2013-01-24 / Columns

North Dakota Senate Report

By Sen. Robert “Bob” Erbele, District 28 1-888-635-3447 • rerbele@nd.gov

The 63rd legislative session is underway. This session we are dealing with the consequences of our rapid population growth and its impact to our lives and budgets. After 70 years of declining population North Dakota now has its highest population in the state’s history. There are fifty thousand more people in the state since we were last in session.

Where we once were dealing with consolidating services in health care and county governments, we are now having to find ways to increase our outreach to communities that don’t have the resources to keep up with the demands placed on them.

Where we once battled the impacts of declining student populations, in many areas, we are now seeing the need for newer and larger schools.

Unprecedented growth, unprecedented revenues and unprecedented spending are the defining words of this legislative session.

This is my second session in the Senate Appropriations committee. There are 13 members on the committee. The first couple of weeks are hearings where we take testimony on the various budgets. The larger budgets that require more scrutiny are then assigned to sub-committees usually consisting of three or four members. My sub-committee budget assignments are the North Dakota University System, Industrial Commission and Extension Service.

The University System budget deals with the Board of Higher Ed. and all of our 11 universities. We deal with requests for more employees, new or remodeled buildings. Our largest request is a new building for our medical school.

The Industrial Commission includes the oil and gas division, which relates to all our activities in the oil patch, as well as the Mill and Elevator and the Bank of North Dakota.

The Extension Service budget deals with all the research components of NDSU, the Experiment Stations and local Extension Service offices.

This week the House and Senate Appropriations committees will hold a joint meeting to deal with SB2176. It is a bill that the Governor is encouraging us to fast track so that we can get one hundred million dollars out to the Dept. of Transportation to secure contracts before the construction season begins. Typically all our fiscal bills that go through the normal process of the legislature do not go into effect until July 1. That severely restricts our contract bidding in light of our short construction season. By moving this bill quickly it should allow projects to be ready when the ground opens up this spring.

Representatives Brandenburg and Kretschmar and I will be participating in a community forum this Friday, Jan. 25th in the Linton Community Center at 5 p.m. to discuss issues of the session.

We are also scheduled to be in Ellendale at the end of February during our cross over break. We will try to be as available as our schedules allow. Please stop by the Capitol and look us up if you are ever in Bismarck.

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