Bills Filed For Industrial Commission Makeup, Student Loan Forgiveness, Obamacare Exchange

Bills are still being filed down at the legislature in Bismarck. I’ve been trying to highlight some of the legislation that has jumped out at me as interesting here on SAB.

Here’s the latest list:

SCR4009 – Study membership makeup of the North Dakota Industrial Commission

This resolution, introduced by Senator Bill Bowman (R-Bowman), would take a look at the makeup of the NDIC. That commission is a powerful entity in the state, regulating everything from the Bank of North Dakota to oil and gas development. Currently the commission is made up of three members: The Governor, the Agriculture Commissioner, and the Attorney General.

Bowman’s resolution points out that other states, such as Wyoming, have a requirement for a certain level of industry experience for those in charge of regulating the oil and gas industries whereas in North Dakota those top three elected officials don’t necessarily have to have any experience. Of course, defenders of the status quo would probably point out that the commission does hire a large number of people who have experience in the industry.

Still, this is an interesting proposal. Enemies of oil and gas development in North Dakota have argued that regulation by elected leaders isn’t ethical. Nobody would count Senator Bowman among those enemies. I suspect his motivation is more a response to the NDIC’s recent decision regarding the treatment of oil before transportation. The new regulations were intended to address concerns that Bakken crude is explosive. The industry wanted the NDIC to set a benchmark for the volatility of the oil before it could be shipped, but also wanted the commissioners to avoid micromanaging the process. Micromanagement is what they got anyway, and I suspect that inspired Bowman’s resolution.

SCR4008 – Express legislative support for the use of thorium reactors to produce energy

This bill wouldn’t do much as a matter of policy, but it would express the support of the state legislature for the use of thorium reactors to create energy in the state. It’s prime sponsor is Senator Oley Larsen (R-Minot) .

SB2162 – Student loan forgiveness for social workers

This bill would appropriate $360,000 to a student loan forgiveness program to be operated by the Department of Human Services. The program would allow the Department to use these funds to defray the student loans of graduates who become social workers or addiction counselors.

 HB1197 – No state dollars to non-profits for buying land

When Measure 5 on the statewide ballot flopped in November, with almost 80 percent of voters saying no, I predicted that there would be backlash from lawmakers for the ugly campaign conservation activists ran in support of it. HB1197 is backlash.

“A governmental entity may not provide funds through grant, contract, or other agreement to a nongovernmental entity that is a nonprofit organization for the purchase of any interest in real property for wildlife or conservation purposes, including a wildlife or wetland easement,” the bill reads. ” In addition, the recipient of these funds is subject to civil action by any person for the return of any public funds used by the recipient for any of the same purposes.”

Ouch.

SB2174 – Study moving state to its own Obamacare exchange

Obamacare gave state an option: They could either create their own insurance exchanges or they could participate in a federally-run exchange by default. North Dakota opted for the latter, to the chagrin of Democrats. SB2174 is a bill introduced by some of the most left-wing lawmakers in the legislature – including Senator Tim Mathern of Fargo and Rep. Eliot Glassheim of Grand Forks – which would order Legislative Management to study the state creating its own exchange.

Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com, a columnist for the Forum News Service, and host of the Plain Talk Podcast which you can subscribe to by clicking here.

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