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  • North Dakota Special Legislative Recap

  • North Dakota Special Legislative Recap

    North Dakota Special Legislative Recap

    On Friday, November 12 the North Dakota Legislative Assembly adjourned their special session. Governor Doug Burgum called the legislature into the five-day session to allow legislators time to complete the process of redrawing the state’s legislative districts after the 2020 census and appropriate $1.1 billion in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds that North Dakota received from the federal government. The legislature also debated bills covering several other policy areas, including the teaching of critical race theory, vaccine mandates, and tax policy.

    The session kicked off on Monday, November 8 with Governor Burgum’s State of the State address, which he used to outline his office’s priorities for spending the remaining available ARPA funding. Specifically, he proposed $326 million for workforce and economic development, $237 million in infrastructure and capital improvements, and $137 million for emergency response and healthcare. Specific proposals within those categories were organized as follows:

    Workforce and Economic Development:

    • Workforce Development Initiatives
    • Polytechnic Center
    • Early Childhood Tuition Waivers and Childcare Grants
    • Natural Gas Infrastructure (Including $150 million for a pipeline to move natural gas from the oil field to the eastern part of the state)
    • Clean Sustainable Energy Funding
    Infrastructure and Capital Improvements
    • NDDOT Infrastructure Projects
    • Critical Water Infrastructure
    • State Facility Maintenance
    • Parks & Recreation Capital Projects and Improvements
    • Broadband Matching Grants
    Emergency Response and Healthcare
    • Unemployment Insurance System Modernization
    • Public Health Lab Renovation
    • Cybersecurity and Process Improvement
    The Governor also suggested using $207 million in funds remaining in the state’s ending fund balance to provide an individual income tax credit to North Dakotans in 2021 and 2022 and a $100 million infusion into the state’s pension fund for state employees.

    The legislature determined their own priorities for funding, which included several of the Governor’s proposals. Notably the $150 million in funding for the natural gas pipeline and the $211 million income tax credit were given legislative approval. SB 2345 was used as the vehicle to appropriate the remaining federal COVID-related relief funding. In total, roughly $946 million of ARPA funds were allocated and $63 million was left for the 2023 Legislative Session. Some highlights of the allocations include:
    • $88 million for career academies
    • $45 million for broadband
    • $15 million to the Department of Commerce for local workforce development incentive grant programs to support efforts to recruit, retain, and retrain workers
    • $5 million to the Department of Commerce for a technical skills training grant program
    • $17 million to the Department of Human Services to expand childcare services.
    Governor Burgum’s administration requested millions of dollars for information technology upgrades and cybersecurity, but the legislature chose to push those requests on to the 2023 session. The legislature declines to add new graduation requirements for computer science and cybersecurity education but asked the Department of Public Instruction to work with stakeholders and present a proposal for changing these requirements to the 2023 legislative session.

    A summary of SB 2345 is available here.

    In addition to the funding conversation, the legislature completed their process of redrawing legislative district lines to account for population changes reflected in the 2020 census. The new district boundaries represent a general population shift, with rural eastern North Dakota reducing their number of legislative districts while mineral-rich western North Dakota adds additional districts (and therefore representation).

    The legislature also tackled a number of policy issues related to the COVID-19 pandemic. HB 1511 expands exceptions for employer vaccine requirements. Under the bill, employees that are subject to regular testing, can prove they have COVID-19 antibodies, or claim medical, religious, or moral objections cannot be required to vaccinate. Employers that are “required to comply” with federal laws, rules, or guidance (such as CMS guidance) are allowed to offer only the exemptions required by federal law. This bill includes a sunset clause for August 1 of 2023, so it will likely be revisited in the next regular session beginning January of 2023.

    The legislature also passed HB 1514 and HB 1508. HB 1514 prevents disciplinary action against doctors and pharmacists who prescribe or dispense ivermectin for off-label treatment of COVID-19. House bill 1508 bans the teaching of critical race theory at the K-12 level in North Dakota.

    Since the legislature adjourned sine die, Governor Burgum has 15 days to veto any legislation the legislature forwarded to him for signature. The Governor has already signed the tax relief legislation and the redistricting bill. The legislature still has four legislative days left in their biennial allotment of 80 legislative days should they decide to call themselves back into session to overturn a veto.

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