VOLUME 13, NUMBER 10             March 13, 2009


To: Members

From: David Crothers, Executive Vice President

This week’s Legislative Report details a number of bills that are starting to appear for final consideration following the many, many committee hearings that were heard around the Capitol in the week following “cross-over”.   

Measures reforming the Emergency Services Communications Coordinating Committee (HB 1135), requirements for joint planning between political subdivisions and utilities before underground facilities need to be moved (HB1353), the date of transfer to local governments for the tax collected by telecommunications companies (SB 2093), legislation that modifies the powers and duties of the Information Technology Department (SB 2142) and a prohibition against collection of sales tax by the State for items such as songs, ringtones and books (SB 2347) were all adopted on the floors of the respective houses of the legislature this week.  Remarkably, none of the bills were amended so they will not have to go to “conference committee” to resolve differences between the House and Senate.  All that remains is for Governor Hoeven to sign the measures.

Two bills dominated the week, however, for the Association.  Senate Bill 2040 is the bill providing for a sales tax exemption for new telecommunications infrastructure.  Although the legislation has a two-year sunset clause, which means it would disappear in the summer of 2011, it is running into stiff opposition.   The concern of opponents is that the measure is too broad and that it is not targeted to areas that need deployment of wireless or advanced telecom infrastructure.   Members of the legislature are also overwhelmed with a plethora of proposals for tax exemptions, tax rebates, and other measures that will severely limit the State’s income.

The issue is rapidly devolving from whether the sales tax exemption would spur telecom infrastructure investment to a philosophical debate on whether the State should be offering so many exemptions.

The second measure, Senate Bill 2133, is the attempt by the Veteran’s Home in Lisbon to go to the private sector for their telecommunications services, hardware and networking.  It would mean leaving the State’s Information Technology Department, which has prompted opposition from the agency.   In a Government and Veteran Affairs Committee hearing this week representatives of the Veteran’s Home testified that allowing them to go to the private sector would allow the facility to save $465,000 over a 10 year period, have a system designed specifically for hospital and nursing home environments and that they will receive service and maintenance from men and women based in Lisbon instead of waiting for a contractor to arrive from Fargo.  Del Marchus of BEK Business Solutions provided effective testimony regarding the technical functions of the network and why the system available from private industry was designed to meet the special needs of the Veteran’s Home.   The Association subsequently met with House leadership and committee members to review the benefits of SB 2133.  As you will note, the bill was approved by the committee late yesterday afternoon by a 13-0 vote.

To call your legislator toll free the number is 1-888-635-3447.  Bismarck-Mandan residents should call 328-3373.

 

HB 1054- A bill that directing the State’s Adjutant General to study next generation 911 on the public safety answering points in North Dakota.  Specifically, the language requires a study of the technology needs relating to next generation 911, the most efficient method of implementing the new technology and exploring the use of shared technologies.  The measure also questions whether there need to be any changes to the current 911 funding model.

Jan. 6 Introduced in House.
Jan. 16 Political Subdivisions Committee Recommended “Do Not Pass”, 8-5.
Jan. 21 House Defeated 43-48.
   

 

 




HB 1135-
A measure that expands the powers of the Emergency Services Communications Coordinating Committee.  The three-person committee has representatives from the North Dakota 911 Association, Association of Counties and State Radio.  The bill provides that the committee will also “serve as the governmental body for coordinating plans and implementing emergency 011 services and internet protocol enabled emergency networks.”

Jan. 6 Introduced in House.
Jan. 27 Political Subdivisions Committee Recommended “Do Pass”, as amended, 13-0.
Jan. 29

Rereferred to Political Subdivisions Committee.

Feb. 6 Reported back “Do Pass”, as amended, 13-0.
Feb. 13 House Passed 92-0.
Feb. 25 Introduced in Senate.
Mar. 5 Political Subdivisions Committee Recommended "Do Pass", 5-0.
Mar. 9 Senate Passed 46-0.
   

