestion I
could sort of get on board with and that was making sure that
all constitutional amendments would be on the general
election ballot. It makes sense to me
that we would want those measures being voted on
by the majority of voters who show up to the polls. But when you’re talking
about changing signatures, changing thresholds for
passage, changing timelines, I just I think those
are ways that do limit the public’s ability to
initiate their own changes. – And it’s almost
sacred in North Dakota. We’ve had that on the books
for a long, long time. – Right. And the majority
of those complaints that I’m hearing have happened
in the last ten years, not in the previous ninety. So, to me the problems
are not with the process. – Just thinking
about you say about as they get toward
the end of session, things get get a little
dicey in terms of oh dramaness in a
thing like that, something happened today,
I just wanted to get your reaction to. Representative Hinland had
that bill to take apart the legacy fund and
reduce income taxes eventually to zero and
that failed in the Senate. – Pretty resoundly. – Now, it’s back as an amendment
to the tax commisioner’s budget bill, so they’re gonna
try another bite of the apple. Was that something
you could support? – One, I think kudos to
the press for covering these kinds of things,
because I think it shows people what’s happening in
these last 15 to 20 days. Absolutely not. It’s not
something I’m going to support, under any way, shape or form. Again, the complaints
that I’ve heard from North Dakotans on taxes is
always about property taxes, but in the end, I believe
in the three legged stool. And when one of those gets
completely out of whack, one of those legs is going to
have to pick up the shortage. In my opinion, our legs are
already a little off balance with regard to income
tax and the elimination of that would so short-sighted
in my opinion and certainly not in line
with what the public put the legacy fund in place for. – Since it’s legacy fund,
one leg of the stool could get a lot larger,
because it relies on that oil tax money
and that’s a commodity. Commodities are a little
bit iffy at times. – If we haven’t seen what
happens when we rely too much on the volatility of
commodity prices already, we haven’t learned our lesson. – I would like to get
your opinion about the Theodore Roosevelt
library, which apparently might be coming back somewhere. It’s not in the
commerce bill, at least the Senate right now and
it might be the OMB bill toward the end, the
old catch all bill, or the Christmas tree bill,
whatever you wanna call it. But apparently, there
seems to be some movement that something needs to be done. Where do you feel? – Well, I think the
premise of your question when you said something
needs to be done is different from wants to be done. I see that as a want
and not as a need. I can understand why the
governor has proposed this as maybe an appropriate
way of using legacy funds, but I’m struggling a
little bit to figure out is this is worthy of
public funds, especially at a time when we’re
just coming from some really tough budget
cuts that affected people to determine if building
a library and museum out in western North
Dakota is something that North Dakotans want. Ultimately, that’s
what I want to know. If this is what
North Dakotans want, we can debate what the
best way to fund that is and how much that is. But I haven’t been
convinced yet. – Something that might
be worth study perhaps? – Sure. I think that’s
part of the challenge is that this was kind
of sprung on us and maybe the element of
surprise was sort of the governor’s
goal. I don’t know. I think that governor
Burgham is a visionary guy. I just don’t know if this
was the right approach to actually get something done. Without bringing people
together, I don’t know how the people out in
the Medora area feel. How is this going to
impact the infrastructure that they would have to uphold? If actually the number of people
that the governor’s office has said would visit
would come out there. Are the roads sustainable? Is the water and sewer
able to sustain that? Those are real questions that I think we need to ask ourselves before we would approve
something going forward. – Since you mentioned
surprise, I have to go back to the other big surprise
that a lot of people said they didn’t see coming. This idea of moving
the prisoners out of New England to Bismark
and the Bismark prisoners to Jamestown and building
a new state hospital. That whole thing may
be moved into a study or something like that. I haven’t heard
too much about it, but when you saw that,
what was your thought? – My thought was I will
hear out the arguments. If that is what’s best for
the population they serve, maybe it’s worthy
of considering. What I can’t support is
putting more money into buildings to house people
rather than investing on the front end to
try to prevent things. I think we are always playing
catch up and that is not a good way to spend our
resources or affect lives. The more money we put
in on the front end to prevent these
issues from happening, the better we’re going
to be as a state. So, I would have a
hard time supporting the building of a new facility. – It seems like that
view about putting money in the front end
for prevention is gaining a lot of attraction. – Yeah, we’ve done some really
good important initiatives and funding those initiatives
in behavioral health and I hope that sticks
through the time we gavel out and leave town. – Well, you were around
for the shoulder report. – That was done a little
bit before I was elected. But obviously it’s
something I’m interested in and have followed and support. When we, as a legislature,
do studies and find out information
that can show how we can better
impact these decisions, we should follow those
reports and studies. We’ve been dragging
our feet a little bit. I would suggest this
session, we’ve done more than we’ve even done before. – There are people who
said yeah, it’s a really good start, but there
is a lot more to do, especially if you’re
thinking about treatment facilities and treatment
personnel in wester country. West of Highway 83. – And you know I grew up
in a really small town up in Northwest North Dakota. I know that access to many
of those kinds of services is challenging all
across North Dakota, but especially in rural
western North Dakota, where there just aren’t a
lot of the right personnel. So, the more we can
do to invest in making sure that people have
the services and programs they need to be healthy
contributing citizens, the better all of our
communities are going to be. – Want to go back to the
three, three, two, two for just a second,
because when the Senate appropriations committee
originally proposed two and three, that would
include the increases for like nursing homes. – DD providers. – DD providers and
things like that. I’m not exactly sure
where that is at. I don’t know if it’s
two, two and a half, or their two and three
or they’re trying to get to three and three. – That’s a question I’m
