Crossover Is Near… Update and Schedule for Upcoming Week 8.

Click to see schedule for week of February 20th

Legislators are hoping to break for Crossover after next Wednesday’s floor session, which means a lot of floor votes and Appropriations Committee work needs to be done.  The Appropriators in both Houses are anticipating the approval of spending beyond their target as there is plenty of duplication and differing priorities, so reconciliation will ultimately be challenging at the end of the Session.

The major infrastructure funding bills listed last week have seen virtually no formal action, but certainly much discussion. Similarly, the two major NDPERS retirement bills remain in their respective Appropriations Committee; and in a somewhat surprising move, the two less popular retirement bills were pulled back into committee.

Conversely, there was quite a bit of action this week on the property tax front.

  • A straight-up property tax cap at 5% for all taxing districts (HB1461) was voted down on a vote of 41-52. 
  • The House Tax and Finance Committee amended HB 1245 which sought to revamp the property tax statement. The bill as introduced among many changes, would have include a color pie chart to clearly illustrate which taxing entity was taxing what in percentage of the total taxes paid. The committee approved changing the bill to a study.
  • The Senate however passed a major property tax reduction, budget limitation measure for schools.  This bill, SB2066, would reduce the 60-mill general fund for schools to 40 mills by backfilling with state funds, but then limits future general fund levies to an annual 5% growth. Special and voted-on levies are unaffected by the limitation.  
  • The Senate also passed a major expansion of the homestead credit program in SB2136.  This measure removes the asset limitation entirely and raises the income threshold to $100,000 for a 100% credit (up to a $200,000 valued home).  State funding for this would require an additional $123 million.  
  • The House barely approved HB1225 with a vote of 48-42 to require the Tax Commission to develop an online portal for electronically accessible statewide property information and property tax information.

Also tax related, two income tax relief related bills received Do Pass recommendations from the House Tax and Finance Committee. HB 1158 would eliminate personal income tax for single filers making $44,725 or less and for married filers making $74,750 or less. Higher earners would pay a flat tax of 1.5%. HB 1118 would expand the most recent round of income tax credits provided by the state to give state residents tax credits worth $800 per person or $1,600 per couple and establish a 1.99% flat tax rate for all taxable income not covered by the credits. Both of these bills head to the full House for action.

Election related bills also had an active week. 

  • HB1204, the proposal to divide House legislative seats so candidates of the same party would not be effectively running against each other was soundly defeated in the House (9-81), 
  • The Senate narrowly defeated SB2339 on a 20-27 vote, which called for random audits of election equipment by the State Auditor following election certification by the Secretary of State. 
  • Passing in the House was HB1273, a prohibition on ranked-choice voting and approval voting (currently used in Fargo). 
  • SB2157, related to proof of citizenship for voting was defeated 3-43 in the Senate.
  • SB2308 to repeal mail ballot voting was defeated 8-38 in the Senate. 
  • The local decertification of election equipment (SB2316) died with only 1 vote in the Senate.
  • A bill addressing elections and property tax, HB1515, was a problematic proposal regarding local government bond votes. It would require that to pass a bond it would need favorable votes equal to at least 30% of the number of names in the poll book.  The bill died in the House 10-80.

In the category of random, but interesting: 

  • HB1253, mandatory tarping of gravel trucks, was defeated in the House,
  • A rewrite of the “loose dog” statute, HB1364, received a fair amount debate in the House and passed 56-34, 
  • HB1070 was passed unanimously in the House to create a revolving loan fund for hazard mitigation investments, and,
  • Riding a bicycle or a horse under the influence will no longer trigger a DUI offense and loss of driver’s license if the Senate agrees with the House’s passage of HB1506.

Vaccine related bills:

  • HB 1200 moves to the Senate after a 78-13 vote in the House.  The bill bans colleges and universities from requiring and promoting COVID-19 and emergency-use authorized vaccinations. The bill also extends the ban on government entities from requiring COVID-19 vaccination documentation through August 1, 2025.
  • HB 1207 requires NDHHS to publish vaccine adverse events data on their website; NDHHS already links to VAERS on website.  The bill passed 86-5.
  • As amended, HB 1502 removed all sections of the bill except access to care based on COVID-19 vaccination status and passed the House 87-4.
  • Also relating to COVID-19 vaccines and vaccines under emergency use authorization, SB 2274 prohibits government entities from requiring vaccination status documentation and moves to the House receiving 24 votes required.
  • HB 1406 failed 32-59. The bill would have required the state Department of Health and Human Services to cover the costs of a person’s treatment and diagnostics if they suffered any physical injury after receiving a messenger RNA or COVID-19 vaccine.
  • House Bill 1505, banning and criminalizing all vaccination requirements with a misdemeanor failed 31-60.
  • Local public health seeks representation on the environmental review advisory council in HB 1358 which was formed when the Department of Environmental Quality was established. The House initially voted to defeat the bill but after reconsideration, HB 1358 passed 53 -37.   

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