January 16th, 2015 First Head-Scratcher of the 2015 Legislative Session With two weeks in the books, and 66 bills already on the Watchdog Watchlist

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January 16th, 2015


First Head-Scratcher of the 2015 Legislative Session


With two weeks in the books, and 66 bills already on the Watchdog Watchlist, and there has already been one big head-scratcher.

House Bill 1077 was a bill to increase the threshold for requiring open and transparent bidding of public construction project and engineering planning.
I personally sat in on the hearing, prepared to testify – but did not think there was any need to since every imaginable interest testify in opposition of the bill: contractors, architects, engineers, government regulators, the state health department, electricians board, ect – everyone opposed the bill.

The committee voted unanimously 13-0 DO NOT PASS.

One of the bill sponsors, Rep. Rick Becker of Bismarck, even testified that he thought he was only sponsoring an increase of the threshold on the engineering side, not the construction itself. He made it clear he did not support increasing the threshold for bidding public construction projects.

To anyone watching, there really was no reason to think the bill was going anywhere.

But when the bill hit the House floor, somehow it managed to pass by a margin of 51 to 31.

To those of us following the bill, but were absent that day due to the stomach flu that has been a sort-of mini-plague at the Capitol, the news was shocking.

Fortunately, the bill was brought back the next day for reconsideration and defeated 41 to 45 because a few legislators were paying attention, after the fact.

A Note On Updates

As the bill submission deadlines approach, it will be easier to know what we are really working with this session. It is generally chaotic for the first month. The process of tracking bills, drafting testimony, and getting the real stories behind bills is time consuming. My goal this session is to not just let you know what is being passed and what is getting blocked, but to explain more in-depth what is really going on at the capitol.

It will be an interesting session. With the price of oil throwing chaos into the spending spree that was supposed to be in it's 4th consecutive session, things are taking a different tone.

On the spending side, that will probably be a positive for taxpayers.

On the tax side, it might be a different story. It's not that the state cannot offer substantive tax cuts, it's more of a question of whether the will is there to do it.

Legislators are being told they can't afford to do bold things on taxes, but those same people are saying that the spending rampage and the growth of government must continue.

The big challenge will be ensuring legislators sees the greater danger in large spending increases that only compound over time.

Tax cuts pay for themselves.

Spending increases lead to needing more tax revenue.

Something has to give, the house of cards that is massive spending that has been built on the back of a frantic and unpredictable oil market cannot stand forever.


-Dustin Gawrylow, Managing Director

North Dakota Watchdog Network

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