VOLUME 14, NUMBER 1 January 21, 2011
From: David Crothers, Executive Vice President
The Sixty Second Legislative Assembly concludes its third week of frenetic activity today with deadlines quickly approaching for the introduction of bills from both the House of Representatives and the Senate. In fact, next Monday is the final day that legislation may be introduced in the Senate without going through the legislature’s delayed bills committee. Thursday, January 27th is the deadline for introducing resolutions.
The Association has been receiving many positive comments this week following our Legislative Dinner on Tuesday evening. There were 355 telco board members, senior staff, members of the legislature and legislative staff in attendance, as well as Governor Jack Dalrymple and Lt. Governor Drew Wrigley. We still hear that our event continues to be one of the “favorite evenings” for legislators during the long session because of its relaxed atmosphere and good food.
As of this morning, the House of Representatives has seen 472 bills and 20 resolutions introduced in that body, while the Senate has 292 bills and nine resolutions introduced. Both houses have seen dramatically reduced numbers of legislation introduced this session. In fact, the House of Representatives had 104 fewer bills introduced this year than they did in 2009. There is much speculation on why there are so many fewer bills, but the consensus seems to be that State agencies introduced fewer bills during the pre-filing period and that the sheer number of new legislators this session has limited the number of new pieces of legislation.
Finally, Representative Craig Headland will be sponsoring a National Broadband Plan resolution urging the Federal Communications Commission to make substantial changes to their proposal to ensure that it does not disproportionately harm rural North Dakotans and limit economic opportunity in our nation’s rural areas. We anticipate the resolution will be introduced on Monday. Joining Representative Headland as cosponsors are: Senator Randy Christmann (R-Hazen); Senator Randy Burckhard (R-Minot); Senator Jim Dotzenrod (D-Wyndmere); Representative Blair Thoreson (R-Fargo); and Representative Shirley Meyer (D-Dickinson).To call your legislator toll free the number is 1-888-635-3447. Bismarck-Mandan residents should call 328-3373.
HB 1205- Legislation that requires wireless service providers to provide call location information to law enforcement agencies when there is a risk of serious harm or responding to a call for emergency services. Although wireless companies provide this information on a regular basis to law enforcement agencies, this legislation will bring uniformity for both the government and wireless carriers. There is also a provision within the proposal that gives indemnity to wireless companies when they are acting in good faith.
|Jan. 10||Introduced in House.|
|Jan. 20||Political Subdivisions Committee Hearing.|
SB 2016-This legislation is the appropriations bill for the North Dakota Adjutant General. It also contains the funding for the National Guard and Department of Emergency Services. It was this entity that endorsed the proposal from Flow Mobile in 2009. Of particular interest to the Association is two line items in the appropriation that provide $4.3 million for “radio communications” and $2.1 million for a “state radio tower package”
|Jan. 4||Introduced in Senate.|
Appropriations Committee Hearing.
SB 2036-A bill to allow the Information Technology Department to establish “connections” to for purposes of “health information exchanges” in the State. Currently, ITD can only provide service for specific entities in the State, including state agencies, cities, counties, school districts and other political subdivisions. Their authority to provide telecom is in State law, as well as whom they may provide service to on the network. Any expansion of that authority must be approved by the legislature. The specific language in this legislation provided, “Connect to a wide area network service for health information exchange in accordance with federal requirements for health information exchange.” Members of the Association were extremely concerned over expanding exemptions to the current law and participated in a conference call with the Information Technology Department, Attorney General’s Office and State’s Human Services Department. Dave Dunning of Polar, Evan Hass and Seth Arndorfer from Dakota Carrier Network and Derrick Bulawa represented the independent industry in the State and said that believed the State’s proposal was overreaching and not necessary to achieve the requirements of health information exchanges. Ultimately, ITD and the Attorney General’s office agreed. Lisa Feldner, Chief Information Officer, in the State told the Senate Human Services Committee this week that the legislation was not needed and asked the committee for a “DO Not Pass” recommendation.
|Jan. 4||Introduced in Senate.|
|Jan. 18||Human Services Committee.|
SB 2246-A revision to the State’s funding of emergency services which eliminates the necessity for counties to vote on renewing the existing charge every six years. Under the proposal the fee adopted by voters in a county will remain in effect until it is put on the ballot again to increase, decrease or remove the fee. The issue can be voted upon during any general, primary or special election. While the Association’s Legislative Committee has not directed us to take any action on the matter, we will be monitoring the legislation and attending hearings to ensure the failed proposal by the Interim Tax and Finance Committee to eliminate E 911 fees on subscribers bills and to, instead, assess telecommunications companies a gross receipts tax to raise the money does not reappear as an amendment.
|Jan. 19||Introduced in Senate.|
|Jan. 27||Political Subdivisions Committee Hearing.|
SCR 4003-A resolution honoring Northern Tier Network by the legislature’s interim Workforce Management Committee. The resolution notes that the legislature funded Northern Tier in 2007 and expresses the legislature’s support of the “Northern Tier Network Technology Initiative”. The sponsors of the resolution have not attempted to add an appropriation on any of the existing bills and know they do not have the support of the Governor. Both Governor Hoeven and Governor Dalrymple declined to include funding….despite Higher Education’s requests….in the budgets they present to the legislature. Resolutions are also notoriously tricky to defeat because they are most often viewed as harmless pieces that are being forwarded by a member of the legislature. Opposing a resolution, especially one that does not mandate the State to do anything or spend any money, is quite difficult and smacks of meddling. However, Senator Randy Christmann was especially helpful to those that fear the resolution will be used for something more in the future when he asked Higher Education’s chief information officer during an appropriations committee hearing this week whether there was any objection to include the language from the State statute limiting Northern Tier to their “research and education” mission. The witness did not object and said it would be fine if SCR 4003 was amended to include that language. Members of the Association are indebted to Senator Christmann for his advocacy on their behalf.
|Jan. 4||Introduced in Senate.|
|Jan. 20||Appropriations Committee Hearing.|