Heritage Center bill beefed upSenators on Tuesday OK’d a beefed-up spending bill to build a major expansion on the state Heritage Center in Bismarck. Sen. Tony Grindberg, R-Fargo, said the new version of House Bill 1481 recognizes that it is a “two-biennium project” and that it “makes good sense to keep all parties focused on the effort (and) sends the signal that the state of North Dakota is behind this project” which is needed for successful private fundraising to help build the expansion.
By: By Janell Cole, N.D. Capitol Bureau, The Jamestown Sun
BISMARCK — Senators on Tuesday OK’d a beefed-up spending bill to build a major expansion on the state Heritage Center in Bismarck.
Sen. Tony Grindberg, R-Fargo, said the new version of House Bill 1481 recognizes that it is a “two-biennium project” and that it “makes good sense to keep all parties focused on the effort (and) sends the signal that the state of North Dakota is behind this project” which is needed for successful private fundraising to help build the expansion.
The project has an estimated price tag of $51.7 million. The original bill called for $18 million from the state general fund and authority for the State Historical Society and its foundation to raise and spend another $12 million in private funds during the 2009-11 biennium. The Senate plugged in an additional $7 million from the state’s Permanent Oil Tax Trust Fund. The total of $25 million in state money should aid in raising another 50 percent — the $12 million — from donors.
Grindberg said the expansion construction could begin the summer of 2010. It will be underway then, when the 2011 Legislature meets, at which time lawmakers can appropriate the remaining needed to finish it.
The bill passed on a 43-3 vote. Because it is different from the House version, it now returns to the House for its concurrence or assignment to a conference committee.
MORE JUDGES OK’d
The House has passed a bill approving the addition of two new district judgeships and granted the state Supreme Court more flexibility to deal with judges’ assignments around the state.
The changes are in Senate Bill 2121. The new judges will be in the Southeast Judicial District and the Northwest Judicial District. Originally the bill called for a third new judgeship to be created in the 2011-13 biennium in the district that encompasses Fargo.
But there isn’t enough room in that district to house a new judge, said Rep. Lee Kaldor, D-Mayville, so the House removed language in existing law that dictates how many judges have to work in each of the state’s eight judicial districts. Now the court would have the ability to make changes to “effectively deliver services” statewide, Kaldor said. The bill passed 92-0.
The Senate, which passed a different version, will have to agree to the House changes or send the bill to a conference committee for compromise.
SENATE STOPS CEMETERY TAXES
The North Dakota Senate passed a bill Tuesday confirming that nonprofit cemeteries do not have to pay special assessment taxes for civic improvements.
Senate Bill 2441 was introduced by Grand Forks lawmakers on behalf of a cemetery association in Grand Forks that had been assessed special assessments to pay for the citywide flood protection system built after 1997 flood. The association paid the first few years of the assessments and then stopped and began protesting the fees, now about $300,000, in part because it was aware of a 1970 North Dakota Supreme Court case that had ruled they were exempt.
Under the bill, the amount of special assessments due from a cemetery would be shifted to the whole taxing district for the particular improvements, or to the entire municipality that it’s located in, said Sen. Connie Triplett, D-Grand Forks.
The bill passed 45-0 and now goes on to the House for further action.
CHILD CUSTODY LAW CHANGE OK’d
The House on Tuesday approved a wide-ranging rewrite of the state’s laws on child custody and visitation, including the eradication of the terms “custody” and “visitation.”
Senate Bill 2042 will re-quire divorcing parents to created detailed parenting plans that contemplate what parents will do in a variety of situations, including how much time each has their children for “parenting time.”
The bill resulted from an interim legislative study in consultation with the State Bar Association and parents rights’ activists.
It passed 92-0. The Senate will have approve changes the House made from the version passed in the Senate, or send it to a conference committee.
Cole works for Forum Communications Co., which owns The Jamestown Sun