This week in the North Dakota Legislature, explained by Dem-NPL leadership in three minutes or less
“No man’s life, liberty, or property are safe while the legislature is in session,” Mark Twain supposedly said. If you are of the same belief as Samuel Clemens, then lock your doors. The 63rd North Dakota Legislative Assembly convened in Bismarck this week.
To help you keep tabs on your elected leaders, we will be bringing you this weekly summary. We hope to make it interesting, relevant, and, most importantly, brief. Enjoy.
No more high fives? Or let the good times roll?
Each session in recent years has started with the governor’s address on the state of the state. It would have been a fun speech to give this year, no doubt. We are all thankful that North Dakota is doing well economically secondary to the oil boom and a strong agricultural sector.
Your Dem-NPL leadership team had a chance to respond to Governor Dalrymple’s address this week, and we did our best to get to the point: While the state of the state address is an appropriate time to reflect on North Dakota’s economic good fortune, going forward there can be “no more high fives” if we are to address immediate needs and capitalize on opportunities during this critical, time-limited session. That message — focusing on the work before us rather than patting ourselves on the back — seems pretty well in-tune with how we do things in North Dakota and was generally well received. With the exception of the Forum editorial board, that is.
You’ll see our response to this word-twisting editorial on the Forum opinion page soon, but suffice it to say we are sticking to our guns about what has to happen during the remaining 76 days of the session. Our prosperity has come with challenges — to our infrastructure, to our schools, and to our quality of life. It’s also presented us with the chance to seize opportunities that will make for a strong North Dakota after the oil boom has subsided. So let’s get off of our laurels (amongst other things) and get to work.
The right fights: Medicaid expansion
Each week, we’ll profile some of the priorities we are fighting for on the floors of our respective chambers. Whether it is increasing oil patch communities’ share of oil tax revenues, providing meaningful property tax relief for North Dakota families, ensuring open and transparent government by requiring disclosure of corporate and union political expenditures, or addressing the daycare crisis and increasing access to early childhood education, we believe these fights are the right ones for North Dakota families. We aim to make you proud.
This week features Sen. Tim Mathern from Fargo’s District 11 and his efforts to expand access to healthcare in North Dakota. We all know Tim is a passionate fighter and an expert on policy nuance when it comes to healthcare. As all good fighters know, it never hurts to have a little help. That is why Sen. Mathern is calling for bipartisanship in the wake of the news that the executive budget endorses expanding Medicaid in the state.
Here’s a quick primer on this issue: Under the health care reform law, states can expand Medicaid eligibility by up to 138% of the poverty level, meaning access to healthcare for thousands of residents who would otherwise go without health insurance. Where states choose to expand Medicaid in this fashion, the federal government will pick up 100% of the tab.
Now, if this were a 100% federal match for roads, there would be no question about whether we would take the federal government up on its offer. Since this is falls under the health care reform law, however, some of our friends on the other side of the aisle oppose Medicaid expansion based on vague allusions to “Obamacare.” Sen. Mathern, Dem-NPL legislators, and pragmatic members of the majority see this issue for what it is: An opportunity to expand access to health care for North Dakotans and reduce reliance on expensive emergency room care at no cost to the state.
It is a matter of practicality and common sense as much as it is compassion, and we’ll be working hard to make sure that those principles prevail over ideology on the issue of Medicaid expansion this session.
Head-shaker of the week
Often during the course of the session, we experience things that leave us shaking our heads in disbelief. Instead of keeping our bewilderment to ourselves, we’re going to share them with you in our “head-shaker of the week” feature.
This week’s head-shaker comes from Representative Skip Drovdal of Arnegard. We like Representative Drovdal. He’s a nice person who treats his colleagues with respect. That’s why we aren’t going to be too hard on him for indicating support for cutting taxes paid by oil companies. Specifically, Rep. Drovdal was quoted in a recent article as saying, “We need to get money back to them[.]”
To be fair, North Dakota has benefitted greatly from oil, something we wouldn’t have without investment from oil companies. But let’s keep in mind that those oil companies are doing awfully, awfully well. And those immediate needs we talked about above? We can ask oil companies to continue to pay their fair share so we can address them.
Done reading but still not satiated? Read all about this week’s legislative work by following the links below. In the mean time, enjoy the blizzard and stay out of the ditch. More next week.
