Dear Fellow Republicans,
We’re putting out our first-ever Roughrider Roundup Special Edition to showcase everything the 68th Legislative Assembly accomplished in the last four months to keep North Dakota a great state to live, work, and visit. Your regularly scheduled Roughrider will follow this evening. Please share with family and friends!
Perrie Schafer, NDGOP Chairman
The 68th legislative assembly helped improve access to high-quality healthcare, a nationwide goal for all healthcare providers, by passing bills that touched on the topics of psychiatric care, women’s health, prescription drugs, and vaccines. Biological sex identification has also been addressed in the “Family and Community Development” section of this article.
Mental Health: Improving Access to Psychiatric Care
Mental Health Services Expansion and Program Development
Mental health services across the United States largely suffer due to a shortage of providers who can provide mental health services. To address this trend in North Dakota, psychologists who are licensed in other compact states may temporarily provide mental health services virtually or face-to-face.
The Mental Health Court Program achieves a number of roles within North Dakotan society, which will ultimately improve quality of life for those touched by this program. When a person enters into the correctional system, outside of traditional proceedings, the judge may offer a number of alternatives, such as a “partial suspension of sentence” for drug court program or “veterans treatment docket” completion. HB1138 extends the role of a “mental health court”, which will allow the mental health court program to partially suspend a sentence or decrease the severity of an offense. Ultimately, this program offers North Dakota’s judges another tool to utilize when attempting to resolve correctional issues on an individual case-to-case basis.
North Dakota’s Department of Health and Human Services will implement a new program for gambling addiction and will create a framework for children who have suffered from human trafficking. The department will also be allowed to appoint members of the suicide fatality review commission and select officers.
Pro-Maternal and Fetal Life Legislation
The value of human life is unprecedented, which is why SB 2150 fiercely guards maternal and fetal lives by preventing abortions that are not considered to be medically necessary. Extenuating circumstances, such as gross sexual imposition, sexual abuse of a ward, and incest, do not apply if the gestational age is less than six weeks. Other instances, such as ectopic pregnancy, removal of a dead unborn child caused by spontaneous (unintentional) death, and molar pregnancies are considered to be exempt from SB 2150 for patients and providers. SB 1173 creates a day to celebrate the right-to-life, reaffirm the dignity and value of every human being, and to give thanks for the gift of life on January twenty-second of each year.
Prescription Drugs, Vaccines, and Other Healthcare Topics
Expansion of Pharmacist Services
Pharmacists play a critical role in the management of patients who have multiple disease states by evaluating and managing medications surrounding chronic disease state management, vaccination status, transitions of care, and other disease states. HB 1095 ensures that pharmacist services are included in health care plan’s coverage so that pharmacist services may be systematically implemented and expanded.
Right to Choose
In the pharmacy industry, insurers dictate patient access to medications via formularies that are managed and enforced through pharmacy benefits managers (PBMs). Oftentime, these pharmacy benefits managers opt to utilize their own pharmacies, so patients are often obligated to fill their prescriptions with the PBM’s pharmacy due to threats of higher fees or lack of coverage. To address this trend in a niche category, clinician administered drugs, SB2378 allows for patients to choose where they would like to fill their clinician administered drugs.
A diabetes management bill has been passed that requires a two year study for the North Dakota Public Employee Retirement plans to evaluate a $25 co-pay maximum out of pocket amount for covered insulins (rapid-acting, short-acting, intermediate-acting, long-acting, premixed insulin, premixed insulin/GLP-1RA products, and concentrated human regular insulin) and monitoring supplies (blood glucose meters, test strips, lancing devices and lancets, ketone testing supplies, urine strips, glucagon, pen needles, and insulin syringes). After this two year trial period, a version of this bill will be reintroduced in the 69th legislative assembly to potentially be expanded to other healthcare plans.
Co-Pay Accumulator Study
HB1413 has been slated as a legislative management study, where the legislative management council will evaluate the impact of co-pay accumulators in the pharmacy industry; this bill will then be discussed in the 69th legislative assembly. HB1413 hopes to help recognize and address barriers to patient medication access in relation to out of pocket patient expenses.
