Weekly Legislative Update – Week 7

Week 7

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.

Parents Family 1

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Weekly Legislative Update – Week 5

Week 5

This week saw my final hearing on a bill where I was the prime sponsor. House Bill 1154 came, essentially, out of the interim employee benefits committee and deals with state employees’ retirement. It received do-pass recommendation from the Government and Veteran Affairs Committee by a 9-5 margin, and was then referred to the Appropriations Committee. The hearing on HB 1154 lasted nearly three hours and included a fantastic discussion from all members of the committee.

Stuart from ND United testifying in support of HB 1154

Stuart

We did not have as many hearings as has been the case recently in Finance and Tax this week, but we did have a considerable workload to keep us busy as we sent a number of bills to the floor. Monday, February 9 is the deadline for bills to be moved from a policy committee to Appropriations if the bill has a fiscal note. Finance and Tax did have a hearing regarding increasing the tobacco tax from $.44 to $1.10 per pack. This additional money would be designated to local political subdivisions for community health centers, while some would go directly to the political subdivisions’ general funds. Next week the bulk of the discussion will focus on several bills regarding individual and corporate income taxes, and the manner in which we should lower them if we decide to move in that direction.

On Wednesday, Tony’s sister/cousin was touring the Capitol with her classmates and she came and sat by me! It was great to have her visit. SydneyIt is important to note that many of the property tax reduction bills from the governor’s task force are being heard in the Senate. We have heard one, however, that would change the state aid distribution formula from .4 of one percent to the full one percent (this fund kicks money back to the counties through a funding formula). The bill would require that a county use at least 50 percent of the money it receives under this new formula for property tax reduction. A different bill was nearly identical, except that 50 percent would have to be invested in infrastructure. The committee has not yet acted on these bills, so it is my hope that we combine the two, and one-half goes to property tax reduction, while the other half goes toward infrastructure investments. I would love your feedback on this critical issue facing North Dakota.

My friends Shannon and Tyler, who are the FUE couple for NDFU were visiting the Capitol this week as well. It was great to see them! Shannon & TylerToo many good bills that would positively impact our state were defeated on the floor this week. One, sponsored by Rep. Strinden, D-Grand Forks, would have created a loan buy-down for “high demand” careers. It would have helped young professionals who are crushed by student loan debt, who choose to stay in North Dakota, and who choose a career that is in desperate need of professionals. Another bill that received a do-not-pass recommendation out of committee, although it has not yet been heard on the floor, is HB 1369. This is a bill sponsored by Rep. Pam Anderson, D-Fargo, and on which I am proud to co-sponsor. It would allow all North Dakotans with outstanding student loans to refinance with the Bank of North Dakota at a zero percent interest rate. The zero percent rate is conditioned on full-time employment, in addition to an accredited degree. If enacted, it would put money back in the pockets of the professionals that live, work, and play in North Dakota. This bill was killed on the floor on Friday.

On Friday I got say the pledge for the House of Reps.

pledge

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Legislative Update – Week 4

Week 4

On Monday and Tuesday in Finance and Tax we discussed bills related to income tax reduction. Many of them would provide corporate income tax breaks and/or individual income tax breaks in a variety of ways. We have also heard quite a few bills regarding tax breaks in myriad other ways, including a sales tax equity bill that would kick more sales tax revenue back to the political subdivision that generated the sales tax for the state. That bill does not change the state aid distribution formula, but creates instead a “bucket” that would be distributed based on a revenue generating formula. This would bring more money back to local governments to allow them to invest in infrastructure, property tax reduction, or other investments. We are currently working on amendments for this bill.

Week 4 also saw the Finance and Tax Committee examining a bill that would give tax credits to individuals with children in childcare, as well as childcare providers and businesses that have a partnership with, or open, a childcare facility. Those testifying in support of the bill were from a broad coalition ranging from Child Care Awareness to the Greater North Dakota Chamber to Economic Development of North Dakota. Conversely, there was virtually no opposition to the bill, which still received a do-not-pass recommendation along straight party lines in committee and was killed on the floor. I found this result somewhat confounding as the bill’s sponsor was a Republican and it enjoyed bipartisan support on the House floor. The bill was an innovative idea to address childcare issues in North Dakota, but we are not giving up the fight that easily. We will continue exploring options to address the crisis that is childcare shortage.

Janelle GPS billI testified on my bill that would add GPS tracking devices and other electronic devices to the stalking stature. One in four victims of stalking has an electronic device used by their stalker to track them, and one in 13 victims are stalked by a GPS device according to the U.S. Department of Justice. My bill is a proactive piece of legislation that would help law enforcement and prosecutors crack down on stalkers. The hearing went well with thoughtful questions from the committee regarding the issues. Technology in stalking is an issue that needs to be addressed, perhaps not all at once, but this bill is a step in the right direction.

