Legislative Update: Week 6
As legislators (and lobbyists alike) have fallen into a rhythm in this legislative session, bills and the committee work are digging deeper into the nuts and bolts mechanics of policies that are impacting North Dakotans. Crossover is coming, bills will need to be wrapped up in their chamber of origin to be ready to cross the hall.
ISSUES AND ACTIONS WE ARE WATCHING:
Job Service North Dakota presented to House Industry, Business, and Labor Committee to inform the committee about the services and programs they offer employees and employers. The recent significant impact to this agency has been the job loss benefits paid out in response to the pandemic. Since 2005, Job Service (JSND) processes on average 18,000 to 25,000 claims per year. The higher levels of that range were during the national recession (2008-2009) and the oil price decline (2014-2016). Including federal and state programs, Job Service has processed around 225k claims with a price tag of over $1 billion. This was largely due to the pandemic and the relief programs implemented by the federal government. Normally these large draws would have completely emptied the Unemployment Insurance(UI) Trust Fund but the Emergency Commission and Budget Section of the Legislature allocated $365 million of Coronavirus Relief Funds to the UI Trust Fund to offset this imbalance. Currently, the Fund is slightly above target and JSND stated during the hearing that they are not in need of an additional cash supplementation. This means the UI premiums paid by employers will not see significant increases.
SB 2203 [Unemployment Insurance Surcharge] would assess a 10% surcharge on businesses whose employees received 50% more than the employer paid into the Unemployment Insurance (UI) Trust fund in any given year. This would be detrimental to businesses during this time of economic recovery as a result of the pandemic. Even during normal years, positive balance employers pay some of the lowest rates in the nation and negative balance employers pay some of the highest. There are 24,318 positive balance employers who pay between $30.80 and $435.05 per employee per year. There are 2,030 negative balance employers who pay between $2,344.65 to $3,730.65 per employee per year. Pre-pandemic the UI Trust Fund’s balance was slightly above target. The UI Advisory Board at the request of the 2019 legislature reviewed the UI program. Their recommendation to lawmakers was that the program was functioning as designed and no changes were needed. GNDC testified in opposition to this bill; we agree with the Advisory Committee. It is not needed to additionally tax employers when the UI Fund is currently exceeding its target and employer rates across the board are reasonable.
The full body followed the Senate Industry, Business, and Labor Committee recommendation and voted to allow the bill to fail.
HB 1330 [Data Privacy] is an attempt to protect people’s data by mandating an opt-in provision by consumers for businesses to use their data. The GNDC agrees with the US Chamber’s position that a national solution needs to be enacted by Congress. As more individual states enact policies it creates a patchwork of regulation that creates compliance issues for businesses and confusion for consumers. With the current trends in consumer purchasing, state boundaries are merely jurisdictional and don’t carry much deference to consumers and businesses. This is an important policy priority that Congress has been working on for some time now and in testimony, the US Chamber stated a comprehensive federal policy is closer now than it has ever been. GNDC and the US Chamber testified in opposition to this bill.
The House Industry, Business, and Labor Committee voted on a 12-1-1 do not pass recommendation.
HB 1464 [Gas Tax Increase] would increase the state gas tax by 6 cents per gallon and increase the registration rates on electric and hybrid vehicles ($250/$100). This bill was amended to these increased rates and passed out of the House Finance and Tax Committee. It was recently sent back to committee for further consideration on the House floor. GNDC expects additional amendments to decrease the tax and fee levels. The original bill had 4 cents gas tax increase and no increase in electric and hybrid vehicles. GNDC opposes this bill.
HB 1451 [Ultimate and True Source of Funds] is a proposal that would mandate reporting to the Secretary of State on the ultimate and true source of funds for independent expenditures towards political and measure campaigns. We are monitoring this bill's progress.
UPDATES FROM THE BUSINESS BILL TRACKER
- HB 2245 [Minot Intermodal Facility Improvements] was amended from $15 million to $10 million. The bill was passed out of the Senate Appropriations committee, 13-1-0. - SUPPORT
- HB 1441 [State Paid Family Leave Program] - amended to a study in committee. This study will focus on the financial cost of the program outlined in the bill, not the overall policy of a state ran paid family leave program. - OPPOSE
- HB 1341 [Minimum Wage Increase Mandate] The House Industry, Business, and Labor Committee reported back with a 12-2 do not pass recommendation. Expect a full vote in the coming days. - OPPOSE
- HB 2272 [Career Builders Program] is the continuation of the workforce program. This was passed out of the Senate Education Committee with a 6-0 do pass recommendation. Amendments were adopted by the Senate and the bill was rereferred to the Senate Appropriations Committee to approve the $6 million appropriation for the program. - SUPPORT
- HB 1398 [Paid Family Leave Preemption] would preempt local governments from instituting paid family leave mandates on private businesses. This bill received a strong vote in the full House of Representatives, 75 yeas 14 nays. GNDC worked with Rep. O'Brien on this bill, we will look more into the importance of what this bill provides in an upcoming post. - SUPPORT