North Dakota Legislative Review 1917
Articles,  Blog

North Dakota Legislative Review 1917

– [Narrator] Welcome
to a weekly review of North Dakota’s
legislative news. Now here’s your
host Dave Thompson with North Dakota
Legislative Review. (upbeat theme music) – And this is North
Dakota Legislative Review, I’m Dave Thompson,
thanks for joining us. For the first time this session, Governor Doug Burgum testified
in support of legislation. He also vetoed two bills
and signed about 500 others. Political correspondent
Chad Mira looks back at what was a busy
session for the Governor. – We’re honored to announce
that the Governor’s office today will begin to display… The flags of the
five tribal nations with whom we share geography, (applause) alongside our state
and national flags outside the Governor’s office… – [Chad] An emotional start to
the 2019 legislative session at the State of
the State address. There, Governor Burgum
also proposed changes to the state prison system that would have closed the
women’s prison in New England. It didn’t happen this time. The lawmakers hinted
it still could. A study will be conducted and
presented in the next session. Then more reform
surrounding corrections. The first bill signed this
session, House Bill 1183, removing mandatory
minimum sentences for certain drug-related crimes, giving the courts more
flexibility with sentencing. Some bills, the
Governor didn’t sign. His first veto blocked a bill that would have doubled
driver’s license fees. He won that fight. His next veto, to stop a bill
that gave the budget section spending authority
in the interim. That veto, though,
was overturned. Then there was his
testimony to Congress. He appeared before the
Senate Education Committee to push for a multi-board
system for higher education. Lawmakers instead decided to
expand the existing board. Then his testimony for
the Presidential Library. – The Theodore Roosevelt
Presidential Library Museum would be destined to become the number one
tourist attraction in the state of North Dakota. – [Chad] He testified twice
in last week of session. (applause) He got the funding, but
that’s just the beginning. – This is a challenge
to donors everywhere… – [Chad] The state still needs to raise $100-million
in private donations. The work never ends, and neither does the
job of the Governor. – We’re now joined by our
guest, Governor Doug Burgum. Governor, thanks for being here. – Dave, great to be with you, and thank you for
all the hard work you put in during the
legislative session. – We appreciate it, you
know, 21 sessions… – Wow. – 21 sessions
covering this, so… – Wow, incredible. – Let me just ask you,
what was your impression of the session this year? – Well I thought some
great work was done and I wanna just start
out with a shout-out to the legislature,
the new freshmen, the veterans, the
legislative leadership. They introduced over 930 bills,
over 500 of those passed, and I think that the
ball was moved forward on a number of fronts
for North Dakota. – Where specifically
do you see the ball being moved forward? – I think there was some big
things that were accomplished in behavioral health,
that was, I think, some great work
that’s being done, and a lot of awareness
that’s being raised across state-wide
about the importance for both behavioral health,
the disease of addiction, and that this is
something that we as… Reaches across party lines,
it’s not about the House versus the Senate,
Republican or Democrats, but this touches every
family and every community in the state, every business, and I think there’s
a growing realization that we’ve gotta tackle that,
and we have to tackle that both in terms of how we
think about reinventing how we approach our
criminal justice, how we think about
reinvesting our approach to recovery and addiction,
and how we think about serving those that are
struggling with the disease of addiction, or mental
health-related diseases, and I think there was a
lot of progress there. Infrastructure, a lot
of attention early on, a lot of support for state-wide
infrastructure bills, and we’re so fortunate to be
in a position in our state where economy is strong,
and particularly to be what’s now the number
two oil-producing state, and we’ve got the
entrepreneurs, the innovators, the risk-takers, that have
developed that industry in our state, and then the
state gets 10% of the revenue off the top that comes
into various funds. We’re just in a
financial situation, we’re just so much stronger than virtually
every other state, and we’re a small
state like this. We have an opportunity to really
do some innovative things, and funding infrastructure
is another one. Some big changes
made in K-12 funding, higher education, and
higher education bonding, so new activity going on there. Our K-12 payment will
now, for the first time in the history of the
state, the state will… Over $10,000 per student,
so huge commitment. We were able to get
back in giving raises for state employees that we
had, during the downturn, we had to, you know,
put those on hold. But now that we’re
rolling again, we’re able to get
back on that track. I’d say that everywhere you
look, there was progress made. – Quite a change
from two years ago, when the state faced some
