• Brass-Tacks
  • Legislative Update: Week 5

    Legislative Update: Week 5

    Week 5 has been the most active for the Greater North Dakota Chamber (GNDC) at the legislature up to this point. Infrastructure and business climate issues were the key themes this week.   

    HB 1341 [Minimum Wage] aimed to increase the state’s minimum wage from $7.25 per hour to $15 per hour. The first increase would be to $9 per hour in August 2021 and had incremental increases over the next 6 years to get the $15 per hour target. GNDC along with other business organizations opposed this bill. With the current competitive job market, there are very few North Dakotans earning at the minimum wage. Employers do not need a minimum wage mandate to pay competitive wages to recruit and retain a qualified workforce.
    The House Industry, Business, and Labor Committee has taken no action on this bill at this time.        

    HB 1380 [Streams Bill] dedicates funding streams of Legacy Fund earnings to specific areas. GNDC believes the state of North Dakota should adopt a Legacy Fund policy in statute that focuses on the future needs of North Dakota with consideration for existing needs and priorities. This bill does that. These streams fund critical areas in infrastructure, workforce, and economic diversification. This framework is critical to ensure the strategic use of Legacy Fund earnings opposed to filling budget holes in the general fund. GNDC testified in support of this bill.
    No action has been taken on this bill.

    HB 1398 [Paid Family Leave Preemption] would preempt local governments from instituting paid family leave mandates on private business. It recognizes that the discussion around a government-ran paid family leave program needs to happen at the state level. These types of decisions, if implemented at the local level, can create a patchwork of regulation increasing burdens on the business community. GNDC testified in support of this bill - if a government-mandated paid family program is implemented it needs to be done at the state or federal level to limits the additional regulatory controls.
    This bill received a 12-1-1 do pass recommendation from the House Political Subdivisions Committee. 

    HB 1425 [Nathe Bill] allows for up to 20% of the Legacy Fund principle to be invested in North Dakota. The current investment strategy for the Legacy Fund is to garner the highest rate of return which, in most cases, means investing in out-of-state and even out-of-country investments. The proponents of the bill would like to see that money put to work in our state. The proposal directs the State Investment Board to invest in the Legacy Infrastructure Revolving Loan Fund, to give preference to in-state investment firms and invest in existing in-state or emerging companies. GNDC testified in support of this bill. It is a great way to boost economic diversification and infrastructure investments in North Dakota while still growing the Legacy Fund for future generations. We see this as an across-the-board win.
    The House Finance and Taxation Committee gave this bill a do-pass recommendation.    

    HB 1431 [Bonding Bill] is a large infrastructure package that includes funding for water projects, roads and bridges, and education infrastructure. Part of this bill would dedicate a portion of Legacy Fund earnings to infuse $50 million into the infrastructure revolving loan fund to help with county, city, and township infrastructure. Also included is $70 million in bonding authority for improvements to state roads and bridges. Portions of this package would also fund career and technical education centers and university system infrastructure improvements. The current price tag is $798,500,000 and is being evaluated in House Appropriations. There have been other bonding bills introduced this session but this one will likely be the legislator's vehicle.

    HB 1441 [Paid Family Leave] would create a state paid family leave program. GNDC opposed this bill on the basis that it would add additional mandates that negatively impact the business climate in North Dakota. Already in existence, the Family Medical Leave Act protects employees if they need to utilize extended leave to care for family members. A significant number of large and small employers already offer benefits to aid in these situations. GNDC supports businesses creating benefits packages to attract and retain workforce, not government mandates.
    The committee has taken no action.

    Other things we were/are watching on our business bill tracking list:

    • HB 1320, HB 1307, HB 1301, and HB 1352 all had to do with masks, vaccines, and medical devices and their restriction on their utilization by private businesses.
      • GNDC OPPOSED all these bills in committee because of their restrictions and mandates on private business.
      • All these bills failed to pass in the House of Representatives and will not become law.
    • HB 1408 retirement and insurance benefits into the WSI calculation - OPPOSE
    • HB 1420 recreational marijuana legalization - OPPOSE
    • SB 2301 institute a local hire reporting requirement for the construction of wind and solar infrastructure - OPPOSE
    Also, HB 1175 [COVID Liability Protection] and SB 2220 [Sunday alcohol sales] passed in their chambers of origin this past week. Both were supported by GNDC.