Local officials looking forward to second half of legislative session following Grand Forks Day
Grand Forks City Administrator Todd Feland said almost 70 people were in attendance on March 2 and 3 for Grand Forks Day in Bismarck
GRAND FORKS — A trip out to Bismarck last week for Grand Forks Day at the Legislature was summed up as “very productive” by Grand Forks City Administrator Todd Feland, who recalled the various topics that were discussed during the two-day trip.
Feland said nearly 70 people were in attendance on March 2-3, including business leaders, representatives from UND, Grand Forks Public Schools, Grand Forks County, the city, the Grand Forks-East Grand Forks Chamber of Commerce and the Grand Forks Region Economic Development Corporation.
Those in attendance were able to meet with the departments of commerce, transportation, agriculture and water resources, as well as the North Dakota University System's chancellor's office, the North Dakota National Guard, Bank of North Dakota and Gov. Doug Burgum's office. Feland said topics ranged from quality of life funding; infrastructure projects including the proposed DeMers Avenue/42nd Street railroad underpass and an interstate interchange at 47th Avenue; and the natural gas pipeline.
Overall, Feland said Grand Forks Day “really solidified all of our great relationships with the state of North Dakota and the various agencies.”
“All of the positive partnerships that we have with the state of North Dakota were really highlighted and (there were) lots of positive meetings (with) positive subject matters,” he said.
Though not in attendance for Grand Forks Day, City Council Vice President Bret Weber, who has a seat on the Legislative Committee, said there are still several bills the city is actively watching as bills have crossed over. Among them is requested funding for the Red River Valley Water Supply Project, which Weber said is “probably the most important to us.”
The RRVWSP is an effort to “provide an emergency water supply to central and eastern North Dakota during times of water scarcity so as to protect public health, ensure ongoing economic vitality and provide for environmental benefits in the river systems,” according to the project’s website.
The request for the 2023-25 biennium in state funding is $255 million for the project. In January Grand Forks Mayor Brandon Bochenski joined Fargo Mayor Tim Mahoney and West Fargo Mayor Bernie Dardis to talk about the importance of the project during a Senate Appropriations hearing.
Other bills Weber said the city continues to monitor closely are those the city is in opposition to including bills that relate to foreign entities acquiring or investing in agriculture land in North Dakota.
House Bill 1503 , which seeks to prohibit foreign ownership of real property in North Dakota, passed the House 93-0, with one absent and has now been introduced to the Senate. House Bill 1135 which would bar foreign governments and businesses they control from purchasing, acquiring or holding any interest in agricultural land in the state, also passed the House 93-0, with one absent and has been introduced to the Senate.
Weber said the city is monitoring those bills in relation to how it would affect Cirrus Aircraft. Economic development leaders testified against the bill, and at the time, how it would retroactively apply to ownership interests in property acquired after July 31, 2020 during a Feb. 4 House Agriculture Committee hearing .
So far this session there has also been quick progress related to the state’s career and technical education centers. A bill authorizing the Bank of North Dakota to provide a $68.2 million line of credit — the remaining amount of ARPA funds not yet released by the federal government to the state — in order to expedite construction of the centers has already passed both chambers and was the first bill of the session signed by Gov. Doug Burgum.
For the Career Impact Academy in Grand Forks, Feland said the bill allows for the project to move forward with final design. The city is still waiting for funding related to the inflationary increases the CTE centers across the state have faced. Feland said there’s the potential for $40 million to be set aside for the various CTE centers across the state.
Both Feland and Weber said they are looking forward to the second half of the session. The Legislature is also anticipating an updated budget forecast anticipated on March 16, which Feland and Weber said they are watching as well.
“There is some anticipation that budget forecast will look better than the previous one. I think the goal is that on the revenue side there’ll be additional funding that can help fund various projects to include those that would help support some of Grand Forks’ projects,” Feland said. “I think the second half, hopefully we should only gain momentum from the first half especially if that March 16 forecast comes in better than previous estimates.”