COVID-19 Vaccination Status
A bill has been passed to promote an individual’s right to provide vaccination status for their COVID-19 vaccination at their discretion to businesses and government entities (exclusions: university systems, institutions under the control of the state board of higher education, or a public health disaster/emergency declaration). HB 1502 ensures that patients are not denied hospital care due to COVID-19 vaccination status.
Federal Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting
The Department of Health and Human Services shall prominently display a link to the federal vaccine adverse event reporting system, along with instructions on how to report an adverse event and how to access state-specific data on the state website.
Tax Relief Package
The largest tax relief package in North Dakota’s history has been signed into law by Governor Burgum and the Legislative Assembly this session; it is a thirty-year plan that will be continuously assessed and adjusted every two years.
The package includes:
- $358.2M in income tax relief by reducing tax brackets from five to three
- $156.7M in property tax relief
- $53.5M in ongoing funding for the Homestead Tax Credit Program (in addition to the $1.5B in property tax relief that’s been provided since 2007)
- Homeowners may claim a $500 property tax credit on their primary residence plus and expanded eligibility in the state’s Homestead Property Tax Credit program for homeowners ages 65 and older making it easier for elderly homeowners to remain in their home
HB1379, the legacy sinking and interest fund bill, is financially managed by the public finance authority. It utilizes funds to meet debt service requirements and to allocate funding to infrastructure projects and programs. The bill continues re-payment of the bonding package that was passed last session; and is now working in conjunction with the motor vehicle excise tax listed below.
Motor Vehicle Excise Tax
A permanent solution for road and bridge management in non-oil counties and townships will be designated from the motor vehicle excise tax, which creates a flexible transportation fund. Overall, $81M will be passed through to counties, townships, and cities.
Oil Extraction Tax
A “trigger” tax on oil production has been eliminated via HB1286, which will potentiate further investment in the state’s energy sector. Previous to HB1286, companies were discouraged to invest in oil production due to a higher tax if oil production rose above a certain level. This tax is valuable for North Dakotan communities, as $250M is expected to be designated to cities, counties, and townships.
Military Tax Exemption SB2293 incentivizes military income further by reducing income tax to the extent that military pay is included in North Dakota taxable income of the taxpayer. Another addition to SB2293 includes military pay for federal training, education, mobilization, bonuses, and state pay, which was not previously funded in the North Dakota Century Code chapter 57-58.
Computer Science and Cybersecurity
The 68th Legislative Assembly made history in the United States by making North Dakota the first and only state to require cybersecurity education from Kindergarten through grade 12. HB1398, the first bill signed into law by Governor Burgum, requires computer science and cybersecurity education, providing students with the tools and resources they need to ensure their safety and the safety of others in this rapidly evolving world of technology.
Career and Technical Education Grant
A $68M line of credit through the Bank of North Dakota was provided to the Department of Career and Technical Education for an incentive grant program through HB1199. This will be used to finance the construction of 13 planned career academies across the state, which will allow students to pursue careers in trades, health care, technology, and other sectors. This will allow for the training and education needed to strengthen the next generation of North Dakota’s workforce.
K-12 Education Funding in SB2284 includes
- 4% increase in per-pupil Foundation Aid payment to public school districts
- School construction loan fund
- Projects totaling less than $75m will be eligible for up to $15M
- Projects totaling more than $75M is eligible for a loan up to $30M
- Study on school choice
- Provides $6M for free lunches for families living at or below 200% of the federal poverty guideline
Finalizing the Department of Public Instruction’s budget in SB2013 allocates
- $486M in grants
- $11M for the Center for Distance Education
- $9M for the State Library
- $11M for the School for the Deaf
- $6M to North Dakota School for the BlindDyslexia
North Dakota recognizes the need to ensure all students have access to a fair and equal education, no matter the difficulties life presents them with. In addition to SB2013 allocating funding for the School for the Deaf and the School for the Blind, we’re also very pleased to report that SB1231 provides mandatory dyslexia screening, the implementation of special reading programs for those showing signs, and the training required to help educators identify Dyslexia red flags in their students.
North Dakota proudly had the second-lowest unemployment rate in the United States in March at just above 2%. The 68th Legislative Session did a wonderful job of ensuring our state stays at a competitively low unemployment rate.
Commerce Dept Workforce Initiatives
HB1018 provides funding to the commerce department to ensure North Dakota remains an attractive destination for tourists, businesses, and the workforce.
