District 1 legislators discuss committee work at the Capitol, crossover period

Published: Mar. 7, 2023 at 8:44 PM CST
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WILLISTON, N.D. (KUMV) - The needs of residents in the northwestern part of North Dakota aren’t necessarily the same as those farther south.

Williston lawmakers had a chance to discuss their efforts at the Capitol as crossover is underway.

As we pass the halfway point of the legislative session, District 1 legislators talked with their constituents about their committee roles and gave their thoughts on some of the big bills looking to make their way to the governor’s desk.

Williston State College officials had a tough hill to climb in order to secure funding for a new medical training facility. Thanks to the work of Rep. David Richter and the other members of the House Appropriations Committee, the college is one step closer to that goal thanks to changes made in how the House deals with higher ed building requests.

“We set it up for four years. Here’s the way it works, you don’t have to wait and come back and get our permission, we are giving you permission now. When you are ready to go, build the buildings,” said Richter.

In his fifth term, Rep. Patrick Hatlestad sits on the House’s finance and taxation committee. They were able to advance several bills that would provide state income tax relief, eliminating it entirely for about 60% of residents. He said they are also looking at property tax relief, but it’s challenging since it’s tied to county governments.

“Property tax pays a lot of bills locally, countywide. It gets to be a touchy issue,” said Hatlestad.

In the Senate, Brad Bekkedahl serves as the chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee, one of the most important positions in the Legislature. Now at over the halfway point of the session, the committee will be tasked with balancing the budget.

“The governor’s original recommendation for spending was $18.4 billion. The Legislature so far is at $20.2 billion, so we have some cutting to do,” said Bekkedahl.

Some of their bills still alive in the Capitol include Senate Bill 2267, which would increase the rural attorney program, and House Bill 1128, which would make changes to the practice and licensure of massage therapy.

When asked what is the biggest thing to come out of the session this year, Bekkedahl said handling interest from the legacy fund, Richter said improvements to childcare, and Hatlestad said passing tax cuts.