AP NEWS

Legislature mulls abortion, budget, missing people, logo

March 17, 2019

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — North Dakota’s Republican-led Legislature is standing by to see whether first-term GOP Gov. Doug Burgum signs or vetoes the first bill restricting abortion that he’s been sent since taking office.

Meanwhile, several pieces of major legislation are still being negotiated by both chambers, including all remaining budget bills.

Monday is Day 47 of the session that is limited to 80 days.

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ABORTION BILLS

The North Dakota Legislature has passed its first abortion law in six years. The bill, approved Friday, would require abortion providers to inform women undergoing drug-induced abortions that if they changed their minds, they could still have a live birth — a claim critics argue isn’t supported by medical evidence.

A second House bill restricting abortion is likely headed to a Senate vote this week. That bill would ban the dilation and evacuation method of abortion, which opponents call “human dismemberment abortion.” The bill would make it a felony to perform such a procedure, punishable by up to five years in prison and a $10,000 fine.

Abortion-rights groups argue that banning the procedure is unconstitutional because it interferes with private medical decisions.

Burgum has refused to comment on those bills but has said he would have signed several anti-abortion measures approved by lawmakers and Republican then-Gov. Jack Dalrymple in 2013.

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BUDGET PROGRESS

Lawmakers have been holding off on major appropriations bills until they got a better idea how much money will be available for the next two-year budget cycle.

Now they think they know and have bet on stable oil prices and oil production for the 2019-2021 budget period that begins July 1.

Senate and House appropriation committees on Thursday slightly increased tax collection expectations, predicting general fund tax collections at just under $4 billion, or less than 1 percent more than what the Legislature used as a budgetary starting point in January.

The state’s executive budget endorsed by Burgum showed the state treasury expects to collect about $4.95 billion in oil tax collections for the budget period that begins July 1. The Legislature’s estimate is about $100 million less than that.

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LEGACY EARNINGS

Burgum and the Legislature have become embroiled in their first public squabble of the session, and it has to do with the placement of some earnings from the state’s oil savings account.

Burgum says the Legislature’s new budget forecast “hides at least $200 million” in earnings from the state’s Legacy Fund, which voters enacted in 2010.

The Legislature’s new budget forecast accounts for only $100 million in Legacy Fund earnings for the state’s general fund, instead of $300 million that lawmakers included in January.

Sen. Majority Leader Rich Wardner and other GOP leaders say it comes down to bookkeeping. Warder says the earnings won’t be deposited in the state treasury until the end of the next budget cycle.

Said Wardner: “We can’t hide money we don’t have.”

Burgum’s office argues the state’s budget always is set from revenue assumptions.

Lawmakers are reviewing several proposals to spend the interest this session, including a plan by Burgum to use $300 million for education loans and grants, and projects that include a $50 million Theodore Roosevelt Presidential Library in western North Dakota.

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MISSING PEOPLE

North Dakota’s Senate will consider a bill this week that would require more law enforcement training related to missing and slain Native Americans.

North Dakota’s House has already approved the measure sponsored by Fargo’s Rep. Ruth Buffalo, the first female Native American Democrat elected to the state Legislature.

The Senate also will consider legislation sponsored by Buffalo that would require data collection on missing and slain people.

Buffalo’s bill initially included missing and slain Native Americans in North Dakota, but she expanded it to include all people.

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LOGO CONTEST

North Dakota’s Senate will decide whether to hold a contest for a replacement state logo.

The bill sailed through the House last month after lawmakers learned a new “Be Legendary” logo was awarded to a Minnesota firm. The business was awarded the $9,500 job without competition because it came in below the $10,000 threshold required for additional bids.

The bill requires the Commerce Department to hold the contest and have a logo awarded in time for the 2020 state travel guide.

The winner of the new competition would be paid $9,500.

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LEGISLATURE PROGESS

The session opened in January with more than 900 bills and resolutions. As of Friday, Burgum had signed 106 bills.

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