As we watch winter fade away this week, so too, do committee hearings. We are quickly running out of committee hearings to testify at and spending more time in committee work watching for our priority bills. A number of bills will fail to pass their second chamber, but some will pass with amendments added. These bills will go back to their original chamber to be passed again with those amendments, and some will go to conference committee in order for the House and Senate to compromise on parts of the bills they do not agree on. Even after this final compromise, bills can still fail. The legislative process is a long and arduous path!
The appropriations committees adopted the March 9 revenue forecast. While this adoption reduced general fund revenue from the January legislative forecast by $103.2 million, the committees further reduced the forecast for the current biennium another $10 million. Currently, the general fund Legislature has to fill a more-than $600 million disparity that must be reconciled through further cuts or fund transfers.
SB 2327 creates the Department of Environmental Quality by removing the environmental section of the Department of Health to become a standalone agency. In subcommittee, NDFU testified it believed that agriculture should have two additional seats on the board in order to have equal ground with energy. The bill is likely to be voted out of subcommittee late this week.
SB 2263 reforms the current process of permitting field drainage tile at the political subdivision level. After amendments brought forth in the Senate, many rural water districts testified in support of the bill with amendments such as keeping the “statewide significance” requirement, and a provision that allows a condition to keep tile projects outside the easements for rural water systems. NDFU supported the bill as it came over from the House with no amendments.
HB 1321 defines the movement of commodities at harvest time for the purpose of overweight permits. Amendments have been introduced to further define where the truck is traveling in order to allow for more movement than simply traveling from field to elevator. NDFU support the bill and the amendments.
House Appropriations is expected to take action on SB 2019, which contains the budget for Adult Farm Management. It is unclear what day they will take action on SB 2020, which contains the budget for the North Dakota State Extension Service. Funding bills must be re-referred to full appropriations by Friday. Dr. Grafton will be giving an overview to a joint meeting of the Senate and House Ag Committees at 10 a.m. on March 23 in the Brynhild Haugland Room.
NDFU will be monitoring policy committees for action on policy bills for the remainder of the week.
–– Kayla Pulvermacher, NDFU