Legislative Week in Review: April 29 – May 3
What a session! Record-breaking in so many ways, this was the first session to go the full 80 days limited by the North Dakota Constitution. Additionally, legislators adjourned with only hours to spare before the time would have run out. The 2013 Legislative session has come to an end making this the last weekly Legislative Assembly briefing from AARP North Dakota. Don’t worry though, there will be plenty to stay in touch about during the 2013-14 Interim Session. We will be watching for studies related to health care, pensions, long-term care, and other issues of importance to older North Dakotans. If you have questions, please contact Associate State Director for Advocacy Josh Askvig.
Please take some time to write a personal letter to your legislators and the governor thanking them for their service this legislative session.
While you are at it, register to attend one of our Report Card on the 2013 N.D. Legislature stops. We will be traveling the state May 20-30 to bring you up-to-date on what happened, what didn’t happen, and what it all means to you.
To register, call toll-free 877-926-8300, or register online below by clicking on the name of the city.
FARGO – May 20 – 11:30 a.m. or 5:30 p.m. – Hilton Garden Inn
GRAND FORKS – May 21 – 11:30 a.m. – Hilton Garden Inn
MINOT – May 22 – 11:30 a.m. – Grand International Inn
BISMARCK – May 29 – 11:30 a.m. or 5:30 p.m. – Ramada Inn (formerly the Doublewood)
DICKINSON – May 30 – 11:30 a.m. – Grand Dakota Lodge
WEEK IN REVIEW:
Department of Human Services Budget
The Department of Human Services budget bill (House Bill 1012) contains various bits of interest to AARP and our members. Of note, funding to support enhanced home- and community-based services programming, including SPED and Expanded SPED; county senior services funding, specifically related to home-delivered and congregate meals; and additional dollars related to guardianship services and Medicaid expansion implementation were included in the final version of this bill.
House Bill 1029, which was intended to expand the North Dakota Housing Incentive Fund (HIF), has been the main vehicle to address affordable housing in North Dakota.
It was a roller coaster ride with HIF. The conference committee on 1029 approved amendments to the bill that put priority for HIF on 1) essential government workers and 2) families of low and moderate income. On the funding side of things, SB2014 (the Industrial Commission budget) funds the HIF at $35.4 million, $20 million in tax credits and $15.4 million in general fund dollars. The final amount might sound strange and the reason is that $20 million in general funds was the compromise with $2 million coming out for homeless shelter grants and $2.6 million coming out for child care facility grants. That left $15.4 million for housing. Both the homeless and child care grants will be direct appropriations to the Commerce Department, but it comes out of those housing dollars.
Property Tax Relief
There was a big fight about how the legislature will provide property tax relief. The fight boiled over into the last hours of the last day of the session.
Much of the debate was centered on House Bill 1319. This bill focused on the Governor’s proposal to recreate the formula for K-12 funding for education. On the morning of Day 80 (the last day under the Constitution) the House of Representative revisited the school funding/property tax relief bill they passed late the day before. This bill would have provided $714 million in state aid to schools. It would have been another step forward by the state in funding local school budgets while providing local property tax relief. Under the bill, the mill levy of schools would be limited to a baseline plus mills for capital construction. After narrowly passing the bill Thursday, the House defeated the bill Friday when five legislators who supported the bill switched their votes when the bill was reconsidered.
After much debate and discussion, a compromise was reached at the eleventh hour. The compromise sets the number of mills used to calculate a district’s state aid at 60 mills. It was passed as an amendment onto HB1013. The number of mills had been a major point of contention between both chambers. The Senate had wanted the number of mills set at 50, as had been recommended by the governor, while the House wanted it at 70 mills.
As passed, House Bill 1013 permanently builds property tax cuts into the state K-12 funding formula. It sets the combined state and local share of K-12 education funding at $8,810 per student for the 2013-14 school year and $9,092 the following year, a sharp increase from the $3,980 paid out in 2012-13 and $3,910 in 2011-12. This fits with AARP policy that supports offsetting school funding with state general fund dollars. The final agreement contains nearly $660 million in property tax cuts.
In addition, the legislature also passed Senate Bill 2036, which contains a $200 million reduction in property taxes. It provides the property tax relief through a 12% state paid property tax credit against all property. This is in addition to the relief provided under HB1013. In addition, the bill took steps to define how property tax relief provided by the legislature is communicated to taxpayers. Your tax statement will now contain information showing how much relief was provided through state paid efforts.
Additionally, AARP was successful in expanding the Homestead Property Tax Credit program. Senate Bill 2171 was introduced to expand the homestead property tax relief program to include more seniors and provide broader relief so that seniors can remain in their homes. The final legislation raises the income brackets so that individuals with incomes under $22,000 (current law is $18,000) can qualify for up to 100% of relief. The top end of the scale increases from the current law of $26,000 to $38,000. The homestead tax credit program will still include Social Security as income, but raises the asset test to $500,000, including home value. Here is a chart AARP shared with the committee to help them through their deliberations on this bill. The white columns are the current law and the bill as it was introduced; the yellow column is the bill as it came from the Senate; the blue column is the bill as it passed out of the House; and the green column is the compromise that was passed by the 2013 Legislative Assembly. This again is in addition the other property tax relief provided through the above mentioned methods.
House Bill 1452 focuses on the state public employees retirement fund. As originally introduced, this bill would have damaged the retirement security of state employees and cost the state major funding. The final version of this bill includes some additional contribution increases by the state and current public employees into the state employee retirement system to help shore up projected funding shortfalls. However, the bill also includes language that allows new state employee hires to opt out of the pension program for a defined contribution (401K like) plan instead. Originally, that opt out was mandatory. The bill also sunsets the opt out after four years. While AARP worked hard to defeat this bill, the bill underwent significant changes to mitigate any damage to the retirement security of public employees.
These are the highlights from the last week and we look forward to providing you with a full rundown of the happenings at one of the Report Card on the 2013 N.D. Legislature stops. We hope you can join us!
AARP North Dakota legislative outcome list: This list contains the bill number, title, description, AARP position, AARP action, and the legislative outcome.
- Signed by Governor (bills that passed both chambers and signed into law)
- Waiting for Signature (bills passed by both chambers and waiting for the Governor’s approval or veto)
- Defeated Bills (bills voted down by either the Senate or the House)
- Vetoed by the Governor (passed by both chambers but vetoed by Governor)
- AARP Key Bills
You may find more information on all of the bills of interest to you at: ND 63rd Assembly; each underscored item is a link to more information. Of particular interest: Bill Status Inquiry, and the links following the Combined Journal Index.
Legislative Buddies Resource Center – Find tips on advocating, legislative briefings, and other advocacy tools and materials.
AARP ND – The AARP North Dakota webpage, which has links to the latest legislative happenings and other important AARP information.
North Dakota Legislative Assembly Homepage – The Legislative Assembly page with links to find your legislators and information on how they voted.