2019 Legislature – Advocacy Activity
It’s bright and early Monday morning in what could be the final week of the 2019 legislative session and the roller coaster ride continues on House Bill 1174. This bill started as a full repeal of the state’s tax on Social Security. It passed both chambers but the Senate then re-referred it to the Appropriations Committee where the repeal was changed to a reduction. A threshold of $50,000 was set for people to receive the tax break. Since the bill differed from the House version, it went to a conference committee. That conference committee agreed to move the threshold for married couples up to $75,000. And we thought maybe we were done (AARP was fine with these levels). A few minutes ago however, the House rejected the committee recommendations. If the statements on the floor are any indication they want a higher threshold for the married filers. Soooo – back to the conference committee we go.
A conference committee on the Department of Human Services budget is scheduled to meet this morning and tomorrow (Tuesday) afternoon. So far, the parts of the budget supporting Home and Community Based Services are still fully funded.
The remaining bills we’re watching are headed to conference committees. Again, those committees are made up of three House members and three Senate members and are tasked with coming up with a compromised version of the bill that will pass both houses. Here’s a short list of the bills to keep an eye on in conference:
HB 1174 – Social Security Tax Reduction — Debate between a full repeal of the tax and a $50,000 threshold.
SB 2012 – Department of Human Services budget — Medicaid Expansion and Home and Community Based Services within this bill.
HB 1014 – Industrial Commission budget — The Housing Incentive Fund is a public/private partnership to encourage investment in affordable housing. One version funds it, the other does not.
SB 2094 – Telehealth Services
The Department of Human Services budget is the largest agency budget for the state and will likely be one of the final bills passed. Expectations floating around the Capitol are that the session will end Thursday, April 25 or Friday, April 26. But those are just expectations, there’s plenty of work to do before they get there.
UPDATE: The House will not concur with the Senate’s amendments to HB 1174, the Social Security tax bill. We are headed to a conference committee. That’s a tad scary because the committee’s on each side gave do not pass recommendations to the bill. When we get a committee schedule, we’ll be sure to let you know so you can contact committee members to make sure they don’t do anything to lower the threshold set by the Senate. That’s unlikely…but you never know!!
Still waiting for the House Appropriations Committee to finish its work on the Department of Human Services budget. At this point, the money for Home and Community Based Services is still there. We’re watching that closely. The tense work at this point is on Medicaid Expansion. While we’re sure it will continue in the state (AARP’s main focus) there are questions about how it should be managed.
The Social Security tax bill is also in wait-and-see mode as the House decides whether to concur with the Senate’s amendment of the $50,000 threshold. If it does concur, the bill will remain as is. If it does not concur a conference committee of three House members and three Senate members will meet to work out their differences.
A bill to expand telehealth services in the state passed the House today with amendments. We’ll wait to see if the Senate concurs with those amendments.
It’s been a while since I’ve updated this blog so I thought I’d provide a brief description/update of the activity since crossover.
The North Dakota CARE Act passed and has been signed by Gov. Burgum. It becomes law on August 1.
A bill to repeal/reduce the state tax on Social Security benefits has been amended by the Senate Appropriations Committee (the bill was referred there after a full repeal passed both the House and Senate). The committee placed a threshold of $50,000 on Adjusted Gross Income levels. Those below would not pay the tax, those above would pay. The amended version received a unanimous ‘do pass’ recommendation from the committee and a floor vote is coming soon.
HEALTH CARE CHOICE AND OPTIONS
A majority of the work in this area is located within the Department of Human Services budget. That budget sits in the hands of the House Appropriations Committee. At this point all of the money going to enhance HCBS is still in the bill. But, the next week or so will have much to say about what remains. Either way, this bill is destined for a conference committee where a group of senators and representatives work out compromises.
