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  • What's IN the ARPA Sausage: GNDC's first breakdown of Special Session work

    What's IN the ARPA Sausage: GNDC's first breakdown of Special Session work

    If you've walked the Capitol halls, you've probably heard an expression related to "making sausage." It boils down and equates to writing and working through the drafting of legislation considering the multiple parts, pieces, and end results. GNDC is watching this "sausage-making" process. Previously we covered an overview primer of how the “sausage” is going to be made, this post will shift into what exactly is going into the work/in the sausage at the Capitol.
     
    WE STAND CORRECTED
    Last week Friday, Governor Burgum held a press conference with the Majority Leaders to announce that the Governor will be calling a Special Session. This has altered what we previously reported, that the session is a Reconvened Session. This “swap” will alleviate the pressure of completing the whopper agenda within a specific time frame. The Reconvened Session would have limited the work window to four days, shifting the focus of work to committee rooms. While this opens up the flexibility to work, House Majority Leader Pollert has reported that his goal is to finish within a week, he anticipates long days.
     
    WHAT’S IN THE SAUSAGE
    The 67th Legislative Assembly 2021 Special Session is set to kick off November 8 with the agenda hitlist of redistricting, ARPA funds, and 26 policy bills that were previously submitted by Legislators.
     
    ARPA is the $1.9 trillion COVID response economic stimulus package passed by Congress in March 2021. During this Special Session, the legislature will work on appropriating two buckets of this package that came to the state – State Fiscal Recovery Fund and the Coronavirus Capital Projects Fund.
     
    State Fiscal Recovery Fund
    North Dakota has just over $1 billion deposited at the Bank of North Dakota. These funds must be obligated by December 2024 and spent by December 2026. From the received proposals, focus areas for these funds emerged as infrastructure, aid to political subdivisions, capital improvements, information technology, economic development, and other. Prework from the Appropriation Committees has resulted in three bills, whose guiding principles resulted in one-time projects. GNDC agrees with the approach to not create the need for future funding allocations.
     
    We will be watching this entire list of projects but we have some pet projects that we will be watching closely:

    • $317M for road and bridge projects ($200m for the State, $100m for counties, and $17m for townships)
    • $30M to Career and Technical Education for Career Academies
    • $150M towards a natural gas pipeline that provides a reliable energy source from west part of the state to the east
    • $75M towards water infrastructure projects
    • $20M towards hydrogen development grants
    • $17M child care services
    • $10M matching grant program for autonomous agriculture
    • $5M addition funds into the innovation technology loan fund

    Coronavirus Capital Projects Fund
    This fund has just over $113 million available to North Dakota infrastructure projects that must directly enable work, education, and health monitoring. During the 2021 regular Legislative Session, the legislature allocated projects for this but with limited guidance. Scopes of work have been adjusted to ensure directives are being met. These adjustments will require a new bill to be passed.
     
    Here are two projects that GNDC is monitoring:
    • $53.3M for Career and Technical Education for career academies. (When combined with State Fiscal Recovery Fund, this totals $83M)
    • $60M for broadband infrastructure 
    All of these funds culminate into three bills that will go through the legislative process to make the needed corrections which allocate the funds. Both Appropriation Committees will review the entire project list before chamber floor votes. To finalize funding, both houses will need to pass the exact same bill and have the signature of the Governor. Keep in mind, all these requests can be scrutinized again when they convene on January 3, 2023.
     
    A seemingly quiet part of this session is the 26 policy bills that include mandates related to vaccines, paid family leave, and a tax credit that will be evaluated as well. We are currently reviewing these bills and have created a brief list. We will continue to visit with our members and partners to evaluate their impacts - good or bad, on business. Investments in North Dakota are important for the business community, but pro-business policies are equally if not more important in preserving the equitable business climate already established in the state.

    Stay tuned, we will keep you in the loop.