 

HB 1175- Legislation introduced at the request of the State’s Department of Human Services that will allow the agency access to the databases of private industry, including independent telecommunications companies, for the purpose of searching for the names of both those that owe child support and those that are to receive it.   As you will recall, representatives of the Department of Human Services made a presentation to attendees of the Association’s Summer Conference in Fargo last July on the subject.   Despite the idea’s many proponents, there is a concern the language in the bill may conflict with aspects of the Federal CPNI rules telcos currently are forced to recognize.

Jan. 6

Introduced in House.

Feb. 18 Human Services Committee Recommended “Do Pass”, as amended, 12-1.
Feb. 19 Rereferred to Human Services Committee.
Feb. 19 Human Services Committee Recommended “Do Pass”, as amended, 12-1.
Feb. 19 House Passed 89-4.
Feb. 25 Introduced in Senate.
Mar. 4 Human Services Committee Meeting.
   

 


HB 1208-
A bill that will provide penalties for “texting” while operating a motor vehicle.  The proposal prohibits drivers from composing, reading or sending “electronic messages” while driving.  The legislation does not ban or restrict voice communications.  It does, though, specifically target e-mail, text messages, an instant message or accessing the world wide web.  The first violation would result in a 2 point penalty, while a second and subsequent violations are 4 point violations.

Jan. 8

Introduced in House. 

Jan. 23

Transportation Committee Recommended “Do Not Pass”,
9-5.

Jan. 29 House Defeated 60-34.
   

 


HB 1353-
An initiative introduced at the request of Qwest Communications that will require political subdivisions to hold a preliminary design meeting with utilities whenever the company has to identify or relocate the underground facilities.  Language within the bill would make the political subdivision liable for the costs to the utility of relocating if the government failed to give the utility notice of a meeting or fails to hold the meeting. Reportedly, the political subdivisions are unhappy with the legislation.

Jan. 12

Introduced in House.

Feb. 16 Political Subdivisions Committee Hearing.
Feb. 18 House Passed 94-0.
Feb. 27 Introduced in Senate.
Mar. 9 Industry, Business and Labor Committee Recommended “Do Pass”, 7-0.
Mar. 12 Senate Passed 47-0.
   

 


HB 1412-
The bill makes substantive changes in the State’s existing 911 laws by removing the $1.00 maximum charge political subdivisions may assess each wireline and wireless line within the political jurisdiction.  It also removes the requirement that political subdivisions must go to the voters each six years to renew the 911 fee.   Under the proposal, residents would vote on a “maximum” fee for their Public Service Answering Point (PSAP) in a one-time election.  Any increases or decreases to the fee set by the governing body could only come about by a decision by the Commissioners or a petition signed by 10 percent of the qualified electors in the political subdivision.

Jan. 14

Introduced in House.

Feb. 16 Political Subdivisions Committee Recommended "Do Pass" 11-1
Feb. 18 House Passed 57-37
Feb. 26 Introduced in Senate.  Referred to Finance and Taxation Committee.
   

 


HB 1518-
Legislation that directs all telecommunications taxes collected by the State of North Dakota to the counties.  Currently, the counties receive $8.4 million annually from the account funded by the gross receipts tax paid by the telecom companies operating in North Dakota.   The current law was established in 1997 when lawmakers consolidated all of the different tax formulas imposed upon telephone companies into a single 2.5 percent gross receipts tax.  At that time, the counties were guaranteed by statute that they would never lose any money under the new formula.  Although the Association does not yet know how much is collected by the State’s imposition of a 2.5 percent gross receipts tax, it is anticipated to be substantially more than the $8.4 million.  Our concern, of course, is that there are no proposals to raise the 2.5 percent level.

Jan. 19

Introduced in House.  Referred to Political Subdivisions Committee.