- $40M to a tourism destination fund
- $30M for workforce programs to address shortages
- Enacts a Global Engagement office to promote ND Business to world markets
- $26M for UAS industry, including Vantis and Grand Sky
- $70M for the ND Development fund
Workforce Education Innovation Program
To address the workforce needs, HB1241 provides the board of higher education the ability to award funds to institutions to create or enhance innovative educational programs.
Paraprofessional to Teacher Program
Funding will be provided to the tune of $3M for grants that will assist paraprofessionals to become qualified teachers.
Minimum Age Required
Lastly, to further expand the workforce and to offer a greater variety of jobs available to children under 18, with parental authorization, SB2170 allows 16 and 17-year-olds enrolled in an apprenticeship or in an approved CTE program to work in hazardous occupations, like construction, that have previously been limited to those 18+.
FAMILY AND COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT
A number of valuable bills surrounding childcare, foster and adoption, and biological sex categorization have been passed to further state level support initiatives. Community development and safety are highlighted in multiple bills that were passed this session ranging from law enforcement funding to combating the national opioid crisis.
Foster and Adoption
To increase funding for non-profit organizations and agencies that help with child placement into foster and adoptive homes, HB1502 created a tax credit for donations to qualifying organizations. Maternal homes that provide shelter and care to pregnant women or mothers to children less than 12 months of age will also qualify for the tax credit.
A two-year study will be conducted to evaluate current adoption practices within North Dakota; it will evaluate a multitude of topics ranging from policies, processes, statistics, and current practices.
Improving access to childcare services is crucial for a multitude of reasons ranging from workforce related issues to quality of life for North Dakotan families. A childcare assistance bill has been passed this legislative season that expands the range of families that are eligible for assistance, matches funds for childcare services, and provides funding for training child care workers.
To address a shortage of childcare providers, SB2182 allows child care providers licensed through the federal Department of Defense to provide childcare services rather than enforcing redundant licensure requirements.
Biological Sex Identification at Birth
Identification of biological sex at birth is crucial to providing appropriate health care services for children; HB 1139 ensures that biological sex is assigned on birth certificate.
A concurrent resolution urging public schools and public entities, including agencies or departments that collect vital statistics, to protect women’s rights by distinguishing between the sexes according to biological sex at birth for the purpose of providing equal opportunities and ensuring the privacy and safety of women and girls.
A bill was passed that protects female athletes by ensuring that the assigned sex category at birth is enforced in public education athletics by designating male, female, and co-ed. Another bill establishes that restrooms and showers are exclusively for assigned sex at birth (M/F) in correctional facilities, youth correctional centers, penitentiaries, domestic violence/sexual assault organization facilities, and dormatories/living facilities on university campuses.
Local Community Support
Governor Burgum signed a back the blue bill that distributes resources to each city and county law enforcement agency in the state. A total of $350M has been set aside for this fund; $750,000 is required to be distributed to local law enforcement agencies employing ten or fewer employees working in a law enforcement capacity.
A $27M budget has been established via SB 2019, which allocates $6M for a new campground at Pembina George, $2.4M for cabin construction, and $10M for deferred maintenance and capital projects.
Tourism is the third largest industry in North Dakota behind agriculture and energy; $25M from the commencement budget has been allocated for destination development through a competitive grant process that’s capped at $5M for each project.
Combating the National Opioid EpidemicEnsuring that North Dakota communities are safe and protected from illegal drug distribution is detrimental to preventing drug-related overdoses and crime. Therefore, a bill has been passed that designates an individual that distributes a controlled substance that results in death or injury as guilty for the death or injury, which is a class A felony.
VETERANS & LAW ENFORCEMENT
Relief and Rehabilitation
SB2204 expands the definition of ‘Veteran’ to include National Guard, allowing National Guard veterans the ability to participate in the Veteran Aid Loan.
Free Tuition Program for Survivor of Peace Officer
SB2130 expands the definition of ‘Peace Officer’ to include correctional officer as it relates to children of Correctional and Peace Officers who have fallen in the line of duty having the ability to attend a state college in North Dakota at no cost to the student or their families.
National Guard Pay
HB1069 authorizes The Adjunct General (TAG) to pay incentive pay, as authorized by federal law, to National Guard soldiers and airmen at the maximum years of service and at the minimum rank of Private 1st class. This bill also authorizes State Active Duty (SAD) members beyond 14 days for rest and recovery. These authorizations make North Dakota comparable to or slightly ahead of other states within the region.
