The 65th Legislative Assembly for the state of North Dakota will convene on Tuesday, January 3, 2017 and will consist of a Senate of 47 senators and a House of Representatives with 94 representatives.
By Melissa Anderson
The three representatives from District 10 include recently re-elected Chuck Damschen and David Monson to the House of Representatives and newly elected Janne Myrdal to the senate.
The three representatives have been meeting with community leaders and constituents across District 10 in preparation for the upcoming session.
“We have been meeting with many people, mostly education, health and human services groups. We have also been fielding a number of email requests from constituents as well as a few phone calls,” Monson said.
“As always, the December before session has been quite busy. However, it is great to spend some time with our constituents and learn of their concerns and needs,” Damschen added.
“It is a privilege to be able to hear from so many experts in our district about their work, their concerns and also their willingness to face this budget issue with leadership and long term vision,” Myrdal agreed.
The hot topic heading into the legislative session is, of course, the budget. The District 10 representatives were all in agreement that the budget issues that the state is facing will be the greatest concern and the top priority of the state legislators and newly elected governor during the 65th session.
“The budget is certainly going to affect every aspect of the session so, in a sense, that will be the greatest concern,” Damschen stated, “Our approach, I believe, will be very practical: spend less. How and where these spending reductions will be applied will determine some of our other concerns.”
“Budgets are my main concern as I am on the House Appropriations Committee and am chairman of the Education and Environment section, so we deal mainly with education at all levels from pre-K through higher education,” Monson said, “Most of the people, if not all, are very aware that this is a tight budget year.”
“The budget is, of course, the main topic after the proposed budget set forth by now former Governor Dalrymple has been digested. Key word “proposed budget”, as Governor Burgum will surely suggest changes as the revenue forecast once again shows a downtrend,” Myrdal said,”I have confidence we will find the places to cut. Our state is not broke, but we will find practical ways to cut spending without raising taxes.”
During the upcoming session, Damschen will focus on long-term care, behavioral health treatment, health care costs, maintaining funding for education, and property tax relief.
“We do have the ability to cut $1.1 billion from the previous budget through the elimination of one-time spending,” Damschen said.
While Damschen knows that he and his fellow legislators don’t really have a clear picture of how things will turn out in regards to the budget proposal from former Governor Jack Dalrymple, he is optimistic that incoming Governor Doug Burgum will work with the state legislature to tackle the budget in the most effective way possible.
“I hope he will take advice from some of the experienced members of the Appropriations Committee,” Damschen said.
Monson’s duties as chairman of the Education and Environment section of the House Appropriations Committee has him and his committee members dealing with education budgets that include infrastructure, especially the needs at the institutions of higher education, but also at the research and extension stations and, to a smaller extent, the needs at K-12 schools.
“As a part of the K-12 budget, we deal with the property tax issue within the funding formula,” Monson explained, “I am not that concerned with the infrastructure as it is quite apparent that there is no money to put towards many, if any, of those needs this session.”
Monson believes that his committee took good care of those needs the past few sessions when the state’s budgets were in better shape. He feels this is a year to pull back on most of those things.
“Property tax was made a permanent part of the K-12 funding formula, so I think that is quite safe despite our lower than expected revenues,” Monson said.
Myrdal will ask that her fellow state senators look at programs that are not priorities and possible duplicates to determine where responsible cuts can be made. She believes it is ultimately up to the legislature to work out the final details.
“It will be a challenging job, for sure, but as we all work together to make the right choices, I am fully confident that though times are tough, we will prevail as we work together,” Myrdal said.
Even with the challenges the state legislature faces, Myrdal is still very optimistic about the economic future of the state. She will focus on protecting and providing for those with greatest need such as the elderly and children.
“Long-term care, excellence in education and health all fall into these areas. We will never prosper unless we follow this time-tested principle of caring for the ‘least of these’, and when I say we, I mean all of us – not just the government,” Myrdal said.
During her first term as District 10 Senator, Myrdal will be working directly with the Senate judiciary committee, assisting in the implementation of some of the initiated measures that were passed by voters during the general election.
“Some of which will be a challenge to fund and fit into the Century Code,” Myrdal added.
The 65th Legislative Assembly will no doubt go down as one of the most challenging session that state leaders and a newly elected governor will face, but the three representatives from District 10 have hope that the outcome will show the resilience of North Dakota.
“Many comment that it will be a difficult session. It could be, but our state is not broke, and when common sense is applied, we have a bright economic future. More importantly, I believe we can make our state an even better place for present and future generations,” Damschen said.
“I would like to remind everyone that if they have any concerns or ideas that will require legislation that time is of the essence now. We are here to serve you, the constituents of District 10, and all of North Dakota, “ Monson stated, “I am here to be your voice in Bismarck, but first you have to let me hear your ideas and concerns before I can act on them or relay them to someone who can implement them.”
“I will continue to address issues and keep you informed through legislative updates, both here and online. Meanwhile I would ask that you pray for all of us, if you so believe, for wisdom during this coming time. It will be a team effort all across our state. We live in the best state in the best country on earth. What a privilege,” Myrdal stated.
The District 10 representatives will be giving legislative updates periodically over the course of the session, and those will be printed in Cavalier County Republican. If you have questions or concerns leading up to or during the session please contact the District 10 representatives at their respective emails.
David Monson: firstname.lastname@example.org
Chuck Damschen: email@example.com
Janne Myrdal: firstname.lastname@example.org