KHRT ND News – 11/13/21

KHRT NEWS – SATURDAY – 111321 – 0700
 
BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) – North Dakota’s Legislature on Friday approved bills to prevent COVID-19 vaccine mandates and the teaching of certain concepts of race and racism, as lawmakers completed their five-day special session. The Senate voted 38-9 to give final approval to a measure banning the teaching of critical race theory, which is defined as a way of thinking about America’s history through the lens of racism. Gov. Doug Burgum signed the critical race theory bill later Friday, and also signed the vaccination bill.
 
Though there is no evidence that critical race theory is being taught in North Dakota’s schools, backers said the bill aims to ensure it won’t be. Mott GOP Sen. Donald Schaible, who carried the bill on the Senate floor, said the measure is preemptive “to try to make sure that it doesn’t come to our schools.”
 
Senators also approved a House bill 33-14 Friday to restrict COVID-19 vaccination mandates. The measure provides exemptions for medical, philosophical or religious reasons, and would allow workers to avoid vaccinations if they agree to frequent testing for the coronavirus.
 
Representatives on Friday gave final approval to a bill that excludes Social Security benefits from income tax. Legislative budget writers estimate the measure will reduce state revenues by $14.6 million in the current two-year budget cycle.
 
Senators gave final approval to a bill that would provide a $350 income tax credit for each North Dakota resident filing a return for 2021 and 2022. The income tax relief was pushed by Burgum, who recommended using part of the state’s hefty and better-than-forecast ending fund balance of $1.1 billion in the last two-year budget cycle.
 
Republicans control both chambers of the Legislature. Burgum last month called the special session to deal with a limited agenda that included legislative redistricting and the approval of a spending plan for federal coronavirus relief aid.
 
Also Friday, the Senate gave final approval on a measure that spends nearly the entire amount of the $1.1 billion in federal coronavirus aid available to the state. The spending includes funding initiatives ranging from infrastructure improvements to workforce development programs. The appropriation incudes $150 million to build a pipeline to carry natural gas from the state’s oil-producing region in the western part of the state to eastern North Dakota. Only $63 million of the federal funding was not appropriated by state lawmakers.
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BISMARCK, N.D. – Gov. Doug Burgum on Friday signed legislation to provide an estimated $211 million in income tax relief over the next two years by eliminating the state income tax bill for approximately 300,000 North Dakota taxpayers and providing partial relief to another 200,000 taxpayers. The tax relief fulfills a major piece of the governor’s Accelerate ND plan for the Legislature’s special session, which adjourned Friday.
 
“This bill is a victory for half a million hardworking North Dakotans, providing them with real, meaningful tax relief for this year and the next,” Burgum said. “We are deeply grateful to Rep. Heinert and the entire Legislature for overwhelmingly approving this tax relief and improving upon our original proposal. Our shared approach of conservative fiscal management has allowed us to put money back into the pockets of North Dakotans who kept working through the pandemic and supported our economic recovery, which benefits us all.”
 
House Bill 1515 was introduced by Rep. Pat Heinert of Bismarck and originally mirrored the governor’s Accelerate ND income tax proposal. The amended version approved by lawmakers provides an income tax credit of up to $350 per year for resident individual income taxpayers, or $700 per year for individuals filing a married joint return, effective for tax years 2021 and 2022. “I’m very pleased with the outcome,” Heinert said. “As I said in my floor speech, we need to share the wealth with North Dakotans, and I was pleased to be the prime sponsor of that bill.”
 
The approved bill will eliminate state income tax liability for approximately 210,000 returns, which represents 300,000 taxpayers when accounting for the two adults who file a married joint return. An additional 140,000 returns will receive a partial reduction, which represents 200,000 taxpayers when accounting for married joint returns, according to State Tax Commissioner Ryan Rauschenberger, who worked with both the governor and Heinert on the tax relief proposals. “It is always a great policy to provide additional tax relief when possible,” Rauschenberger said. “Taxpayers will begin receiving the benefits of the tax credit when the filing season starts in just a couple months.”
 
The tax relief will be funded from the state’s $412 million excess general fund balance from the 2019-21 biennium. The Legislature budgeted for an ending fund balance of $710 million, but the actual ending fund balance arrived at $1.12 billion, thanks to conservative budgeting, higher than anticipated Legacy Fund earnings and the strategic use of federal Coronavirus Relief Funds to pay for state expenses during the last biennium. The bill passed the House 92-0 on Thursday and the Senate 40-7 on Friday.
 
Burgum also signed Senate Bill 2351, which exempts Social Security income from state income tax, becoming the 38th state to do so. The bill, introduced by Sen. David Hogue of Minot, will provide an estimated $14.6 million in savings per biennium to approximately 20,000 North Dakotans.
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BISMARCK, ND – A Winter Weather Advisory is in effect until Noon today for for northwest and north central North Dakota. Forecasters say mixed precipitation of snow, freezing rain, and sleet has occurred. Winds gusting as high as 40 mph will be possible.
 
The Department of Transportation and Highway Patrol have issued a No Travel Advisory for central portions of the state due to freezing rain and icy conditions. Motorists should not travel due to hazardous conditions which make it unsafe to travel. Cities included in this advisory are Bowbells, Minot, Washburn, Bismarck, Mandan, Fort Yates, Beulah, and surrounding areas.
 
A Winter Weather Advisory is in effect until 9 PM for northeastern North Dakota and the Red River Valley. Additional snow accumulations of 2 to 5 inches are possible along with breezy winds.
 
The southeastern part of the state is under a High Wind Warning until 9 PM. Northwest winds 35 to 45 mph with gusts up to 65 mph are expected.
 
 
(Copyright 2021 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)
 
 

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