Both chambers also passed a bill that would expand telehealth options in the state allowing doctors to work with patients using ‘store and forward’ technology. Think of photos and videos sent over a smart phone/computer/tablet. This bill has been rereferred to Appropriations because of an amendment dealing with an unrelated issue (hog house amendment).
A bill to improve safety from fraud by inviting financial institutions like banks and credit union to report suspicious activity and even temporarily freeze accounts has been passed by both chambers.
Most policy committees have wrapped up their work but the Appropriations Committees are still wrapping up. There is some hope to end the session by Easter, but there aren’t too many people banking on it yet.
JOIN OUR WEEKLY LEGISLATIVE UPDATE BY PHONE
Join a weekly conference call during the 2019 legislative session to stay up-to-date on what is happening at the legislature and how you can help us advocate for issues important to North Dakotans 50 and older. The conference call will be held every Friday at 2 p.m. Central Time. Join by phone by dialing toll free at 1-866-215-3402 and enter pass code 4815771.
HOW TO MAKE IT OFFICIAL
Below are two ways you can sign up to become an official AARP North Dakota Legislative Volunteer:
AARP ND Legislative Volunteers Brochure – a brochure outlining the AARP ND Legislative Volunteer Program and the registration form to sign up.
Or, email Advocacy Director Mike Chaussee at email@example.com.
CAREGIVING – AN AARP NORTH DAKOTA LEGISLATIVE PRIORITY
AARP North Dakota will introduce a bill to provide assistance to the state’s more than 62,100 unpaid family caregivers. We call it the CARE Act.
The CARE Act does three primary things – it includes family caregivers (appointed by patients) in the care, it requires hospitals to attempt to notify the caregiver when their loved one is transferred or discharged, and it asks hospitals to teach the caregivers about the tasks they be asked to perform at home. It’s a no-cost, high reward bill that has passed in 40 states/territories across the U.S.
Here are some helpful websites for research you want to conduct about family caregivers:
- AARP Caregiving site
- National Alliance for Caregiving
- AARP Public Policy Institute updates us on CARE Act implementation across the country. This is encouraging stuff!
- The fate of The CARE Act (Senate Bill 2215) during the 2017 Legislative Session.
- See how your senators voted by clicking here: (it passed the Senate, 27-16)
- See how your representatives voted by clicking here: (it was defeated in the House, 23-66)
RESOURCES FOR AARP ADVOCATES
North Dakota State Legislature Website – There is a tremendous amount of access provided by the state. You can access bios and contact information for your legislators (There’s even a clever search tool if you don’t know who they are.), search and read every bill, and download a map of meeting rooms.
If you really want to dig deep into the legislative site, click here for a detailed tutorial to discover how each legislator voted on a bill.
Here’s a civics class refresher on how a bill becomes a law – This is specific to North Dakota where we are unique in that every bill is guaranteed three public exposures. First, every bill is required to have a public hearing in committee. Then, every bill receives a public committee vote before heading to the floor for a public vote of the assembly. If it passes, the bill goes through the same procedure in the other chamber.
Thinking about testifying before a committee? You should! Legislators tell us all the time they appreciate hearing from real people, not just paid lobbyists. So, it’s vital that AARP members and other constituents tell legislators about how bills will affect them. Here are some tips about how to Testify Before a ND Legislative Committee.
Knowing AARP’s stance on an issue can be helpful when you’re preparing to make a call, write a letter, or gathering evidence for your testimony. The following links to AARP resources can help you in your preparation. (Note: This list will change from time to time.)
Long Term Scorecard – This is a comprehensive comparison between states on how they perform when it comes to long-term care for older adults, people with disabilities and caregivers. North Dakota ranks 37th overall (out of 51). The detailed breakout is interesting as the Scorecard measures states in about 25 different areas. North Dakota ranks as low as 50 and as high as two, depending on the indicator. Make sure to click on North Dakota on the map on the front page to see the detailed analysis.
North Dakota Legislative Volunteer Handbook – Handbook of tips and tools to help our advocates be successful.