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The House Appropriations Committee is completing work on Senate-passed agency budget bills. We are also reviewing policy committee bills that include financial requests. The budget bills are being held in committee until the Senate and House can agree on state employee pay raises and health insurance benefits.

A bill that generated quite a bit of debate on the House floor was SB2275. It would have provided millions of dollars across the state for infrastructure and other needs of local government. Unfortunately the bill was a bonding bill, which would leave the state owing $55 million in bond payments each of the next 15 biennia.

The House is reluctant to bond as there is no way to determine the economy the state may be dealing with at the time the bonds come due. The House has a long history of refusing to tie the hands of future legislative sessions by spending future money in advance though bonding. The House defeated it 34-55.

The House passed SB2344, one of the most contentious bills we have heard this session. Supporters said it was imperative that the bill be passed to protect landowners' rights and provide for a solid future for important industries for the future of our state. The Energy and Natural Resources Committee agreed the bill will protect private property rights and provide certainty for the development of the oil industry, the coal industry and the Enhanced Oil Recovery project planned for our state. They gave it a14-2 do pass recommendation. The members of the assembly agreed that SB2344 restores the right of the surface owners and has other highly beneficial benefits for the state and passed it 65-27.

The House of Representatives took time on March 26 to recognize former members who have passed away in the last two years. Both chambers hold a memorial service to honor the memory of legislators who have died since the previous session. Family members from across the nation come to the service and take part. There were 27 former representatives honored in the House this year. We thank them, as well as their families, for the work they did on behalf of the citizens of our state.

Gov. Doug Burgum delivered remarks and signed a proclamation declaring March 29 as Vietnam Veterans Day in North Dakota during a ceremony last week at the Capitol honoring Vietnam War veterans.

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Rep. Jim Schmidt, R-Huff, is vice chairman of the Education and Environment Division of House Appropriations Committee.

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