Medicaid expansion funding, nursing home beds, transportation bills, teacher loan forgiveness program, higher education funding cuts, implement dealers bill, oil production in Western North Dakota, technology, the Legacy Fund, the future of small rural schools and much, much more were all discussed at Saturday morning’s legislative update with Rep. Greg Westlind, Rep. Dennis Johnson and Sen. Dave Oehlke all from District 15.

Medicaid expansion funding, nursing home beds, transportation bills, teacher loan forgiveness program, higher education funding cuts, implement dealers bill, oil production in Western North Dakota, technology, the Legacy Fund, the future of small rural schools and much, much more were all discussed at Saturday morning’s legislative update with Rep. Greg Westlind, Rep. Dennis Johnson and Sen. Dave Oehlke all from District 15.

The trio of legislators was home in their district for the weekend and spent their Saturday morning speaking to concerned constituents and answering their questions.

First up was Rep. Greg Westlind who gave an update on funding for Medicaid expansion. He is concerned about how hospitals in small towns, like Cando, and, yes, Devils Lake, would be adversely affected if and when this funding goes away.
He reported that they had killed a bill, No. 1115, that would do away with a moratorium on the number of nursing home beds available in the state. He said the nursing homes were reimbursed per bed and although in his community that meant only $4 to $5 per bed, in Fargo they were being reimbursed as much as $80 a day. Without the moratorium the legislature feared the state would have an over abundance of beds.
He also reported on two transportation-related bills. One would deal with hauling grain first to a dryer and then to the elevator, making it possible for haulers to transport the same, or nearly the same, sized loads two days in a row as needed.
The second would increase truck weight limits on certain highways in the state. Surrounding states and provinces have different weight or load weight restrictions and this bill would allow North Dakota trucks similar weights, more consistent with its neighbors.

Rep. Dennis Johnson provided an update on two of the committees he sits on: Ag and Education. The bills they had voted on included a loan forgiveness program for teachers who stay in North Dakota and teach after graduation.
He told the attendees that North Dakota had lost a lawsuit brought by the horse racing folks and that will cost the state several million dollars.
He discussed the deep cuts in higher ed and the potential loss of between 600 and 700 employees.
Johnson also talked about legislation to protect the state’s implement dealers from certain regulations and requirements that manufacturers were imposing on them.

Sen. Oehlke went last and he laughed as he told the crowd that he’d been called by a reporter from a newspaper in the eastern part of the state asking about the bill he had sponsored to change Daylight Saving Time.
“We killed that bill six weeks ago,” he informed the caller.
He said he wasn’t sure he’d ever bring that topic up again.
He did talk about oil production and how last week the price of a barrel of oil was $53.63 and today it was down to $48.83. The technology that we have now makes oil exploration much less expensive that in years past, he said.
He also commented on Friday’s front page of the Devils Lake Journal saying that downtown Fargo had experienced similar vacancies and that it was an opportunity and a challenge for the community to turn that around.
Oehlke said that by the end of the biennium they have to have a balanced budget, no matter what, that is required in the state’s constitution.

Following their presentations, the audience was asked to bring forth questions for the legislators.