fairly substantial cuts because of not
having the revenue. – Yeah, it’s a remarkable
change from just two years ago, where we had to
take, two years ago, I had to take $1.7-billion
out of the general fund, from six billion down to 4.3. That hadn’t had to happen
really since the depression, that kind of a percentage, and on the dollar,
biggest cut ever. To be able to come
back, and now to be able to go from there and start
adding dollars back in is a lot more fun
than having to… It’s more fun to add
a few dollars back in than to cut dollars out. – And I just remembered that
I covered the legislature when we had our first
billion-dollar budget, so that’s been a few years ago. – Yeah, and I think
again I would say, again, there was a lot of smart
investments that were made, but also there was a tremendous
amount of fiscal restraint, making sure that we’re
living within our means. We’ve been able to rebuild a
number of the savings accounts that we had to deplete
during the last downturn. This budget that was
passed is $2-billion below the peak budget
of North Dakota past, and it’s still over
$1-billion lower than we were when we took office, and
so I think it’s still a fiscally conservative
approach to what we’re doing, and yet we’ve been able to
take care of our priorities. – The Legacy Fund has now… The money’s available
for the general fund, but there’s going
to be that study about what to use the
Legacy Fund proceeds… What we’re gonna use ’em for,
so I’m just kind of curious, do you have some ideas on
what to use the proceeds from the Legacy Fund for? – When we gave the budget
address last December, we laid out four criteria,
which I think are still… Reflect what the voters
of the state intention was when they passed
the Legacy Fund. The first one was that we
would be investing in projects that would have a… Create a lasting legacy, that
they would have an impact beyond the generation. The second thing was
that we wanted to have it not just be for one
institution, one community, but it would have a regional,
a state, a national, or even international
impact for our state. And that could be helping
diversify the economy, or improve tourism,
work on workforce, but you pick it, but it’s
gotta have a regional, national, or
international impact. The third thing we said it
should go towards things that are one-time only, not
funding general government, because when you fund general
government and grow it, you create a bow
wave of expenses that have to be paid for in
each of the following years. So looking for things where
we could do one-time projects, whether that’s creating an
endowment or a capital project, was the third criteria. So you had… Lasting impact
beyond a generation, broad impact geographically,
one-time spending only was the third criteria, so
it doesn’t grow government, but then the fourth one,
which we felt was key, was leverage, which is we
take a state tax dollar, take the earnings
off the Legacy Fund, ’cause none of it
was recommending
spending the principal, but take the earnings,
and then match that with the private sector,
match it with leverage maybe through revolving
infrastructure funds, but increase the impact. In our budget, we had
suggested $300-million of Legacy Fund
projects that actually would have had
$1-billion of impact through that last
component of leverage. – And the one thing that
really stood out to everybody was the proposal for a
Theodore Roosevelt Library to be built in Medora. You had originally planned
to take $50-million out of the Legacy Fund,
legislature didn’t buy it, and they came up with a
different funding proposal, $35-million in Bank
of North Dakota loans, 15 million from existing
money in the general fund. Good move on that part? – I think there’s two things, one is, I wanna quote majority
leader from the Senate, Rich Wardner, who said,
no matter how you cut it, this is a legacy
project, and I think he’s absolutely right,
because this project, the Theodore Roosevelt
Presidential Library and Museum, meets all four of
those criteria. The legislature, they’re
the appropriators, they get to decide which
bucket they pull funds from. The Legacy Funds do end
up in the general fund, so if they choose to fund it
through a different approach, that’s the legislative
prerogative, but I think in the
end of the day, the legislature came together
and overwhelmingly passed what I think will
become the first and signature legacy project,
hopefully not the last, because we’re gonna be
in a position as a state to dream big about
doing projects like
this in the future, and I think the
funding mechanism that
they came up with, which was create an endowment
that’s gonna be held by the State of North Dakota
that can’t be accessed until the $100-million of
private money is raised, and then when the 100
million is raised, and the library’s operational,
the endowment pays for the maintenance
and operation. So this is a very smart,
high return-on-investment approach for how we
use Legacy Funds. Because if we just
keep Legacy Funds now, they get invested
on Wall Street, we pay Wall Street fees,
so that says two things. It says, if we’re just gonna
put it in a savings account on Wall Street, it
says we don’t think there’s any high
return-on-investment projects in North Dakota… Those two things, we
