Weekly Report & Schedule for Week of March 27

Legislative Hearing Schedule for Week of March 27th

The hearing schedule is getting shorter, but the issues are getting tougher and more significant.  Tax relief, infrastructure, and NDPERS remain the most difficult as the legislature moves quickly towards the final weeks of the session.

Regarding Tax relief: After combining three separate bills into one comprehensive tax relief policy bill, the Senate Finance & Tax Committee forwarded the hog housed version of HB 1158 to appropriations with a 6-0 Do Pass out of committee.  The hog housed version of HB 1158 changes the lowest income tax rate from 1.1% to 0% for individuals, estates, and trusts; expands the homestead property tax program credit by increasing both income and taxable valuation levels and removing the $500,000 asset threshold; and provides property tax relief for locally assessed properties with a buy down of 20 mills of school general fund levy.  The bill carries a $564 million fiscal note, including $288 million for income tax relief, $71 million for an enhanced Homestead Credit program, and $204 million for property tax relief in school mill levy buy down.  This appears to be  the “Senate vision” of a tax relief package. We will be watching to see how the House responds as they also still hold a few tax policy bills in committee.  

On the infrastructure front, the issue of state, county, and township roads remains very much in flux.  Although SB2329 was defeated in the House, the talk of potentially using excise (sales) tax on vehicles for roads seems to be gaining support as a source of additional road funding, but how much of that will funnel down to local roads remains a question, as does the dedication of Legacy fund earnings for infrastructure.  There remains strong support for donging “something” but the ultimate plan has not come into focus.  SB2183, to provide snow removal grants however was passed by the House and was returned to the Senate for concurrence.

The House bill (HB1040) to close the NDPERS pension plan came out of the Senate State and Local Government Committee with a 4-2 Do Not Pass Recommendation, but it is also scheduled for an Appropriations Committee hearing next week, so there is obviously an expectation by some that it may not be defeated on the floor.  The “Senate alternative”, SB 2239, to keep the pension plan open remains in the House Government and Veterans Affairs Committee.

While the issue of the base funding for Zones seems secure, the issue of “compensation equity” for staff  is yet to be resolved.  Bringing 48 employing counties for social services down to 19 “host counties” left us with some pay and benefit variations that the Legislature is hoping to address.  How effective  they will be at doing this is still up in the air.  However, HB1046, redefining reimbursable indirect costs for human service zones was passed by the House in the same form as the Senate, so it goes to the Governor.

Law enforcement influence was able to turn around a Do Not Pass recommendation this week. HB 1307, also known as the “Back the Blue” initiative had an unfavorable recommendation as Senate appropriations members were supportive of similar language for the initiative that was included in the Attorney General budget. HB 1307 ended up passing with a vote of 27-18. It will have a hearing in Appropriations Monday. The Senate did defeat a bill to require only one license plate which law enforcement had opposed.

HB1192, as Secretary of State bill regarding elections was passed by the Senate with only one negative vote and is now on the Governor’s desk.  Another election bill supported by counties, SB2292, to clarify the requirements of “election observers” was signed into law by the Governor on Thursday.

Despite passage of an 80 mph speed limit on interstate highways, the House Transportation Committee again returned a Do Not Pass recommendation (9-5)  on primary seatbelt enforcement (SB2362), contrary to strong support to county and city law enforcement. This is on Friday’s house floor calendar.

The codification of the core functions of local public health was passed in the House and is also on the Governor’s desk as this report was prepared.

The House approved Senate Resolution 4019 to put a measure on the ballot to eliminate the 1-mill property tax for the medical school.  As a Constitutional Measure, this does not need the Governor’s signature and now will go before the voters.

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