Feb. 6 Political Subdivisions Committee Recommended “Do Pass”, as amended, 10-2.
Feb. 9 Rereferred to Appropriations Committee.
Feb. 13 Appropriations Committee Recommended “Do Not Pass”, 15-0.
Feb. 18 House Defeated 53-41
   

 


SB 2003-The appropriations bill for North Dakota’s university system.  The measure includes specific language reducing the funding of Northern Tier Network from its $2.7 million level in 2007 to no dollars in the 2009-2011 biennium.  However, in Section 6 of the legislation there is a provision giving the Board of Higher Education quite a bit of discretion in spending over $30 million in technology projects.

Jan. 6 Introduced in Senate.
Feb. 19

Appropriations Committee Recommended “Do Pass”, as amended, 14-0.

Feb. 19 Senate Passed 46-0.
Feb. 26 Introduced in House.
Mar. 2

Appropriations Committee.

   

 


SB 2021-The bill is the Information Technology Department’s (ITD) appropriations bill.   Of particular interest to members of the Association is ITD’s request for “one-time funding” in the amount of $1.2 million for increased bandwidth for K-12 institutions.

Jan. 6 Introduced in Senate.
Feb. 19 Appropriations Committee Recommended “Do Pass”, as amended, 14-0.
Feb. 19 Senate Passed 46-0.
Feb. 26 Introduced in House.
Mar. 3 House Appropriations Committee.
   




SB 2040-
A measure to provide a sales and use tax exemption for equipment used in telecommunications infrastructure development.  Specifically, it will allow for gross receipts from sales of tangible personal property used exclusively in expanding or constructing telecommunications service infrastructure in the State are exempt from taxes under NDCC 57-39.2.  The Association and others from the telcom industry testified in favor of the measure.  We are currently working with the Tax Department to narrow the focus of the bill.

Jan. 6 Introduced in Senate.
Feb. 6 Finance and Taxation Committee Recommended “Do Pass”, as amended, 7-0.
Feb. 9 Rereferred to Appropriations Committee.
Feb. 17 Reported “Without Committee Recommendation” 12-2.
Feb. 18 Senate Passed 27-18.
Feb. 26 Introduced in House.  Referred to Finance and Taxation Committee.
Mar. 9 Finance and Taxation Committee Hearing – 9:15 a.m. in Fort Totten Room.
   

 


SB 2093-A measure to provide a sales and use tax exemption for equipment used in telecommunications infrastructure development.  Specifically, it will allow for gross receipts from sales of tangible personal property used exclusively in expanding or constructing telecommunications service infrastructure in the State are exempt from taxes under NDCC 57-39.2.

Jan. 6 Introduced in Senate.
Jan. 12 Finance and Taxation Committee Recommended “Do Pass”, 7-0.
Jan. 14 House Passed 46-0.
Jan. 15 Received from Senate.
Mar. 3 FFinance and Taxation Committee Recommended “Do Pass”, 12-0.
Mar. 4 House Passed 89-1.
   

 


SB 2133-Legislation that permits the North Dakota Veteran’s Home in Lisbon to purchase telecommunications services from the private sector.  The Veteran’s Home would like an exemption from North Dakota law requiring that State agencies and offices receive their telecom from the Information Technology Department.

Jan. 6 Introduced in Senate.
Jan. 15 Government and Veterans Affairs Committee Hearing.
Feb. 6

Rereferred to Appropriations Committee.

Feb. 13 Appropriations Committee Recommended “Do Pass”, 13-0.
Feb. 16 Senate Passed 47-0.
Feb. 25 Introduced in House.
Mar. 12 Government and Veteran’s Affairs Committee Recommended “Do Pass”, 13-0.
   

 


SB 2142-Language the modified the powers and duties of the Information Technology Department (ITD) and modifies the “required use” and information technology plan policies.  Of particular concern to the Association is a provision within the proposal that will exempt institutions of higher education from  ITD review of 1) project descriptions;  2) project objectives; 3) business needs; 4) cost-benefit analysis; 5) project risks; 6) information summarizing project objectives achieved; 7)project budget and schedule variances; and, 8) lessons learned regarding any major information technology project.

