Bill HB1087 is about a program which was instituted two years ago in North Dakota. Called reinsurance, it allows our state to capture federal dollars to lower health insurance premiums for individuals who cannot qualify for a pool-type of policy. Last biennium, it was reported to save our citizens about 20 percent on their policies. This was referred to House Appropriations after passing the IBL committee and I watch it because many farmers can and have benefited from this program. This morning it got a 15-4 Do Pass from Approps and it will move to the floor for a vote next week, I believe. A development that surprised almost every veteran legislator and lobbyist was the Do Pass recommendation for a 6 cent gas tax hike. North Dakota, at 23 cents/gallon, is one of the lowest in the nation and has lost value due to inflation since last raised in 2005. Increasing mpg has also bit into revenue from the gas tax. Worth about $7.4 million per penny of tax, it is a drop in the bucket to make up for our deficiency in road and bridge funding for our state, but everything helps. I would still be surprised to see it pass, but maybe it’s time has come.
House Ag heard testimony in favor of HB1475 which is a bill that would use 20 percent of Legacy fund earnings and run it through the Ag Products Utilization Commission for new agricultural projects. Called the Ag Innovation bill, the money could be used for a soy crush plant, carbon capture for ethanol plants, slaughter facilities and whatever value added ag project you could think of. It came out of committee with a big Do Pass Recommendation today.
Then the House Ag Committee listened to a long line of testimony for and against HB1487 – a bill to make the beef checkoff an opt in rather than opt out for the North Dakota dollar. Some committee members saw the issue at hand as going back to who the board members of the Beef Commission are. The committee will continue to take testimony after floor session this afternoon. SB2208 is the much discussed water bill and as earlier indicated is going to a study which the Senate Ag committee talked about today. They are trying to decide who should be invited to be on the study committee. HB1437 is the tiling bill that brought together the many parties and had a good hearing yesterday in House Ag. I believe it will move forward.