can’t beat the market, and we can’t invest
in North Dakota. I think we can do
both of those things. We can get returns
higher than the market, and we can invest
in North Dakota, and the library proves
that, because when we get… $100-million of outside
capital before a dollar of state money even
leaves that endowment, that’s a great return
for the taxpayers, and I think we can
do that over and over with new projects, would love
to hear other people’s ideas. – It’s no secret that there
was a lot of hesitation, we’ll put it that way, at
the start of the session to do the library project,
but that seemed to change. It got a lot of
support toward the end, what do you think did it? – I think two things, one
is I think the legislature came to do their job, which is
represent their constituents, and I think they
came in and said, hey, we need to take
care of long-term care, we need to take
care of teachers, we need to take care of roads, and when they realized
that we had the ability to do all those things, fund
increases for long-term care, ’cause all-in, we got
a very large increase for long-term care, we got
the salary increases for… We had increases
in higher ed, K-12, so when they said, hey,
when we’ve taken care of all of our priorities,
behavioral health, now we can look at… Really start looking at things that would be extra
on top of that. And I think the other piece is, as the session
progressed, legislators
started understanding that the actual
structure of this, creating an endowment that
was held by the state, and only the earnings are used until the 100 million comes in, I think they all started going, hey, this is a pretty smart
way to finance legacy projects, and I think that some
of it was the project, and some of it was the
structure of the deal that was created
by the legislature. – Do you know how close the
$100-million is at this point? – We’ve had indications of
over half of that from donors, but really have to look at
when the legislation was signed last week, that this
is the starting line, not the finish line, because
there’s a lot of work to be done, and we have
had $100-million campaigns, private and public
universities in North Dakota. They’re rare, but
not impossible, but this will be a
first of its kind, because the Theodore
Roosevelt Presidential Library is like a startup, there’s no… You can’t access a mailing
list and call 50,000 alumni from that institution,
you’re starting from scratch. So the fact that
we’ve got over half already verbally
committed is remarkable, and I think there’s
a lot of both state and national interest
for this project, and I’m optimistic that
that money can be raised by the library foundation. – Now one of the things
that you proposed early in the session
was to move people, the women, out of the New
England facility to Bismarck, move the Bismarck people
over to Jamestown, and put them in the
existing state hospital, build a new state hospital. The legislature
didn’t go that far, however, there’s going
to be a two-year study, and they’re going to
fund it with $400,000, finding some consultants, to look at the whole
corrections system. Is that acceptable to you? – I think it’s a positive
step in the right direction, because we have a
duty at the state, when people are incarcerated,
when we have residents that are part of our
system, we’re responsible for their healthcare,
for their feeding. We also should be concerned
about their opportunities for education, for
their recovery, because so many of the people that are in the
corrections system suffer from the disease of addiction and possibly other
health issues. It’s important, because
the system which we spend hundreds and hundreds of
millions of dollars on, should be about how do
we make better neighbors, not better prisoners, and it
should not at all be about the government jobs
associated with that. It shouldn’t be about… We shouldn’t be fighting
for a prison in a community the way we fight
for a university, because it’s not the
job of government to create corrections jobs,
our job is to focus on the R, the Department of Corrections
and Rehabilitation. So I think it’s fantastic
that they’re doing a study to look at the entire system
to see if there’s a way where we can do this better
and more efficiently. When I’ve had an opportunity
to meet with leaders from other states, like the
woman that leads corrections in Michigan, or the leader,
with the new governor in Florida, as part of… Recently when the First Lady
and I were at the White House, relative to the First Step Act, which was federal legislation
that’s reinventing the way the federal government is doing
the federal prison system, they’re closely tying
vocational education to the prison locations. In Michigan, they have
called vocational villages, where if someone
is incarcerated, then when they’re coming
out, they’ve got a trade. We’ve got 30,000 jobs
open in our state, and one of the reasons that
people end up back in prison after they come out is
because the discrimination that we put against
someone with a felony, because we discriminate
against where they can live, we discriminate… Sometimes on employment, in terms of how we
approach employment. We take someone who’s already
paid their debt to society, completely, and then we
