I have finished all of my committee work until after crossover. The Appropriations committee still has some heavy lifting to do, meeting often into the evenings, debating various parts of the budget. The full House is also having floor sessions that last well into the evening to ensure we vote on all of the bills before Friday, February 27.
I am excited to report that two of my bills passed the House this week. One would prohibit stalkers from tracking their victims by electronic means, and passed unanimously by a 93-0 margin. The other would allow parents who adopt children to use up to six weeks of accrued sick leave, and it passed by an 80-13 margin. This bill would place on a level playing field parents who either give birth or adopt. I was pleased to have both of the bills pass, and they will head over to the Senate after crossover. Also, a bill that I cosponsored with Rep. Looysen & Senator Grabinger to ensure freedom of expression rights for students in higher education or public schools through student media passed the House on a 92-0 vote.
We had an interesting, albeit disheartening, week on the floor of the House, where some good-government bills met their unfortunate demise. One bill would have prohibited candidates from using political funds for personal use. To me, this bill was an effective means to lend credibility to the integrity of the state. While opponents claimed that the practice of using political funds for personal use is not happening, I was still proud to support the proactive measure. The majority also killed a bill that would have required legislators who go on trips or attend conferences where policy matters are discussed to report such trips; currently, legislators do not have to report them. I also supported this one, as it would also have required more transparency and accountability from our legislators, which are never bad things to require.
When it comes to taxes— and I am in favor of reducing them for hardworking North Dakotans— the focus needs to be on permanent property tax reform and reduction while still meeting the needs across the state. One of the property tax reform bills that the majority killed on the floor this week would have given a $1,000 homestead tax credit to citizens 65 and older, and a $600 credit to those under 65, to help with property taxes.
The longest debates this week surrounded several bills regarding a constitutional convention of the states. I have serious concerns about the budget situation in Washington, and I truly believe that Congress should take a step back and get their fiscal house in order. That being said, many of these bills had serious implications and were seriously flawed. One called for a convention of the states without knowing what the agenda would be, meaning that myriad interest groups would have equal opportunity to propose their own amendments, clogging up the process. While I support, in theory, calling for a convention of states to discuss a balanced budget amendment, I voted against the bill as it did not include language to protect Social Security as written. Social Security is critically important to many, and without any protections I could not support such legislation. A balanced budget amendment would also have detrimental impacts on our military’s ability to keep us safe and secure, which also was not addressed in the bill.
This week I also had very special people come and sit with me on the floor. On Monday, Tony & the girls sat with me and on Friday my parents came and sat with me. One week until crossover.