2019‐01. Transportation Funding
This Association, and the counties it represents, recognizes the support and commitment of the State for consistent funding, dedicated to local government, including Operation Prairie Dog, for critical infrastructure maintenance and improvements. However, the funding sources available to counties remain inadequate to meet the infrastructure needs identified in the Upper Great Plains Transportation Institute study. This Association supports the exploration of additional funding sources for transportation to ensure the sustainability of road funding in the face of rising costs, and the reduction of local levies.
2019‐02. Social Services Redesign
North Dakota Counties recognize the Legislature’s outstanding commitment to social services redesign and remain supportive of changes that improve service, retain local access, and provide full state funding. It is recognized that necessary adjustments to the enabling legislation will be identified as the counties and the state work through this two‐year transition process. County officials must be full participants in this identification process, and we strongly urge that serious attention be given to the definition of direct and indirect costs and that legislative and administrative action be taken to ensure that additional costs are not shifted to the property tax.
2019‐03. Recreational Marijuana Legalization
North Dakota citizens have spoken strongly through the ballot box that legalization of recreational marijuana is not right for our State. Counties support the citizens in this position and oppose efforts to legalize recreational marijuana.
2019‐04. Addressing Dilapidated Properties
Counties are the unit of government responsible for foreclosing on property in which property taxes have not been collected. Too often these taxed foreclosed properties contain conditions such as dilapidated buildings and hazardous material which require significant expenditures of county funds before the property can be resold. The current statutory structure allows counties to assess these costs back to the original property owner, but such remedy is often inadequate to recover the costs. This Association supports legislative action to develop a statewide fund to help spread the costs for cleanup of these properties and urges greater communication of the existing state and federal (Brownfields) resources already available to address this issue.
2019‐05. Behavioral Health
Lack of behavioral health and chemical dependency treatment programs or access to transportation to existing programs, places a significant burden on county services. Federal and state policies have made county jails the de facto mental health and chemical dependency treatment facility for people who cannot access appropriate community-based treatment and services. This Association encourages expanding availability of the Free Through Recovery program to pre‐sentenced and county jail sentenced inmates. In addition, this Association supports NACo’s Stepping Up initiative and the continued development of local treatment programs that use of grant funds from the state and federal government.
2019‐06. Prison Prioritization Plan
The 65th Legislative Assembly mandated the North Dakota Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (DOCR) create a prison population management plan to prioritize inmate admissions based on available space in the state system. DOCR began delaying the intake of female inmates in the spring of 2019, forcing counties to maintain state‐sentenced inmates in county jails – shifting the housing and medical costs of those inmates to county property taxpayers. This Association supports legislative changes and the funding necessary to either remove state‐sentenced inmates from county jails or provide state funding to prevent shifting their housing and medical costs to property taxpayers.
2019‐07. Jail Standards
The North Dakota Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (DOCR) has the authority to set standards for county jails. These standards however are changed and adopted without significant input and consideration from jail administrators and county commissioners who ultimately must appropriate the funds to respond to the changes. The annual inspections of county jail facilities and the corrective actions required by DOCR are viewed by counties as a conflict with DOCR’s use of county jails as an extension of the state prison system through their prison prioritization plan. County government therefore requests greater involvement in establishing jail standards and supports greater technical assistance and support in meeting those standards. Counties further request the development of a process by statute or rule to contest jail inspection findings.
2019‐08. Youth Development
The North Dakota Legislature has devoted itself to the study of the juvenile justice system as well as the behavioral health services necessary to support youth in our communities. These issues are of significant concern to counties that provide the social service, law enforcement, and corrections services that must be tapped if front‐end services are lacking. County officials support these studies and urge the examination of legislative support for youth bureaus, school‐based programs, and other early intervention strategies that can identify and address youth development problems before they are more costly to society and destructive to youth and their families.
2019‐09. Statewide Interoperable Radio Network (SIRN)
The Legislature authorized the funding for the entirety of the SIRN project, which includes $40 million of state funds. The remainder of the $206 million cost will be paid for by revenues from a local 9‐1‐1 tax, counties, cities and other first responder agencies. This Association realizes the local financial commitment to this project and requests greater clarity on the project, understanding of the timeline and breakout of costs associated. In addition, this Association encourages adequate state support for long‐term maintenance of the system to avoid shifting those costs to the local governments.
This Association recognizes that all levels of government are faced with increasing cyber threats that could impact county services and finances, as well as the protected citizen data that counties maintain. This Association supports state coordinated efforts to strengthen cybersecurity resources at all levels.
2019‐11. Ambulance Support
The time required when getting critical care services to citizens in emergencies can be a matter of life or death. Statewide, many ambulance services rely heavily on volunteers which, because of the demands placed on those individuals, are becoming harder to recruit. Many ambulance services lack enough funding to provide compensation, and in some cases, address equipment, supply and required training needs. This Association supports stable and long‐term financial support for ambulance services to ensure emergency services can continue statewide.