Human Trafficking

The Human Trafficking bills were all heard in Senate Judiciary. I have cosponsored many of the pieces of legislation that would compact this action in North Dakota, one of the bills would provide for a one million dollar appropriation to help victims of human trafficking get the services they need that will lead to recovery. The hearings went well and the legislature is considering up to 11 bills regarding the human trafficking issues in North Dakota.
The week ended with a long day in the Agriculture Committee on Friday. We heard a very important discussion, with passionate testimony on both sides, about raising the beef check off from $1 per cattle to $2 per cattle that would go to the Beef Commission. The bill, in its current form, offers an “opt-out” option for ranchers, although many ranchers believe that it should be an “opt-in” option instead.

On another note, Raja spent the week with me. We enjoyed several walks to the Capitol as the weather was completely fantastic!

Raja capitol
Thank you for reading, and please contact me at any time with any concerns, questions, or input.

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Legislative Update – Week 3

Week 3

I apologize for the delay in providing my report for Week 3. On Friday of that week I caught the Capitol Plague, which is what we’re calling whatever bug it was going around the Capitol and taking many of my colleagues out of commission. I still managed, however, to attend a presentation by Ag Commissioner Doug Goehring regarding opening the corporate farming law. There was a long discussion about declining livestock productions as changing the law would allow corporate dairy and swine operations in the state. A discussion about the differences between South Dakota and North Dakota offered limited information, as no other state in the union was included in the conversation. I am seeking wider-ranging details regarding the issue rather than just the selected information we were given, as it appeared as though a desired outcome informed the tone of the presentation.

My friend Madison came and visited me on the floor. If you’d like to come check out the session for yourself let me know and I can save you a seat.

Madison

I also testified during Week 3 on HB 1244, a bill of mine that would allow state employees who adopt children the same work-leave opportunities as parents who are able to give birth to a child. I had Julie Hoffman from the Dept. of Human Services come and testify, and she offered information regarding adoption numbers children from the United States, internationally, and through the foster care system. North Dakota United also testified in support of the bill, and there was no opposition to the bill. The bill came out of committee with a 12-0 do-pass recommendation, and it will now head to the entire House for a floor vote. In the meantime, the bill was sent back to committee for further work, so I will closely watch it and update you with any progress.

HB 1244

The Finance and Tax Committee has kept me plenty busy as we hear bills and move them to the floor for a vote. There, we spent the majority of Week 3 listening to various sales tax exemptions. We also heard a bill to give renters a tax credit so that they may realize the property tax relief that homeowners are experiencing. One bill would cover all renters, while another one would cover veterans over the age of 55. We also heard a bill regarding income tax credits for people who care for family members; thus, when my mother cared for my grandmother she would have qualified as a caregiver. This bill would help keep seniors in their home while offering relief to people who care for those seniors. Many of these, and other, tax bills are still in committee

As always, if you have any questions or concerns please feel free to contact me. I try my best to get back to you in a timely fashion, as it is you that I work for in Bismarck.

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Birthday Weekend

Life at the Capitol has been very busy and incredibly rewarding. Last week I didn’t send out an update because I caught the Capitol plague on Friday. I still managed to attend committee and vote on the floor, but went home and slept a lot also while not eating much. Saturday was my birthday. I felt much better, especially after I found these waiting for me.

Roses

We ended up going to Fargo for the day. We went to the movie American Sniper. It was an incredibly powerful movie and everyone walked out of the movie in silence, and of course I was in tears. I would recommend all to attend. Tony and I also did a little shopping and went out to eat. It was a nice relaxing day together.

Tony

Turning 29 was a pretty great day. It was relaxing and restful and I got to spend the whole day with Tony. Perfect.

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Happy 29, First Daughter of Mine

My mother beautifully writes the story of the day I was born. Thanks for this treasure mom, I’m keeping it forever.

lucindalines

Today is the day my oldest daughter was born, 29 years ago. I had been staying at my grandmother’s house in Eureka because that was the hospital where you would be born. James was in Jamestown in our little house we rented because he was teaching there at the Children and Adolescent State Hospital School. This had been going on for the month of January. I did not go back to Jamestown after Christmas. I would stay with Grandma all week then we would come to Herreid on Friday to help at the café. My mother served a German food special on Fridays. In Herreid Friday was the big day in town as that was is and will always be when the Livestock Market has their sales. In fact when Jess was in High School they would recruit workers from the hallways before school started. Now they have a four-day…

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Legislative Report – Week 2

Week 2 of the 64th legislative session

Well, we are in full swing here at the Capitol this week, with much more committee work and final bill submissions made. On the Finance and Taxation Committee, we heard a bill that would change all references of “mills” in the century code to “cents” for property tax purposes. This bill is 133 pages long and requires a substantial bit of further work. We are working with the counties to provide a streamline mechanism for their reporting purposes. Another bill that we heard regarded notices to taxpayers from political subdivisions regarding property tax levy increases, and an amendment was offered to put all of the notices on one sheet so that a taxpayer receives just one piece of mail. That one sheet would include information regarding budget meetings and budget increases, and I am confident that this would be a far less confusing notice and would provide all of the needed information to citizens. That bill is still in committee and we have not yet taken action on either of the bills.

