Minot is only expected to see small changes in his legislative constituencies, but big changes could be ahead for Hartnett Hall at Minot State University and possibly flood control once the dust settles during a special session of the North Dakota Legislature.
The session begins Monday in Bismarck. Redistribution will be one of the main business topics.
The proposed changes are minor for the four districts which include various parts of Minot. However, the city’s 18% growth over the past 10 years has resulted in some suggested line changes to keep neighborhood sizes between around 15,750 and 17,400 residents.
Senator Randy Burckhard, R-Minot, who served on the redistribution committee that prepared a proposal for the legislature, said District 5, which he represents, would extend its borders slightly further east, taking a mouthful of District 3, and to the north, absorbing a piece of District 40.
Burckhard explained that District 5, because it is quite confined, has not experienced the same growth as other districts in Minot with more room to expand. District 38 has grown by nearly 3,200 people, District 3 by over 2,000, District 40 by about 2,300 and District 5 by just 509, he said.
The redistribution plan leaves District 3 with 15,800 inhabitants; District 40 with 15,831 inhabitants; District 5 with 16,301 inhabitants; and District 38 with 17,200 inhabitants.
Burckhard said he anticipated a debate on proposed subdistricts for districts that include the Fort Berthold and Turtle Mountain reserves.
“Not everyone agrees with that”, he said.
In addition to the redistribution, lawmakers will decide how to spend over $ 1 billion in federal bailout legislation. The House and Senate appropriation committees have developed spending plans that include proposals ranging from childcare to water supply projects.
Committees heard over 200 requests totaling over $ 9 billion in funding. Of the funding that resulted in a final draft, $ 25 million was spent on renovating Hartnett Hall.
The renovation project aims to revitalize and modernize the campus building, relieve congestion, improve entrances, improve flexibility of spaces, improve technology, correct a major ventilation problem, refresh finishes, supplying new furniture, improving daylighting and closing a backlog of deferred maintenance, according to information from MSU.
Nearly 50 years old, Hartnett Hall has seen its functionality diminish for students, faculty and the Minot community, MSU said. Recruitment of students for programs that use the building is negatively impacted, according to the university. Natural light is scarce, the interior is dated, and a perception exists on campus that the building’s air quality is unhealthy.
Hartnett Hall is home to the departments of English, Foreign Languages, Humanities, Art, Broadcasting, Drama, Communication as well as the KMSU radio station and many MSU general education courses.
Another recommendation to the Legislature provides $ 75 million for water supply projects. Although not designated, some of those dollars could come to Minot, most likely for flood protection.
The City of Minot submitted five project proposals. They included $ 25 million to accelerate the next phase of the flood protection project and an additional $ 25 million for the acquisition of properties.
Other requests from the Town of Minot were: $ 9.4 million for the Puppy Dog Coulee storm sewer project in southwest Minot; $ 5 million for the replacement of lead service lines; and $ 2 million for the replacement of the Anne Street pedestrian bridge.
County governments had requested a share of state coronavirus funding for their road projects. The Appropriations Committees, combining previous appropriations and ARPA funds, are proposing $ 317 million for roads, said Senator David Hogue, R-Minot, a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee.
The funds break down to give $ 200 million to the state, $ 100 million to counties and $ 17 million to townships. Hogue said he expects all three entities to continue fighting for that money during the session.
The legislature also faces slightly different versions of Senate and House bills. The Senate bill designates $ 100 million from counties for a transition program. The ND Department of Transportation would administer the program and determine which bridges would be funded. A House bill allocates $ 50 million for county bridges, which will be allocated by NDDOT, and distributes an additional $ 50 million to counties using the existing highway formula. For Ward County, the formula provides about $ 3.8 million, according to the North Dakota Association of Counties.
“I am encouraged, representing the counties, that the two houses want to invest $ 100 million in roads. So this is great, “ said Terry Traynor, executive director of the Counties Association.
He said the Legislature during the regular session was not interested in using ARPA funds to help counties because the belief was that counties could use their own coronavirus relief dollars to roads and bridges. Once the federal rules fell for the counties, that didn’t turn out to be the case, he said.
Ward County Engineer Dana Larsen said counties had to cut back on road improvements due to declining oil revenues over the past biennium, which prevented the state from providing the promised help. Ward County would have received over $ 5 million if the money had been available. With less money to work than expected, some projects were pushed back further, Larsen said. Ward County also transferred part of its maintenance budget to fund a paving project in Kenmare and the replacement of a bridge near Sawyer.
Larsen said he would like to see that $ 5 million restored.
“I would like to ask for all of this because we need it, but if they fund some of it, we would manage.” he said.
The largest project in the proposed ARPA spending plan is a pipeline that would receive $ 150 million. Hogue said the pipeline will run from Tioga, along US Highway 2 and through Minot, to Grand Forks and Fargo.
He said the pipeline would help reduce natural gas flaring in western oil fields while increasing natural gas capacity to meet residential growth and industrial development in eastern North Dakota. It also has an environmental component by allowing communities in eastern Wyoming’s coal-burning coal to switch to cleaner-burning natural gas, he said.
In addition to redistribution and ARPA, lawmakers are expected to consider a number of bills submitted for possible introduction by the Legislative Assembly’s Deferred Bills Committee.
Representative Bob Paulson, R-Minot, has introduced a bill that would make it illegal to discriminate against a person based on their immunization status. This is one of six bills related to the immunization mandate before the Deferred Bills Committee.
Paulson’s version also states that the COVID-19 vaccine will not be added to the list of required childhood vaccinations.
“In accordance with the Republican Party platform, specifically regarding individual liberty and limited government, I do not think it is appropriate for the government to fit into a personal and private medical decision such as taking a vaccine, d ‘especially since the long-term side effects are unknown ”, Paulson said. “We now know that the vaccine does not prevent the recipient from contracting COVID-19 or passing it on to others. The risk of side effects such as myocarditis and blood clots is real and well documented. Numerous studies suggest that natural immunity alone is superior to vaccinated immunity in fighting the virus. The citizens of North Dakota should not be forced to choose between taking an experimental vaccine and supporting their families. There are a lot of North Dakotas who are losing their jobs because they don’t want to get vaccinated when they already have natural immune antibodies. “
He added that he agreed with Gov. Doug Burgum, who said last September that imposing a vaccination mandate on private employers is not the role of the state or the federal government. He said he also agreed with a letter to President Biden, to which ND Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem signed, which calls the federal mandate a threat to individual liberty.
Rep. Jeff Hoverson, R-Minot, said he had submitted a bill that would require pharmacists to fill doctors’ prescriptions for ivermectin. He said some pharmacists refused to fill prescriptions. Ivermectin is an antiparasitic drug that has been used in some cases with patients with COVID-19.
Representative Larry Bellew, R-Minot, submitted a bill to the Delayed Bills Committee that would use educational foundation aid dollars to pay for new construction of K-2 schools. He said the bill might have some difficulty.
“I think the Delayed Bills Committee will not accept this bill because it drastically changes the way new school buildings are funded,” he said.
On the Senate side, Hogue said he had a bill to eliminate state income tax on Social Security benefits. A similar bill narrowly failed in the Senate after being passed in the House during the regular session.
The bill is expected to cost the state around $ 14 million.
Hogue noted that the state benefits from inflation because it increases sales tax collections. Oil prices are also on the rise, allowing the state to collect more taxes on oil.
“The purchasing power of North Dakotas is eroding, but state revenues are increasing because of inflation, so we should be able to give back. “ Hogue said.