Jan. 6 Introduced to Senate.
Jan. 27 Political Subdivisions Committee Recommended “Do Pass”, 6-0.
Jan. 28 Senate Passed 46-0.
Feb. 26 Political Subdivisions Committee Recommended “Do Pass”, 12-0.
Feb. 27 House Passed 85-1.
   

 


SB 2163-
The measure permits North Dakota Public Radio to provide 911 services to political subdivisions with fewer than 20,000 people.  Public Radio would receive compensation directly from the political subdivision and State Radio would serve as the Public Safety Answering Point (PSAP).     We have been working with the N.D. Association of Counties to ascertain whether PSAP’s will continue to maintain their independence if they wish to fund their own system.

Jan. 6 Introduced to Senate.
Feb. 16 Government and Veterans Affairs Committee Recommended “Do Pass”, as amended, 5-0.
Feb. 18 Senate Passed 36-0.
Feb. 25 Introduced in House.
Mar. 11 Government and Veteran’s Affairs Committee Recommended “Do Pass”, as amended, 13-0.
   

 


SB 2246-
The legislation amends current property law in North Dakota to allow the majority of easements to run in perpetuity.  Currently, the duration of an easement, servitude, or nonappurtenant restriction may not exceed 99 years.

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Jan. 19 Introduced to Senate.
Finance and Taxation Committee Hearing Recommended “Do Pass”, 4-3.
Feb. 18 Senate Defeated 31-15.
   


SB 2332-
A bill that creates a Health Information Technology Office and an Advisory Committee.  The new Health Information Technology Office and Health Information Advisory Committee will be responsible for making recommendations enabling implementation of a statewide interoperable health information infrastructure that is consistent with emerging national standards.   The Health Information Technology Office is also charged with promoting the adoption and use of electronic health records and other health information technologies, as well as promoting interoperability of health information systems.   The legislation also repeals the existing Health Information Technology Steering Committee.  The bill has an appropriation of $5,923,572 for the biennium.

Jan. 20 Introduced to Senate.
Jan. 27 Human Services Committee Hearing.
Feb. 5 Rereferred to Appropriations Committee.
Feb. 18 Appropriations Committee Recommended “Do Pass”, as amended, 14-0.
Feb. 19 Senate Passed 46-0.
Feb. 26 Introduced in House. 
Mar. 16 Human Services Committee Hearing – 9:00 a.m. in Fort Union Room.
   


SB 2347-A measure to allow for the collection of sales tax by the State for items delivered electronically.  It would apply specifically to ringtones, sales of digital books and other similar products delivered to consumers.

Jan. 20 Introduced to Senate.
Jan. 23 Finance and Taxation Committee Recommended “Do Pass”, 7-0.
Feb. 4 Senate Passed 47-0.
Feb. 25 Introduced in House.
Mar. 5 Finance and Taxation Committee Recommended “Do Pass”, 11-0.
Mar. 6 House Passed 83-3.
   

 


SB 2390-The bill provides for the expansion of existing and the establishment of additional certified technology parks in the State of North Dakota.   The legislation is unique in that it would create a hybrid special taxing district in which all of the State income taxes paid by employees within the borders of the research park, all assessable property taxes, and the proceeds of all State sales taxes collected would be remitted to the research park for their operations.  Of special concern to the Association was language defining our members’ existing infrastructure as “public facilities” and giving the Department of Commerce the ability to set the prices we charge for telecom services.  The Association has shared their objections to sponsors of the legislation and members of the committee.  We have been assured by sponsors of the legislation that it was not their intention to provide governmentally-owned telecom facilities to the research parks.

Jan. 26 Introduced to Senate.
Feb. 5 Finance and Taxation Committee Recommended “Do Not Pass”, 6-0.
Feb. 9 Rereferred to Finance and Taxation Committee.
Feb. 11 Finance and Taxation Committee Recommended “Do Not Pass”, as amended, 6-1.
Feb. 13 Amended on Floor.
Feb. 13 Senate Passed 42-3.
Feb. 17 Introduced in House.
Mar. 9 Industry, Business and Labor Committee.