On Saturday, Feb. 16 at the Legislative Update for District 15 numerous bills and issues were discussed.

On Saturday, Feb. 16 at the Legislative Update for District 15 numerous bills and issues were discussed.

Rep. Dennis Johnson, who sits on the Higher Ed Committee in the House, brought up the Precision Ag building and the college’s hope to bring it to the campus. Johnson said he thought they had laid some good ground work in that $2M building project which would involve $1M from the state.

Rep. Greg Westlind talked about his work on Transportation and the Human Services committees. He said they had discussed issues that ranged from medical marijuana to nursing home issues.

Sen. Dave Oehlke, on the Appropriation’s Committee talked about the awesome responsibility it was to be involved with every budget in the state. “Every policy involving $5,000 or more will end up in our lap,” he stated. He explained that Ramsey County, for example, was benefitting tremendously since the state took on Social Services funding. That was not always the case and the county had to levy up to 37 mills in the past, when they were solely responsible for those costs.

He brought up Senate Bill 2360 that would exempt farmers from paying property taxes on their homes. Currently if a farm has off-farm income of $40K annually they are required to pay those taxes.

Johnson talked about a bill that passed in the House that more narrowly defines what a Service Dog is and where they are allowed. He said they also discussed freeze branding for cattle, hemp, rabbits are now to be considered livestock, fake meat and whether family farm corporations could be passed to second cousins.

Westlind brought up the concern regarding vaping, especially among those under the age of 21, human dismemberment abortions and medical marijuana. The legislative team fielded questions from the audience regarding tax credits for charitable contributions, the ethics bill, the initiated measure process and Sunday shopping and Blue Laws.

Oehlke talked about one bill that dealt with posting land for hunting.

Johnson brought up HB 1523 that would deal with money leftover at the end of the fiscal year for the state’s boards and whether that should be rolled into the Legacy Fund or not. He mentioned the Common Schools Trust Fund which has grown considerably and Foundation Aid for schools.

A member of the audience asked him about the replacement of Harris Hall on the NDSU campus and if that had passed. As a member of the Education committee, Johnson was in on discussions about testing students for dyslexia and Bill 1347 that would extend the length of a first year teacher’s probation to three years. He promised to check on what was happening with a bill that would allow emergency responders to replace out dated radio systems.

They were asked about a bill, HB 1443 regarding horse racing.

Andy Lankowicz asked about Medicaid expansion funding and Oehlke said he had heard different opinions from various hospitals on that. Westlind added that with the Governor’s cuts in his budget he was concerned about Heartview being able to provide services in this area as well as reimbursements to the smaller hospitals, like the one in Cando and also Devils Lake’s, for emergency room use by those who are uninsured.

Another bill brought up was dubbed “The Prairie Dog” bill which addressed money from the state going to help pay for needed infrastructure. Now that the needs in the oil patch have been addressed, that money is needed across the state for similar needs.

This update was sponsored by Devils Lake Public Schools, Lake Region State College and the Northeast Education Services Cooperative. After thanking everyone for their participation, it was announced that the next opportunity for a legislative update will be Monday, Feb. 25 sponsored by the Farm Bureau 6:30 p.m. at the KC Hall.