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Legislative Report District 22: Attention focusing on final bill action

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By Rep. Wesley R. Belter

The legislature’s goal is to finish the last week in April. We are allowed by law to go to May 2 which would be the 80th day. Nearly all committees have finished their scheduled bill hearing, and are now taking final action on bills. Conference committees will probably begin this week to resolve differences between the House and Senate.

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This past week the subcommittee which I chaired on SB 2211 dealing with animal abuse met seven times. We made some changes to the Senate version, but I believe we now have a better bill that addresses concerns of production livestock industry, and still has strong protection for those concerned with pet care. The bill passed out of the Agriculture Committee on Friday, and should be up for a vote in the House on April 1 or 2.

Major issues that remain will be over spending and tax relief levels. Currently it appears that the state will be contributing about $740 million towards property tax payments. Last session $341 million was appropriated for property tax payments. Funding for K-12 education will exceed $1 billion. That is an increase of over $160 million.

Although we have unprecedented revenue receipts I am concerned about the overall sustainability of the proposed spending levels. There are $200 million currently in budget proposals for new buildings at college campuses. I think that is an unacceptable level. More students are part-time or are taking courses by internet, so I think it is time to rein in some of these building projects. The major project is a new medical school building at UND. The governor had recommended an addition and renovation of the old medical school building that would result in considerable savings. I think the governor is right on this issue.

We will also need to reform some of our oil taxation laws. At the current time there is a large loop hole in our current tax policy that allows oil wells that are drilled in low producing areas that are called stripper wells. New technology has allowed companies to drill high producing wells in these areas that are subject to a lower tax. This situation needs to be corrected.

I will be participating in a legislative forum with other legislators from Fargo and West Fargo on April 6 at West Fargo City Hall at 10 a.m. This will be the last forum scheduled for this legislative session.

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