So, I live in Bismarck. You might not know that about me. I don’t tend to talk about myself all that much. But, anyway … you can really tell, here in Bismarck, when the Legislature is gone. I mean, God bless them all and the great work they do. Some of you reading this are legislators, and I applaud you for your efforts. But the air is somehow lighter, sunlight more restorative, the mood so much more pleasant, when you’re gone.
The Senate wrapped up first, at 10:04 p.m. Friday with a bang of the gavel from Lt. Gov. Brent Sanford, and then House Speaker Lawrence Klemin, (my dad’s former boss, because I’m trying to tell you all more about my life) copies Sanford’s approach about 10 minutes later with a gavel slam of his own.
Frankly, a few weird things happened during the closing days. Let’s get in the weeds for a little bit, then go enjoy that “spring” weather!
Teacher Licensure Bills
An amendment was offered late in the week on HB 1531, the “alternative license” bill that would allow individuals without a teaching license to teach non-core subjects with a permit, instead. We didn’t like this last-second change and felt that it weakened the bill in our eyes. We were able to help draft and support an amendment offered Friday in the final Office of Management and Budget (OMB) conference committee that added language saying that if a school were to hire someone, they would have to enroll them in the teacher-mentoring program at the expense of the district. This bill started as HB 1531, then SB 2265, amended in SB 2013 and finally again the amendment that we supported at the end found its “forever home” in SB 2015. So, yeah. Ran a mini-marathon, you could say.
SB 2006 – “Income Tax Elimination” Bill
More good news. The terrible idea to use Legacy Fund monies to “buy down” income taxes in our state was removed from SB 2006.
I really want to make a reference to Game of Thrones here, and how, if you strike down the Night King, it also kills all the zombies that he created. But I don’t really watch the show. So, what I’m trying to say is that a bad idea died, came back to life, then the zombie idea died, too. At Winterfell.
NDPERS Funding Bill
As we covered the last two weeks, but the ND Public Employee Retirement System (PERS) funding bill, SB 2023, was going to eliminate a very important position in that office. In conference committee, we were also able to help PERS get that FTE restored, which a House appropriations sub-committee had taken out. That FTE was in charge of Medicare Part D, which provides prescription drugs for about 9,000 people in North Dakota, so we were very happy to see that restored.
SB 2172 – “Guns in Public Places” Bill
Remember last week, when we told you that SB 2172, which sought to allow individuals to attain a Class 1 “exempt” license and carry their guns into schools, universities, churches, public places, etc., had been amended to remove that license from the bill? It hadn’t gone back to the chambers for approval when we told you that. So it did, last Tuesday, and the Senate defeated it. Where’s my “buh bye” meme or gif when I need one?
SB 2320 – “Higher Education Free Speech” Bill
Finally, an attempt was made to further amend the free speech bill (SB 2320) which would have had some impact on our college and university campuses. But that amendment was withdrawn almost as quickly as it was offered and we were able to help get that done.
The End (For Now)
We leave you at the end of this final Legislative Report for 2019 with these comments from ND United President Nick Archuleta:
“While we didn’t get everything we wanted, we did stop a number of bad ideas from becoming law. In particular, we were quite pleased to have gotten an adequate salary increase for state employees, to have helped maintain both the PERS health and retirement benefits plans, to have a gotten a study of behavioral health issues in our schools, and a mitigation of a truly terrible plan that would have stripped teachers of their workplace rights and increased their probationary status from one to three years. While we were able — with the help of our awesome NDUnited Member Activists — to strip out the most offensive language and reduce the three-year probationary status proposal to two years, we wish we could have killed this unnecessary proposal. On the bright side, it brought into focus who our friends are and are not. The same is true of two alternative licensing bills. I’ll have more on this topic next Monday when Tom Gerhardt and I present our Legislative Wrap Up on another exciting edition of Facebook Live!”
I’m Kelly Hagen, NDU communications director, and writer of these 15 Legislative Reports. Thank you for bearing with me on this adventure. Like anything I write, say or do, I hope it made sense. Stay tuned for the next week’s final Facebook Live video of Nick & Tom, plus the next issue of United Voices, arriving in June, for the complete rundown on bills that affect us as educators and public employees. And, if you’ve got a couple minutes, click on my name above to let me know what you thought of the job we did keeping you informed about the legislative session: good, bad or otherwise.