going to be following our appropriators
with to make sure. We get updates every
day on what’s coming out and I think we all sort
of sighed a bit of relief when we were able
to kind of settle on public employee
salaries and now, I think that’s going
to be that next big one is making sure that the
increases to long term care, to DD providers, are
sufficient to meet, again, not only no increase
but cuts as well that happened previously. – We have just a
few moments left. I wanted to get your take
on this ERA resolution, which did finally die and
we’ve finally got ahold of the vote that
was 24/23 against. That was interesting. – That was interesting. We will say that. I find those kinds
of things to distract from the real issues that
we need to be talking about. When North Dakota
chose to ratify the ERA all those years ago,
what happens beyond that is really nothing
we can control. This was already
sort of decided by the people of North Dakota and to kind of dig this back up,
my colleague on the floor that carried it said it best, I think this just serves
to give us a black eye and it doesn’t do us any good. – Well, Senator, thank
you very much for taking the time to be here. – Appreciate being here. – Our guest, Senator
Erin Oban of Bismark. She’s a Democrat. Well, it took two tries,
but the House has finally approved changes to the state
board of higher education. It would also mean changing
the state constitution. But as political correspondent,
Chad Mira, tells us, a member of the task force
created to study the idea is not pleased with
what was passed. – For an entire year, a
task force of primarily law makers and educators
studied the idea of changing the current
structure of the state board of higher education. – As it is right now,
we have institutions that have never had
a member on the state board of higher ed who
represents their constituency. Representative Shannon Rores
Jones was on the task force. From almost the first couple
of meetings that we had, we decided that the current
system was not working and that we should explore
something different. In the final reports,
they recommended creating a new three board system. – Having boards that were
more specifically aligned to the missions of the
institutions that they were overseeing would
be more beneficial. – Lawmakers rejected
a multi-board system. Instead opting for
expanding the current board from eight to 15 members. Representative Mike Nathe
was also on the task force. – I do think the
current one board system since the multi-board
system had failed earlier was a good fall
back position and I think it was a
good compromise. – Others on the
task force disagree. – Moving it from eight
members to 15 members, we’ve essentially just
taken a broken system and doubled it. – But Nathe said this change
would still have benefits. – I know that some
of the concerns are the board might be
too big, but we found in our discussions that the
current size of the board now, the members are absolutely
overloaded with the work. – Either way, since it involves
changing the constitution, it’ll now be up to the voters. – Well, Governor Doug Burgum
also released a statement on the change. He says, quoting now, I
cannot support the resolution as passed. While incorporating
some of the task force’s recommendations,
this resolution does not substantially improve
the governance structure originally created 80 years ago. But rather nearly doubles the
size of the existing board and expects different results. And I’m joined now by Chad Mira, our legislative correspondent. Chad, we are now truly
in the third parade of the three pair with
the conference committees being appointed, are
there specific things that you’re looking
at in the next week? – Well, we were talking
last week about one of the sticky wickets would be
that state employee raises. However, it seems like
we got that ironed out, but you did have a very
good conversation with Senator Oban about the
ethics commission now and there’s still a lot of
differences to be ironed out between those two bills. Of course, we know
there’s a House bill, Republican House bill and then
the Democratic Senate bill. That one was passed
unanimously in the Senate. But they do have quite
a few differences. Some amendments have been
made to the House bill. Senate Majority Leader
Rich Warner though hinting, we might end up having
to kind of mix and match the two together
before we’re all done. – Now, funny thing is
that’s what I was thinking would happen with these two. They’ll take parts
of A, parts of B, and come together with a C
that can pass both Houses. – Yeah and the people behind
the initiated measure, they are in large support
of the Senate version, the Democratic
version of this bill. The problem with the
House bill is that they didn’t believe that
it sets strict enough penalties, for starters. They want to restrict
lobbying, create the ethics commission, they
want to make sure it has strong funding as well
as stricter penalties, penalties that are
significant to deter what they might view
as ethical violations. – Now, I don’t know if
you heard the question I asked and we just
found out about this tax relief bill that is
now back on another bill. It’s in the tax
commissioner’s bill as an amendment, so
they are taking another bite at the apple. Do you think there’s gonna be
a lot of discussion on that? – It’s hard to say. Like you said, it’s kind
of been kicked around a little bit earlier in
this session already, but we’ll have to wait and see. A couple of the lawmakers
I’ve talked to had the same concerns
that Senator Oban has expressed about taking
away one of those legs of the three legged
stool so to speak, so we’ll have to see if any
feelings change moving forward. – Now, I was noticing
something that happened very recently too. There was a debate
on the House floor. There was a study put
on one of the bills to help the retirement
plan to again study looking at going
into a defined contribution plan and ending the
defined benefit plan. I know that’s been a
controversial issue for a number of years. What do you think? Are we gonna
see a lot of action on that? – We’ll see. There’s
still a lot of things that they’re trying to get
to, so it’s hard to say. I haven’t been following
that one too closely, personally myself. – But of course the library,
Theodore Roosevelt library, and museum is still hanging
out there somewhere. – That’s still, whether
it be the library or just any idea in general
of how they’re gonna spend the legacy fund earnings. I know there’s still a
lot of debates about what to do with that money. As Senator Beckitall has
said to us in the past, you have 141 lawmakers
and 141 ideas on what to do with
that legacy fund. – A little tip for you,
watch the legacy fund. There will be a
bill introduced, but they’re not calling it buckets,
they’re calling it silos. – We’re going away
from the buckets. – We’re going away
from the buckets now. Thank you, Chad. – Thanks, Dave. – And thank you for
watching and listening to North Dakota legislative review.

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