Article by Senator David S. Rust,
Hopefully by the time you read this the 2017 Legislative Assembly will have adjourned. As of the writing of this article we still have a number of bills that need to be finalized.
SB 2013 started out as the university and school lands budget bill. It was amended to included changes to the oil and gas gross production tax (GPT) formula. One of the most offensive provisions to me was the taking of two-thirds of the dollars that currently go to townships in oil and gas producing counties and allocate those dollars to non-oil and gas townships. Lots of discussions have taken place. Largely with the help of Senator Rich Wardner (R-Dickinson) that appears to have been resolved. I haven’t seen the final amendments. We should see them on Monday, April 24.
HB 1020 is the budget bill for the state water commission. It contains the state’s water projects for 2017-2019, including WAWS. The seventy-five cent fee (a.k.a. tax) per one thousand gallons of water has been eliminated. The bill as it currently stands does restructure WAWS debt among other things.
This past week both houses passed HB 1378. Within specified time frames wind farms must be equipped with a functioning light-mitigating technology system approved by the industrial commission. This technology will dim lights unless aircraft are in the area.
HB 1275 (the school prayer bill) has passed both houses; it essentially places into law prayer practices that are currently being done by students, schools, and the ND High School Activities Association. It states, “A student of a public or nonpublic school may not be prohibited from voluntarily participating in any student-initiated prayer at an activity held on the premises of a public or nonpublic school.” If it would have passed as originally drafted, the possibility of the NDHSAA placing one of their tournaments in a private school facility was remote.
Both houses also passed SB 2037. This bill gives up to four years of significant loan forgiveness to teachers who teach in shortage areas, rural or small towns under one thousand in population, or in critical fields of instruction. Someone teaching in a small town/rural community in a critical field could get up to $26,000 in teacher loan forgiveness. I believe this bill will provide an incentive for individuals to teach in rural parts of North Dakota and to get degrees in critical shortage fields.
SB 2134 deals with minerals under Lake Sakakawea. It states that North Dakota holds no claim or title to any minerals above the ordinary high water mark of the historical Missouri riverbed channel inundated by Pick-Sloan Missouri basin project dams. There are exceptions for original grant lands acquired by the state under federal law and any minerals acquired by the state through purchase, foreclosure, or other written conveyance. These minerals have been a source of legal wrangling for many years by individuals who feel the state wrongly seized those interests. Even though the cost to the state is around $187 million, I believe those should be returned to the rightful owners. It’s the right thing to do.
We also passed HB 1389, known as the opt-out of testing bill. Parents may direct the school district to not administer any other specific test or assessment to their student, except 1) a test required for the completion of any grade, 2) a test required for graduation, 3) the ACT, or 4) the WorkKeys assessments. The parent directive must be submitted each year on a standardized form and placed in the student’s folder.
A couple of other bills that passed earlier in the session that may be of interest to landowners are HB 1409 and SB 2333. The first deals with well water testing prior to drilling for oil and the second with reclaiming well sites as close as practical to the original condition before the well site’s construction.
It’s a great privilege to serve in the legislature. Thanks for giving that to me. I appreciated your input and patience. If you have any questions, feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Have a great spring!
*This article was written by District 2 Senator David S. Rust. Rust served in the House from 2009-2014, he is currently serving in the Senate.. Rust serves as vice-chairman of the Education Committee, he also serves on the Transportation Committee.
*Ian Grande is the Editor of the Stanley Gazette. Feel free to reach out with any comments/concerns (StanleyGazette@gmail.com)
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- Also see: Grande’s Ramblings: Less Excuses, More Accountability