The 62nd Legislative assembly was called into session on Jan. 4 with Gov. Jack Dalrymple giving the State of the State address. The governor was sworn in at the organization session in December. The Chief Justice of the Supreme Court presented the state of the Judiciary on Jan. 5 and Tex Hall, chairman of the Three Affiliated Tribes, spoke to the legislature on Jan. 6 about the state of the tribes in North Dakota.
Committee hearings started on Jan. 5. I will again chair the House Finance and Tax Committee, and will be a member of the Agriculture Committee. Representative Vonnie Pietsch retained her positions as vice chairman of the Human Service Committee and her membership on the Political Subdivision Committee. Senator Gary Lee will chair the Senate Transportation Committee and serve on the Senate Education Committee.
Legislators are busy working on bill drafts with their first deadline for bill introduction Monday, Jan.10. The major issues this session will be the level of spending, infrastructure needs in oil country, Red River diversion for Fargo, and Devils Lake. From my perspective, North Dakota needs to hold the line on percentage increases in spending. There are some costs we cannot avoid. For example the funds from the federal government for Medicaid have been reduced by one hundred seventy million dollars because of the good economy in North Dakota. These funds are used for medical assistance for low income citizens. This is an expenditure which the state will have to assume. There are other ongoing budget requests that exceed two to three percent per year increases which I believe to be reasonable increases that I object to. The current state revenues are significant, but when you are basing your expenditures on energy and an agricultural economy I believe it is prudent to keep your spending levels in line with taxpayer's income.
The Agricultural Commodity group made presentations to a joint meeting with Senate and House Agriculture Committees. Soybean Council member Bob Runck from Casselton, and Kevin Skunes, Arthur, and Tom Lilja, of the corn growers were in attendance.
Ken Habiger of Casselton will receive the Stars of Life award from the Emergency Medical Association on Jan. 13 in Bismarck. Ken is so deserving of this award and I know the community is grateful for his many years of serves.