put a bunch of barriers in front of them that for
any of us might be hard to overcome, to try to get
back into being positive, contributing member of society, and then they end up
back in the system. And when they’re in our
system incarcerated, it’s $41,000 a year. I say we could be
sending them all to a private university
for less money than that. So again, other states
are taking an approach where if someone’s
gonna be in prison for the next four years,
give ’em a counselor like you would a
freshman in college, and make sure that
four years later, when they’re leaving prison,
that they’ve actually… Essentially have a trade, or
a degree, or a certificate, so that they have a
chance of becoming a contributing member,
reuniting with their family. So I think there’s a lot
of work we can do there, and this is not only
the right thing to do, it also saves taxpayer money. – So it’s beyond bricks,
mortar, and punishment, it’s removing the
barriers, and I suppose that’s the real challenge. – It is, ’cause it’s not just
about a physical facility where someone’s incarcerated, it’s about all the
wraparound services that we need to do to
support those people while they’re in our care, and
while they’re in the system, and how do we, when
we get them out, to make sure they
don’t come back. – Were there any
big disappointments, things that you’d like to
see legislature have done that they came up short on? – I think we had
a big opportunity, even right up to the last day, to deliver on-time
funding for K-12. There’s a tremendous
K-12 education bill with a number of
advances that are in it, but right now, we
pay on a year lag. So any of our places where
we’ve got growing students across the state, which
is also the places where are fastest-growing
communities, which is also the places where we’ve got the
most job openings, which is where we’ve
gotta get families to move to, sometimes
from out of state. When they’re thinking about
taking a job in North Dakota, they check on, how’s the
school district doing. We’re essentially handicapping all of our high-growth
school districts when we don’t pay them for
the students that are there, and in some cases,
the growth is extreme. Whether it’s the three Ws,
Williston, Watford City, and West Fargo, 300,
330, 460 new students. That’s more than an
entire school district showing up in the
fall, this last fall, more than an entire
school district showed up. We have 100 school districts
with less than 250 people. So when you have more
than 300 show up, it’s like dumping
a school district on top of a school district, and then we don’t pay for
it until the next year, and that’s quite a
burden for the schools. And we’ve got the money,
the money’s available. In the plan, we
moved to half-time, off-time following
in the second year, and then we do it over the
next five years after that, we finally get to
on-time funding. This is something I’d love to
see the legislature pick up when they come
back in two years, and say let’s just get
to on-time funding now, and take care of the
students that are there. – So they took baby steps when they could have taken
more strides, perhaps. – Yes, and I wanna say too
that sometimes the resistance in the past to on-time
funding, is if you move when the cash is paid
for the students up, well that means that
people that were declining would get less, but we have
tens of millions of dollars, now approaching
$50-million in the budget, for basically hold
harmless safeguard payments for the schools
that are declining. So we’re spending
$50-million on the schools that are declining, but
we missed the chance to spend $27-million this year on the schools that are growing. – Another thing that
maybe you could say legislators came up
short on, was the change in governance on
higher education. You pushed a
three-board solution, then a two-board
solution, and they came up with an expanded
15-member board. How do you stand on that now? – Ultimately, this is gonna be
up to the citizens to decide, because any change in
higher education governance has to be decided
at the ballot box. So the voters will get
a chance to get educated on this topic, and vote in the
fall of 2020 on this topic, but it’s a… The whole purpose of
the year-long task force was to try to come
up with an approach that would appreciate
the challenges that are being brought
by powerful forces. Economic forces,
technological forces, demographic forces,
these are all things that are pushing on the
way higher education and education in
general is delivered. We have a 1938 model that was
created in our constitution for a single board that’s
trying to manage… Seven-person board
plus one student member managing enormous complexity,
and everyone agreed that something had to be done, but doubling the size of the
1938 board is not gonna… In my mind, it’s not
gonna help any more than if you took a school
board that was challenged by demographics,
economics, and technology, and said, oh, I have a solution, we’ll double the size of
your local school board and it’ll make it
all better, no, that’s not gonna solve the
problem for the institution. That debate I guess
will continue, and the citizens get
to participate in it, but my real concern
is how do we make sure that we as a state, when
