ND House Kills Water Bill And Treasurer’s Budget, Passes Bill Allowing Review Of Executive Orders

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It was a busy morning in the ND House today. Here’s a few of the key bills that got votes.

First, the House killed the budget for State Treasurer Kelly Schmidt’s office (HB1005). The problem? Schmidt asked for a $10,000/year raise, and that didn’t sit well with several legislators most notably Rep. Mike Nathe and Rep. Al Carlson. I’m sympathetic to the points they made, the legislature just went through and made big adjustments to the pay for statewide office holders, and under Governor Dalrymple’s executive budget statewide office holders are all getting a pretty nice bump in pay anyway.

But Schmidt wanted more, and the legislature didn’t want to give it to her. I guess I find it a little amusing to watch these legislators get bent out of shape over $10,000/biennium, which is a rounding error in the state budget, while throwing money at things like higher education.

Update: Treasurer Schmidt writes to note that in 2000, before she was elected, the salary for her position was reduced by $1,800/annually. Treasurer Schmidt asserts that this was done because of “personality and politics” related to her predecessor, and that her request for a $10,000 biennium increase in pay was intended only to bring her office back on par with the auditor and secretary of state positions as it was in 2000.

Here’s the video of the floor debate:

Second, the House also killed a proposal to start taxing water used by the oil industry for fracking. Rep. George Keiser made a lengthy speech about how the industry uses the state’s water and ought to pay for the privilege (fracking is, to be sure, a water-intensive process), and he pointed out that the proceeds from the tax (amounting to $0.20 per 100 gallons pumped, or $19.5 million in new revenues over the biennium according to the fiscal note) would go to fund oil impacts in the western part of the state.

I’m all for tying oil impacts to oil companies, but I’m not sure where we’ve demonstrated a need for a new tax or more tax revenues. North Dakota already has some of the highest extraction and production taxes in the nation which are pumping a windfall into the state’s coffers. The state doesn’t need more revenues. If western communities need more funding, the state has the revenues to direct their way.

Here’s the video of the floor debate:

Finally, the House also voted for HB1428 which would give the legislature review over presidential executive orders not approved by Congress. Essentially, the legislature would be able to refer any order to the governor and the attorney general for a constitutional review, which seems harmless enough except that according to Rep. Gail Mooney you’d think the state were seceding from the union and declaring war on the federal government.

Here’s the video of the floor debate:

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Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com. In 2011 he was a finalist for the Watch Dog of the Year from the Sam Adams Alliance and winner of the Americans For Prosperity Award for Online Excellence. In 2013 the Washington Post named SAB one of the nation's top state-based political blogs, and named Rob one of the state's best political reporters. He writes a weekly column for several North Dakota newspapers, and also serves as a policy fellow for the North Dakota Policy Council.

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