The legislature reconvened on March 2 after the cross over break. Committee work is now the center of activity. The House is acting on bills that passed the Senate and the Senate will be acting on passed House bills. About thirty percent of the bills were defeated in the first half of the session so this will reduce committee work and hopefully the committees can start conferencing in several weeks so that differences between the senate and house can be resolved.
HB 1459 and SB 2280 that I and Senator Luick have introduced respectively will expedite the process of acquiring permits for tiling farm land. Senator Luicks bill received a do pass from the house Agriculture Committee on March 10. HB 1459 will be heard in the senate agriculture committee on March 18. The past fifteen years of excess rainfall has resulted in moisture saturated soils. This has resulted in salt buildup on about twenty five percent of North Dakota farm land. The State Board of Agriculture Research has made soil salinity the number two research priority. Tiling is one way of dealing with this salt buildup.
Legislators working on this issue have worked very closely with the local water boards that will be responsible for issuing the permits. Overall the process will keep regulations about the same. The big difference will be that the local water board will be able to issue the permit without it first going through the State Water Commission. This was a step that resulted in unnecessary time delays in issuing the permits. Tiling has been used for thousands of years around the world and is used extensively in the corn belt of the United States. Tiling provides an excellent way to improve soil management as well as water management. The fact that tiling allows for the soil to drain off excess water over a longer period of time than surface drainage will have a positive effect on flooding. Because of federal regulation tiling does not allow farms to drain designated wetlands.
The legislature is working on emergency funding for snow and flooding costs for cities, counties and townships. The current proposal has nine million dollars for snow removal and twenty two million dollars for matching FEMA funds for flood damage. Local political sub divisions have already incurred huge snow removal costs. We all hope for a slow snow melt so that spring flood damage to roads will be minimized.
We have had several schools visit the legislature. We would encourage schools to visit the legislature as soon as possible. Most committees will finish their committee work in two weeks; consequently I think students will find the legislature to be more educational if they can visit while committee hearings are still taking place.