Yesterday was spent partly in Senate Finance and Tax as the committee worked on HB1361 which is about property tax caps. Each of the Senators has a position, with Chairman Cook stating that for the past five budgets, Morton county has not had a mill increase, but with a 3 percent cap they probably would have had one every year. Senator Laffen said he was against it on the basis of taking away local control, and so on. It appears that the bill may be held as long as possible for end-game leverage, which is a world I do not fully understand and have little respect for. Unfortunately, game playing for power is common to all humans and it is magnified on this stage. So what I am saying is that at this portion of our 4 month process, it can be more difficult to predict when something is going to happen.
All policy committees are under orders to be done this week. Some are done, some are hustling.
Also visited Senate Appropriations where they were discussing how to determine when accepting Federal funds is worth the price of the strings attached. These are usually Dept. of Public Instruction or Dept. of Corrections issues. Also in that committee was the bill allowing state entities to spend up to $700,000 for improvements (up from $385,000) without legislative approval. Both bills passed on the floor just now (Tuesday).
Today in Senate Appropriations was the issue of dealing with old oil wells (before the current boom) called Legacy wells and the improper handling of salt waters resulting in Ag land that is not usable. The committee was informed by the Dept. of Mineral Resources about the research going on in the NDSU greenhouse and it is a collaborative effort with the EERC at UND in Grand Forks. As any grower knows, salt tolerance is elusive amongst plants – most crop types need EC (electrical conductivity) levels under 4 -, with the most tolerant being western wheatgrass which will grow if the EC levels are less than 20. Bottom line is that with salt blooms growing/spreading around these abandoned legacy sites (current count at 121) with EC levels often at 130 or higher, it takes a lot of time and money to get these lands back to productive status. Having listened to a lot of upset farmers years ago on this issue, it is good to see something starting to move after our committee created that UND/NDSU partnership in 2013.