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Legislative Report District 22: Legislation has huge impact on townships around state

By Rep. Pete Silbernagel

This past week I had the opportunity to participate in the Cass County Township Officer’s Annual Meeting by giving a brief overview of the 63rd Legislative Assembly and its impact on townships across the state. Often time’s townships receive the least attention of the political subdivisions in the political arena, but there was significant attention focused on townships during the 2013 session.

The North Dakota Township Officer Association tracked over forty separate pieces of legislation that affected townships. In the end there was significant, positive impact to the townships. I would like to recap a few of the bills that addressed townships very specifically.

First and foremost were the bills that increased funding to townships. Through SB2176, SB2012 and HB1358 record funding was provided. Not only was record funding provided, but it was put on the fast track and put it in the hands of the townships early in the year, that much needed infrastructure projects could begin early in the year. This increased funding not only targeted the oil-producing counties, cities and townships, but provided much needed increases for non-oil-producing counties, cities and townships. It has been very apparent that the forty-nine townships in Cass County needed and welcomed this increase in funding. There are still significant repairs and maintenance to the infrastructure overseen by the townships, the additional revenue will begin to address those needs.

SB2025 was another bill that was passed that directly impacts the townships. In the past fees related to overloaded vehicle violations went to the state coffers. With the passage of SB2025 those fees will now go directly to the entity that controls the road. Specifically, if a fee is collected for a violation on a township road the money will go to that township controlling the road.

After the floods of 2011 one of the unmet needs that was recognized by political subdivisions was that of liability during disaster responses and the financial impact to the subdivision, in this case townships. Often times it is the township officers that are required to make decisions during a disaster that puts the township at risk legally and financially. HB 1025 mitigated much of the risks relating to liability and to the financing of repairs during and after a disaster. This bill was much needed in light of the statewide flooding that occurred.

There were two bills related to political subdivisions submitting their budget information into the state database website. HB1256, which would have required them to do so, was defeated. However, HB1132 provided funding for a study of the feasibility and desirability of making political subdivisions submit budgets, passed. The study will be conducted during the interim session. As political subdivisions receive a larger portion of their revenue from the state, submitting budgets by all political subdivisions will continue to gain momentum.

Above is only a glimpse into some of the impact that the last North Dakota Legislative Session had on townships. The old cliché that “all politics are local” has never been more relevant than today for North Dakota and in particular Cass County and its townships. If you want to learn more about township’s role in the North Dakota political system check out Title 58, chapters 1-18 of the North Dakota Century Code. I assure you that you will have a greater appreciation of the role townships have in the governance of North Dakota.