Working on the House floor

For the most part the bills that we have voted on during the floor action have been “housekeeping” bills that modernize the century code language or make small changes in laws that need to be updated. We did vote on requiring a civics test to every high school student in North Dakota. The bill passed in the House 85-1 and was sent over to the Senate to be voted on immediately. The flu bug has been going around the Capitol.

On Wednesday, fourteen people were absent due to illness and many of the staff are falling ill as well. I hope that all of you are staying away from the bug, as it is quickly being passed around here.

This week I dropped two of my bills and have been diligently working on finding sponsors for other bills. My bill HB 1244 has a hearing on Monday at 10:00 in front of the Human Services Committee. This bill would allow state employees to use their sick leave for no more than twelve weeks when they adopt a child. Currently, only mothers are able to use their sick leave, and parents who adopt have to use their personal leave or take unpaid leave. My proposed change would allow both parents access to sick leave after the birth or adoption of a child. Under my proposal, the leave must be used in the first year of placement of the child and a parent can only use accumulated leave, so if the parent only has three weeks, he or she can’t get paid for the full twelve weeks. My other bills have not received a hearing yet, but once they do I will update their progress.

As always, I am here on your behalf so if you have any question, concerns, or comments, please feel that you can contact me at any time. My email is jehaak@nd.gov and my cell phone is 701-320-5044. Take care.

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Legislative Session Week 1

Each week I will try to do a weekly update of what’s been going on at the Capitol.

The 64th Legislative Assembly gaveled in on Tuesday, January 6, and we heard from Governor Dalrymple regarding the state of the state. While it is true that North Dakota has a lot to celebrate, including low unemployment and growth in population, we must remember that with great prosperity comes great challenges. Mental health needs are reaching a crisis in North Dakota; we have crowded schools and crumbling infrastructure; the tragedy that is human trafficking has reached abhorrent levels in North Dakota.

We heard on Wednesday from Chief Justice Gerald VandeWalle about the state of the judiciary. He spoke about the vast needs of the judicial system to ensure fairness and justice in the North Dakota court system. I met with the Finance & Tax Committee that morning, where we discussed various bills.

On Thursday, Standing Rock Sioux Tribal Chairman Dave Archambault addressed a joint session regarding how we can and must work together with the tribal nations to meet their needs. Chairman Archambault spoke of President Obama’s visit to North Dakota, and how the focus moving forward is all about the tribe’s children. He discussed the need for the investments necessary for economic development on tribal land, and enhancements in education to ensure that more native children reach graduation day and go on to college. We also had more committee meetings, where, in the Agriculture Committee, we discussed the rewrite and modernization of language in the milk chapter of Century Code.

On Friday, I arrived at the Capitol at 7:30, as we had a joint session with the Senate Agriculture Committee to hear from various commodity groups in North Dakota.

I have stayed busy working with colleagues from both sides of the political aisle to gain sponsors on key pieces of legislation that I will submit. A bill that I submitted would enhance the fund for public employee pensions. I am also working on various other issues, including tax relief for every citizen and consumer in North Dakota; enhancing leave for parents who adopt children; providing law enforcement the tools necessary to convict someone of stalking. Further, I continue to work on a few other issues, the details of which are being finalized with Legislative Council. As soon as we work out those details, I will be sure to update you. And as always my job is first and foremost to work on behalf of the people in Jamestown and the nearby area, so I am working with several colleagues to help meet those needs, whether through stand-alone bills or though other funding mechanisms.

I would love to hear from you if you have any questions or ideas, because I am here on your behalf. As of 5:00pm on Monday, January 12, each legislator is permitted to submit only five more bills as prime sponsor. I would appreciate any and all feedback, and I thank you for your time in reading this report.My email is jehaak@nd.gov.

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Garth Brooks

Family time is a rare commodity. Both of my parents are working, my sister has two little ones, under the age of five, and a full-time job, and my other sister is a full-time student. Between, work, life, jobs and shuffling kids around it’s limited when we all can even see each other, let alone get out for a fun adventure together. That’s why we plan. The joke in my family is that I’m the “itinerary” planner. So when we decided that we all were going to take time out of our crazy schedules to spend two days together, I got the tickets and rooms and away we went.

Thursday morning this past week everyone showed up at my house and we packed the van and away we went to Minneapolis to see Garth Brooks!