Sen. Mac Schneider (Dem-NPL Floor Leader); Sen. Joan Heckaman (Dem-NPL Asst. Floor Leader)
Rep. Kenton Onstad (Dem-NPL Floor Leader); Rep. Corey Mock (Dem-NPL Asst. Floor Leader)
In the news
D-NPL Senator Tim Mathern calls for bipartisanship on Medicaid – Forum Communications
With Governor’s Medicaid Expansion, Mathern Pulls Bill – ND Free Press
Democrats Work to Cap College ‘Fees’ – Make Schools Affordable – ND Free Press
Tribal chairman asks state to share oil wealth – Associated Press
North Dakota oil regulator: ‘Not all roses and sunshine’ – Associated Press
DOT says it’s playing catch-up – Bismarck Tribune
Officials voice concerns with aircraft measure – Bismarck Tribune
North Dakota chief justice bemoans ‘conveyor belt’ legal process – Forum Communications
Cass County Democrats to meet Saturday – Forum Communications
Department of Mineral Resources seeks additional funding to keep ND competitive – Forum Communications
Klobuchar, Hoeven to co-sponsor bill targeting metal thefts – Fargo Forum
Access important for court system – Bismarck Tribune Editorial
Decline in housing units means progress for FEMA – Minot Daily News
Heitkamp isn’t alone in opinion – Minot Daily News Editorial
Getting started – Williston Herald
Native American Address – KFYR-TV
Legislators Get Overview on Oil in ND – KXMB
Lawmakers Hear What Needs To Be Done On Reservations – KXMB TV
Great Plains News:
ND tribal chairman appeals for job training help, promotes friendlier business climate on reservations
Energy interests want research money boost for oil, renewables
Young Lawyers: Rural North Dakota Wants You
Forum editorial: High-fives all around for ND
Editorial Cartoon – Fargo Forum
Tribal chairman to address ND Legislature – Associated Press
Education bill would restructure funding formula – Associated Press
OUR OPINION: Out of the hangar, onto the taxiway – Grand Forks Herald
N.D. college students lobby to keep fees in check – Forum Communications
Postal Service out to ‘restore faith’ of Oil Patch – Forum Communications
Chief Justice VandeWalle bemoans ‘conveyor-belt’ legal process – Forum Communications
ND chief justice announces rural law clerk program – Associated Press
ND chief justice wants 3 new judgeships – Associated Press
Tax credits sought for affordable housing projects in Dickinson – The Dickinson Press
Lawmakers ask about oil tax triggers – Bismarck Tribune
Governor lauds state’s progress – Williston Herald
Spending and Saving – KFYR-TV
Lawmakers Get to Work – KFYR-TV
Representative Saves Senators Life – KXMB-TV
Great Plains News
College Fee Limits
People Without Lawyers
Mathern – Medicaid
Dalrymple’s State of State address: ‘Fund priorities responsibly’ – Forum Communications
Dalrymple: North Dakota flourishing but still faces challenges – Fargo Forum
Gov. Dalrymple: ‘An incredible moment’ – Bismarck Tribune
Former congressman lobbying for update to 1993 law – Associated Press
Lobbyists gear up for 2013 ND legislative session – Associated Press
ND chief justice to address Legislature – Associated Press
Forum editorial: Fix timing for school payments
WSI still struggling with computers – Forum Communications
North Dakota’s first openly gay lawmaker wants to work for all – Associated Press
Shirvani discusses reform plan at UND – GF Herald
Gun control group questions Heitkamp with print ads – Associated Press
Democrats` Response to State of the State – KFYR-TV
State of the State Address – KFYR-TV
Democrats Respond To State Of The State Address – KXMB-TV
State Of The State Address – KXMB-TV
Great Plains News Service:
Dalrymple – Democrats
Photos from the ND Legislature
Mathern – Medicaid
Dalrymple – Economic Contrasts
Gov Dalrymple – State of State
Dalrymple – Oil, story on ND governor’s State of the State speech
Dalrymple – Business, story on governor’s State of the State speech
ND Legislature welcomes new, young legislators – Forum Communications
Local officials want some of North Dakota’s budget surplus for K-12 needs – Fargo Forum
Editorial: A federal ‘stimulus’ that works – Fargo Forum
2013 promises debate on high-dollar issues – Bismarck Tribune
Speech kicks off legislative session – Bismarck Tribune
ND legislature to tackle oil issues – Associated Press
Game and Fish Department deputy appointment questioned – Bismarck Tribune
ND Dems hire director; ND GOP searching for one – Associated Press
Water in, water out: Millions of dollars are needed to upgrade Dickinson’s H20, sewer systems – The Dickinson Press
Oil money helps ND tribe become debt-free – Fargo Forum
Session Starts Tomorrow – KFYR-TV