we spend over $2-billion on higher education,
how do we make sure that we’re investing
that dollars and providing the
governance in a way where we can have great
education for everybody involved in higher education, but
how do we do it in a way where we’re being efficient
with taxpayer dollars, in a world where you
can basically achieve… Knowledge transfer and learning
sort of anytime, any place, on any device, it’s no
longer confined to a campus. I’m sure we’ve got
many listeners today that are taking online classes, and they’re taking online
classes from institutions that aren’t in North Dakota. The idea that our state
boundary protects us somehow when we think about higher
education is just a fallacy, because those boundaries,
they don’t exist in the world that
we’re entering. – I’ve heard some whispering
that somebody might bring up their own measure
concerning governance, that it might be a two-
or three-board measure. Have you heard
anything about that? Have you been asked to be
involved in anything like that? – I’ve not been asked
to be involved in it, but of course we
had a lot of people that were interested in
that, that were either on the task force, or coming
to task force meetings. Not surprising that
there are people who would have interest there, but that would be
something organic that would come from the people. – From the grassroots
perhaps, yeah. You vetoed a couple of
bills, are there any vetoes on your desk right now? – We get, as you know… Session wrapped up last
Friday night after 10:00 p.m., 53 bills were delivered,
including most
appropriation bills were delivered to… To my desk over the weekend. We had Secretary
Perdue was here, with Senator Hoeven,
Senator Cramer, was busy with them on Saturday, we were back to work on Monday, and my team has been at
the office past midnight both Monday and Tuesday
going through those 53 bills. We’ll have to see
what the future holds in terms of if
there’s more vetoes. – One thing I’ve been hearing, and you see this
on social media, is that they’d like you
to do a line-item veto on the auditor’s
budget, where they… The auditor’s budget now has
language that they have to go to the Legislative Audit
and Fiscal Review Committee before he does any kind
of performance audit. Are you getting some
pressure to veto that? – I wouldn’t say pressure, but
getting a lot of suggestions. And this goes back
to one of the vetoes earlier in the session on the, what was called
“budget section,” which goes back to
last session’s debate about where do you draw the line between the authority
of the executive branch versus the legislative branch. Apparently that’s an edge
that is gonna continue to be contested, and those
that are suggesting a veto of that section in
the auditor’s bill believe that that’s
overreach by the legislature. – Could there be another
potential lawsuit? – I think… Last time we left here,
we made some vetoes, and the legislature
made a choice to spend taxpayer dollars
suing the Governor’s office. Ultimately, the
Supreme Court decided in favor of the Governor’s
office, and so… Apparently there’s an appetite
for those kinds of battles. I would like to
think, and we did say, hey, there’s a collaborative way where we could move
forward, maybe there’s a way to resolve things
without lawsuits, but I did, when I took office, part of the oath of office
is you swear to support the Constitution
of North Dakota, and so if things come
across that appear to be unconstitutional,
I’ll continue to say that and continue to fight
for the constitution, and fight for the separation
of powers between the branches. ‘Cause the legislature can have
things like budget section, they can have a subset,
they just can’t delegate executive authority
to themselves. And then the part which
makes me always smile on this is that some of the things
that we’re fighting over, in the end of the day, we
got a $14.6-billion budget for the state to run on,
and the legislature feels, apparently, comfortable
on 99.9% of it to the executive branch, that
they can hold us accountable for how we execute
’til they come back. But on 1/10 of 1% ends
up in the budget section, where they wanna be
the executive branch of that last little
piece of dollars. And in any accounting sense, that would be an
immaterial portion. I want to assure all
the listeners out there that on 99.9% of it,
we’re in agreement with the legislature,
and we’re moving forward in doing our job of executing
as the executive branch. But there seems to be
some interesting… For the constitutional scholars, there’s always gonna
be that last 1/10 of 1% to maybe have a dialogue over. – Okay, I’ve just got
a few seconds left, so I have to ask the question: Are you going to
run for reelection? – Right now, we’re focused
on doing the great job we can every day for the
people of North Dakota, and finish showing
up this session, and that is a decision
that’ll have to be made in the next six months or
so, looking ahead to 2020, but right now, we’re just
focused on doing the job. – All right, thank you,
Governor for taking the time. – Thank you, Dave. – And that is
Legislative Review, I’m Dave Thompson,
thanks for joining us. (exciting theme music)

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