Discussions with the Water, Tax, Transportation and other Worlds have us coming to conclusions that will go to the floor within the next week and then to Conference Committees. One experienced lobbyist stated that, were he a betting man, he would put a grand on the Legislature lasting at least to day 75 of the 80 allowed. Leadership has stated that they are trying to be done around Day 72, but gamesmanship abounds. This Friday is Day 54.
Sitting in Senate Finance and Tax was interesting. They are working on the property tax bill that would cap counties at no more than a 3 percernt raise (discussed in my last blog). Today an amendment came in that would scrap that and institute a system whereby counties, cities, and townships would need to report to the state how much they increased their mills each year. If a 3 percent or more rise was reported for 3 consecutive years, that taxing entity would need to hold an election in the fourth year for any raise. At least, that is what I got out of it. That touched off a lively discussion that lasted on and off for quite some time as Tax department, city and county representatives and others tried to figure out just exactly that meant and how to go about it. Any one of you that pays property tax would have been fascinated to listen for an hour or so. The passion, frustration and genuine attempts to make things right would help anyone appreciate what goes in to legislating tax policy.
Quick Take has met with an amendment that has pleased everyone in House Energy and Natural Resources enough to recommend a Do Pass by 13-0. Essentially what it says now is that when a drain project runs into someone who does not want to grant an easement or sell their land so that the project can go forward, the Water Resource District negotiates for a period not less than 60 days without mentioning Quick Take. If still no agreement is found, the parcel must be appraised for value, a public hearing date is set and advertised. If the public hearing establishes that QT has not been threatened to that point, it may be used with County Commission approval. That is how I understand the bill at this point.
I spent Thursday afternoon watching Senate Ag work on the details of tiling. The amendments they had prepared to work off of were incorrect, perhaps due to the illness of a bill drafter up in Legislative Council. This puts some pressure on the committee to get it done today, Friday, which is some sort of deadline imposed by leadership to move the process along. They also need to kick out the Public Service Commission bills we have followed as well as a bill on home-prepared foods for sale to the public.
Also today will be discussion on the NDSU research and extension budgets, transportation bills like HB1321 (the “first dump “bill) and an environmental issue farmers in the oil patch are watching about the size of reportable industry spills. Speaking of the environment, the Dept. of Health bill which splits out the environmental section and turns it into a new stand-alone dept. passed out of House Natural Resources with a 12-1 Do Pass Rec yesterday. Agriculture has four representatives on the council, up from one before the amendment. They are Ag processing, one from livestock, one from crops and a representative with an agronomy or soil science degree.