Monday starts Week 12 of the 64th Legislative Assembly, with Day 52. This will put them at 65% through their allotted 80 days per biennium. Rumors are active, however, that they are saving five to ten days should they need to come together later to address budgetary or other concerns. If this holds true, the end date may be between the 16th and 23rd of April, which puts them on Monday at 69% to 75% through the days set aside for legislating. Thus we could have a month or less of the “main part” of the 64th remaining.
Many of our own markers bills will be heard this week as well. – seven on Monday alone. This may be an indicator that legislative leadership and committee chairs may be pushing hard to pick up the pace, hoping to ensure those five to ten days are in their back pockets when they leave Bismarck at the end of this “main session”.
Below is a rundown of Monday. We will post out the rest of the week in the near future.
Monday, March 21
HB 1003– NDUS Budget and Removal of Auditors and Lawyers from the System
This is the first of three days worth of hearings on the ND University System’s budget. It is also another opportunity for the Senate (who has earned the reputation — and for some good reasons — as a huge enabler of misbehavior on the part of that system) to show they may be halfway serious about making an attempt to keep Higher Education somewhat in line with reasonable accountability expectations. The budget as a whole is always in need to better examination, and we hope that is accomplished in these three days of hearings.
More importantly, however, is the preservation of the stipulation by the House for the removal of internal auditors and lawyers from that system, and the transfer of those responsibilities to the State Auditors Office and Attorney General, respectively. This is reform that is long past due. Why is this change needed? Because it is clear that that University System is unable to manage accountability issues on their own, which is hard to do when you don’t actually take accountability seriously to begin with. They have had every opportunity to change, but instead they double down with such things as double digit open record and meeting violations in the past two years alone (among other problems). Everything is not as fantastic as Chancellor Skogen would wish you to believe, and the problems are not misperceptions.
SB 2150- Civil liberties and due process in the NDUS
One thing the Senate did get right in the first half of the session was passage of SB 2150, which would provide University System students and student organizations with a reasonable level of due process during disciplinary proceedings within the 11 institutions.
The greater question is why the schools need to have such disciplinary processes when such matters are best left to the courts. This is especially true when they are set up as one sided as they have been — trained lawyers on one side of the table, the school itself as judge and jury in the middle, and a student or student organization left to fend for themselves on the other side. It is a scenario that has been allowed to play out too often for too long, and people like Caleb Warner have paid for the shortcomings of this disciplinary system with their reputations despite their innocence.
This unfortunate arrangement can be corrected this session through final passage of this bill by the House, and we feel relatively confident it will be; there isn’t a good reason not to pass this into law, despite the University System’s objections.
Other bills to be heard Monday:
HB 1055- Replacing the usage of mills for property taxes with actual dollars — something everyone can understand (not just auditors)
- Senate Finance and Taxation
- Lewis and Clark Room
HB 1328- Use of drones for surveillance by law enforcement
- Senate Judiciary
- Fort Lincoln Room
SB 2279- Prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation, also called the discrimination bill still looking for actual discrimination
- House Human Services
- Fort Union Room
HCR 3051- A Common Core study bill, also called the consolation prize given to concerned parents by a legislature more worried about keeping the education industry happy, than addressing the legitimate concerns of those parents. In the meantime, the standards and everything else they have generated are allowed to live on, despite those concerns
- Senate Education
- Missouri River Room
HB 1394- Relaxing penalties for marijuana possession
- Senate Judiciary
- Fort Lincoln Room