Family van

This photo has us almost to Minneapolis. My dad insisted on driving until we got to the cities, then Tony took over and I gave directions. We made it, quite easily, to our hotel, which was downtown and a quick walk to the Target Center. The restaurant we found on our way to the show was excellent with great service from a fun woman who loved her job. Mom came prepared and brought binoculars for the show, the ones below are from when Victoria and I were little our “Barbie” binoculars!

Restaurant

Downtown

The walk was brisk, but we all made it in one piece and arrived with plenty of time to get our souvenir t-shirts and find our seats. We were in the nosebleed section for sure; however, we were center stage and were all together.

Overview

So why Garth Brooks? Well, when Garth was touring in 1997 my dad had bought tickets for him and my mom to go. When they couldn’t find a sitter for Paulina, who was just a baby at the time, rather than choose Victoria or myself to go with him, my dad gave us the tickets and we went with their friends. That’s a pretty big sacrifice for parents, and I have always wanted to take him to a concert that he’d love. When Garth announced he was touring I jumped on the opportunity and before we knew it we were in a van headed to Minneapolis.

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Garth still puts on an amazing show! He’s still got the energy, light show, and he played for three hours. Also, this show was better because Trisha Yearwood was there. Any little girl from the 90’s who listened to country “tied her hair up in ribbons and bows, signed her letters with XX’s and OO’s” and she was “In love with the boy”. I mean when Trisha played those songs I felt like I relived my childhood just listening to them. Completely fantastic.

Trisha

Tony

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The next day we headed to the Mall of America. Got some presents and then we headed on our way. A quick stop at the Albertville Outlet mall on the trip home to eat and Tony found some new sneakers. We got to Jamestown around 8 meaning my parents and Vic got home between 10:30-11.

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It went so fast. I’m so thankful for time with family and to do FUN things, not just everyday things. Life’s too short but I’m sure enjoying “the dance”.

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What Binds Us

Right now we are days away, hearing from proponents and opponents of measures why they’re different and listening to candidates about what sets them apart from the other candidate running for the same position they are vying for and I think that’s important, knowing what is different about what each candidate or what each measure stands for or against and how they would impact North Dakota. However, this weekend, that is merely days away from whether you choose yes or no or vote for this candidate or that one, I was reminded about what binds us together as humans. What great qualities and similarities do we share that can be a stepping stone to coming together, as opposed to instant division because we disagree on what could be very few things.

This weekend has been a weekend of many great events. Tony and I celebrated our 2nd year anniversary of dating. I can’t believe it’s been that long, yet at the same time I can’t believe he hasn’t been around forever. It’s our third year of planning holidays together, driving across the Dakotas for children while passing the hours discussing any topic that comes to mind, and sharing Sunday nights, like this one, relaxing together while watching football. It’s even our second year of an election cycle together.  We celebrated on Thursday night by attending a movie, and ended up having the entire movie theater to ourselves. That was pretty cool. We went to The Judge, great movie, highly recommend it.

Now not only did we get to celebrate together, but we headed to Bismarck and then Herreid. We ventured to Bismarck to watch Tony’s oldest play her last basketball games of the year. She’s been playing in the Mandan Park and Rec league. She did well the first game, scoring 4 of the teams 7 points. The next games wasn’t as good. After Bismarck, we headed down to Herreid for my niece Ana’s baptism. We enjoyed a Saturday evening with family, playing games, eating too much food, and of course helping dad dry the dishes.

Tony & Anna

Tony and I were asked to be baby Ana’s godparents. What an honor! It was a beautiful fall day for a baptism and I thoroughly enjoyed the time with family that I never get to see often enough. My aunt’s home made knepfla soup topped off the day! Today, in a small church in Eureka, we were reminded of something that binds us together, our love of God and how we all wanted to share that with baby Ana.

Baby Anna 10710625_10152448827773947_6966378468968935943_n 10570316_607000145699_4796574683624728842_n Baby Anna, parents, and sponsors 10346620_10152448820403947_1355686132206004458_n

So what does this have to do with things that bring us together? I think almost everyone has people they love, care about, and cherish. I love to talk about Tony, Jaxon & Ana, my family, and the traditions we have. It’s easy to find differences, Tony and I disagree on plenty, and I love him more because he doesn’t just agree with me he challenges me, and I couldn’t imagine life without him.

But what brings us together? Tony’s youngest likes to tell a joke. “Ask me where I live.” “Where do you live, Alyse?” “ON EARTH!”

It’s true, we all live on Earth, sharing the many wonders of this world. So whether we agree or disagree on the candidates, measures, or a plethora of other topics. Just remember, we still can find what binds us together. Happy voting on the issues/leaders and afterwards I look forward to finding common ground for the future of North Dakota.

Haak females

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