2019‐12. Court Service Availability
County courthouses have always been a special place where citizens have direct access to their government. Technological and legislative changes have brought many efficiencies in the way the state and local governments provide their services. However, it remains critical that some services are still delivered in a direct and personal manner. This Association supports a continued strong relationship with the State Court system to ensure all the counties have direct access to critical court services.
2019‐13. Legacy Fund
The Legacy Fund is an excellent mechanism to ensure wise management of the state’s oil and gas wealth, and the earnings could be used to guarantee long term stability for the services delivered through the State and its political subdivisions. This Association supports careful examination of dedicating legacy fund earnings to include state and local infrastructure investments.
Childcare facilities across North Dakota are full to capacity which makes finding affordable childcare difficult. Lack of adequate childcare for employees of government, as well as private business, is causing our workforce to choose between childcare and their jobs and is restricting growth in many counties. This Association supports a state focused study on the issue of childcare and potential funding programs that would increase the supply of childcare services in North Dakota.
2019‐15. Sewage Treatment Systems
North Dakota Administrative Code outlines standards and requires licensing for the installation of onsite sewage treatment systems, placing responsibility for these standards with the State Board of Plumbing. The plumbing board has limited staff and has sought few changes to the standards since 2000, causing their use and enforcement to vary across the state. This Association supports legislation moving responsibility for statewide minimum standards and installer licensing to a single state agency provided with adequate resources to fulfill the responsibilities. Further this Association supports the development and adoption of updated statewide onsite sewage treatment standards which allow for modification to address local conditions, and for uniform statewide educational requirements. However, this Association believes that responsibility for local licensure and inspections remain with the local public health unit and the fees supporting that activity be retained locally.
2019‐16. Taxation of Liquid Nicotine and Electronic Smoking Devices
The target marketing of electronic smoking and vaping devices has created an epidemic among North Dakota’s youth. While electronic smoking devices are defined as a product that may be used to deliver any aerosolized substance containing nicotine, the sale of such products is weakly regulated and is taxed like regular consumer products. State law regulates and taxes tobacco products separately, and at a higher rate, as it is recognized that tobacco use is the state’s number one cause of preventable disease and death, having devasting economic and serious health consequences. In order to treat all forms of nicotine delivery equally while deterring their use, particularly among youth, county officials support equitable regulation and taxation of liquid nicotine products and electronic smoking devices as part of the North Dakota Tobacco Products Tax. This Association further urges the Legislature to place a moratorium on the sale of liquid nicotine and electronic smoking devices until research and proper regulation can ensure the safety of the consumer.
2019‐17. Opioid Drug Misuse
Opioid derived drugs have a place in modern medicine. However, lack of oversight or in some cases outright illegal activity has created an epidemic of drug overdoses which has caused significant harm to North Dakota citizens. These impacts are not only felt by families of those addicted but also local government’s budgets. Law enforcement, jails and social services have all been impacted by the overuse of opioids and their illegal counterparts. This Association urges increased oversight over opioid use and supports dedicated revenue to be provided for local drug treatment centers.
2019‐18. Ethanol Use
The growth in consumption of fuel with a higher proportion of ethanol (E‐85) has proven to increase demand for North Dakota agricultural commodities and generated jobs and income for North Dakotans. County government supports the ethanol industry and urges all counties to consider the use of ethanol blended fuels in county vehicles where appropriate.
2019‐19. Use of Cryptocurrency
The electronic age has brought about many important changes to society. Use of computers and the internet have exponentially increased productivity and brought great advancement. It has also allowed new forms of currency which would have never been imagined even a decade ago. These new cryptocurrencies have yet to fully be understood, which means their long‐term stability may be questionable at this time. This Association objects to the use of cryptocurrency for payment of county services and further supports only business transactions using the US dollar.
2019‐20. Residential Property Tax Exemptions
In 1919, the State Legislature exempted farm residences and outbuildings from ad valorem taxation. In 2019, the changing demography of North Dakota, with substantially more North Dakotans residing in urban areas and fewer residing on farms, has caused many to question the basic fairness of exempting one residence from taxation because of its location and the occupation & income of its owner, while taxing others. This Association will work with the Legislature to eliminate or minimize confusion and difficulties in administering the current farm residence tax exemption law, and to consider legislation that will treat all residential property in the State with greater fairness and equity. Concepts to be studied should include partial and full exemption of ad valorem taxes on all residential property, state funding replacement of exempted residential property taxes, and other elements that increase property tax fairness and equity for residential property owners.
2019-21 Attendant Care/Safe Beds
Statewide, counties are struggling to meet the safety and supervision needs of pre-adolescent and adolescent youth who are picked up by law enforcement for citable offenses (unruly and/or delinquent) and are in need a short-term, non-secured “holdover” site. Local jurisdictions are tasked to establish their own attendant care programs either directly or through private agencies. Attendant care is utilized by counties to provide a safe bed to shelter youth whose behaviors make them difficult to safely place. Funding for these placements is born by the county. Given the emergency nature of this need, it is very difficult to staff and successfully run. As a result, law enforcement officers are pulled off the road to supervise these youth. This association supports legislative action to allocate additional resources towards the provision of short term, non-secured attendant care and safe beds for unruly and delinquent youth.