2013-03-28 / Columns

North Dakota Senate Report

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

The legislative season is often described as being similar to a hockey game in that it has three periods. We are well into the second period after our crossover break. The House sent the Senate 326 bills and the Senate sent the House 278 bills. Much like the first period there is not a lot of substantive things to report early on as the committees are busy with hearings and moving issues to the floor for a vote and sending bills that have fiscal notes to the Appropriations committees.

We have to have all bills out of committee byApril 8th, and then the third period begins which is the Conference Committee sessions where bills that were amended need to be reconciled.

We currently have spending bills proposed that have us deficit spending by nearly $800 million, but we will have a balanced budget as mandated by the constitution by the time we go home.

Leadership has set April 25th as our finish date which will leave us five days in case we need to have a special session.

I will have a busy week working on the subcommittee for the $2.8 billion Human Services budget. It is a difficult task to sort out the truly needy and necessary from the unnecessary and irresponsible.

Several other issues before us this week are two huge water issues that affect opposite ends of the state, the Fargo flood control diversion and the Western Area Water Supply project.

The SenateAppropriations Committee will be hearing House Bill 1278 this Friday which is the bill to establish an outdoor heritage fund that will take $30 million in oil tax revenue and place it in a fund to support conservation projects throughout the state. Various state agencies and private conservation groups will be eligible to apply for these funds to do conservation projects with individual land owners similar to projects that are currently being done with NRCS and Soil Conservation programs. I support the conservation of our natural resources, but I am disappointed with this bill. It appears to be a reactionary bill to keep an issue like this from coming forward through the initiated measure process, similar to the measure that was kept off of the ballot last fall because of the illegal gathering of signatures. I would welcome your opinions on this bill.

Enjoy the blessing of the Easter season with your families.

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