By North Dakota House Majority Leader Chet Pollert and Senate Majority Leader Rich Wardner
The 67th legislative Assembly has finally come to a close. When looking back at the last 76 days, there were many historic accomplishments and policy enactments of which the people of North Dakota can be proud.
The Legacy Funds purpose was enhanced and further defined this legislative session. We passed legislation requesting the State Investment Board to invest at least 20% of our Legacy Fund principal right here in North Dakota. In addition, we passed a historic $680 million bonding package that will be used to finance infrastructure projects around the state. From highways and bridges in the west, to flood control projects in the east, this legislation will impact every North Dakotan. By using the Legacy Fund to finance these bonds, these infrastructure projects will be completed at no cost to the taxpayers. We elevated our utilization of the Legacy Fund to grow and diversify our economy now, while preserving the fund’s principal for generations to come.
One of our top priorities coming into this session was ensuring our state was in the best possible position to move beyond the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. Early on, we passed legislation to protect businesses and hospitals from liability relating to the spread of the coronavirus. Our companies and healthcare providers operated to the highest standards during a time of crisis, and the passage of this legislation allows North Dakota to look to the future with optimism.
In addition, this Assembly continued to invest in North Dakota’s tradition of energy excellence. We passed legislation to enhance our state’s existing energy resources while also developing 21st-century technologies that will produce fewer emissions and reduce our environmental footprint. Moreover, we passed a 5-year holiday for our state’s coal conversion tax. As the coal industry continues to face unprecedented challenges, we hope this tax relief will serve as an opportunity to take these challenges on while protecting thousands of North Dakota jobs.
As always, we took steps to invest in our state’s most valuable asset: our young people. We passed legislation to increase funding for mental health and suicide prevention resources in our schools. We hope these resources will better allow schools across the state to address the mental and behavioral health issues faced by many students. Additionally, we enacted legislation creating alternative educational opportunities for high school students that may occur outside of the classroom. These alternative opportunities will allow students to receive class credits while getting real-world, hands-on experience by participating in community programs and internships.
Because of the pandemic, our technological capabilities were greatly enhanced. Our incredible IT staff added complete video conferencing to each committee room and created a process of virtual testimony for the public. This not only kept the public safe during a pandemic, but it increased the access, accountability, and transparency of North Dakota's political process.
After 76 days, we are leaving Bismarck with a balanced budget, no new taxes or tax increases, and legislation we believe will provide great benefits for the citizens of North Dakota. In the last decade, our state grew significantly. It is our hope that the work of this Legislative Assembly will continue to help North Dakota grow and prosper for decades to come.
Pollert, of Carrington, and Wardner, of Dickinson, are Republicans who represent Districts 29 and 37, respectively, in the Legislature.