The legislature worked hard to restructure North Dakota’s ‘Corporate Farming’ law. HB 1371 provides several opportunities for growth in the state’s dairy, livestock, feedlot, swine, and poultry production. This bill allows farmers and ranchers on family farms to form a corporate business structure that mirrors the business structures common in other states where farmers’ and ranchers’ agricultural receipts from livestock are more than twice that of North Dakota’s. The inclusion of an emergency clause allows the law to take effect immediately so that projects have the opportunity to begin this spring.
Foreign Adversary Study
In addition to increasing livestock value for family farmers and ranchers, the legislature also protected North Dakota through SB2371. This bill prohibits any Foreign Adversary from owning real property in North Dakota. SB 2371 also expands the study into existing property ownership by a foreign adversary addressed in HB 1503.
Restimulation Well Extraction
To encourage reinvestment in older, existing Bakken wells with a lower production output due to age, HB 1427 incentivizes restimulation of wells in production decline. Restimulation is defined as the technological process by which newer, modern frac treatments are used to enhance oil production within an already producing and aging well.
The Industrial Commission budget provides for a $140M expansion to the line of credit supporting loans or loan guarantees issued from the Clean Sustainable Energy Fund, increasing the total program to $390M.
- $30M for clean sustainable energy fund grants
- $3M for Intelligent Pipeline Integrity Program (iPIPE), which is utilized to ensure pipeline safety technology
- Study on Lignite Plant for the Future
Working together with the Energy & Environmental Research Center (EERC) in Grand Forks to gauge the demand forecast for dispatchable electricity generation and the regulatory environment for future lignite generation facilities and their economic impact and valued products.
Royalty Ombudsman Program
A Royalty Owner Ombudsman Program was established in SB2194, allowing the Agriculture Commissioner’s office to contract an ombudsman with particular knowledge of the royalty payment process to support mineral owners, lease owners, and mineral developers experiencing royalty payment issues. This will work similarly to the existing Pipeline Ombudsman Program.
Economic Incentives for the Use of Coal
Economic incentives were created in HB1511 for value-added uses of coal, such as critical mineral and rare Earth mineral processing, plastics, building materials and aggregates for road construction. Investment incentives continue through an exemption in sales and use tax to build a processing facility for value-added uses of lignite. This bill will also provide a coal severance tax exemption for the first million tons of coal used at one of these facilities.
Highway Diversification Fund
HB 1012 allows for the ND Department of Transportation Director to allocate funds received from the motor vehicle excise tax revenue to subsidize roads throughout the state. 75% of the revenue from excise tax will go to the State Department of Transportation and 25% to “non-oil” counties and townships. The funds will be available on August 1st, 2023. These dollars can be used to fund the maintenance and improvement to county and township roads and bridges. Roads and bridges that require a federal match or that serve as corridors will be granted priority.
SB2113 expands further on the funding allocated in HB1012 by establishing a flexible transportation fund. The intent is to increase the flexibility and availability of state funding for transportation to support building and repairing a statewide interconnected infrastructure system for all users, on and off the state highway system. HB1012 allows these funds to be used for federal grant matching. The flexible transportation fund will be allocated to the Department of Transportation but does allow for local projects to benefit from the funding as well.
Emergency Snow Removal
It’s no question North Dakota has its qualms with snow; emergency snow removal grants totaling $20 million will be provided to political subdivisions in SB2183.
Constitutional Ballot Initiatives
SCR4013, a Senate Concurrent Resolution to tighten constitutional ballot initiatives, was filed with the secretary of the state on April 12, 2023. The measure would require all petitions and measures to be limited to a single subject for each petition/measure and would require all constitutional initiated measures to be voted on at the primary and general election.
Pension Reform To address unfunded liability of current NDPERS retirees, $219.2M dollars will be dedicated towards the current $1.2B debt, and new employees will be shifted to a defined contribution plan. A 30.5 year closure will be executed to pay off the plan; a three month election period (January 1, 2024-March 31, 2024) will occur to allow currently eligible employees to move to the defined contribution. Eligible employees will receive an additional contribution of up to $3,333 for up to three years.