Taxation is a committee that deals with the topic everyone is interested in at least once a year if not every day, so NDSGA likes to keep at least an occasional eye on them. Saying hello to each of the members takes time because it is larger than your average interim committee – 18 regulars. In addition there were a few members from Legislative Management present as well (they can attend any and all interim meetings if they wish). At this meeting they took up the Charitable Gaming Tax study. One thing I learned is that the Attorney General’s office is woefully understaffed for regulating the explosion in charitable gaming at the many sites around the state. This huge growth is due to the new E-Tabs machines which are proving to be popular – they pay out at around a 90 percent rate as opposed to their paper relatives which pay at around 80 percent. Many of the charities that benefit from our citizens who wager on their behalf got up and testified to the importance of the contributions. Volunteer fire departments, nursing homes, scout troops, etc., benefit, while one group from Grand Forks testified that their organization helping those less fortunate is that city’s 8th largest employer. Almost makes me want to go gamble! Then the committee went on to talk about how to tax vaping and that will take a long time as there was a debate about what part of the vape could be taxed – just the liquid? The delivery device itself? And on and on. A long way to go on this one.
Then I went to the Natural Resources Cconservation Servoce Technical meeting where some restructuring of the North Dakota staff is going on. After that they went into the RCPP (Regional Conservation Partnership Projects). There is a lot to learn there with $10 million as a max for one project and a minimum of $250,000 per project. December 3 is the application deadline and one can look on their website. Jill Howard presented on this opportunity which looks at Impact, Partner Contributions on a 1 to 1 match, Innovation and Management. Check it out if you think your operation could benefit, but hop to it! Then a ND Forester got up to explain about the Great Plains BioChar Initiative which is trying to figure out how to turn increasing numbers of downed trees from shelter belts into charcoal instead of ashes. Turns out that charcoal is a very helpful soil amendment for porosity, water management and other benefits. They are trying different ways to do this on a scale which could help producers. Iowa’s soil has a large percentage of charcoal in its soil from ancient prairie grass fires whereby the lower biomass would pyrolize while the upper grass would combust. Again, check it out at the ND Forestry website. Derek Lowstuter was the presenter on that. Hang in there, producers. I was going to say the weather can’t get any worse, but living here for over 60 years has taught me better.