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James MacPherson, Associated Press, Published January 21 2013

North Dakota Legislature: What to watch this week

BISMARCK — Taxes, guns, oil and abortion. Lawmakers will be considering some weighty issues as North Dakota's 63rd legislative session enters its third week. Here's a glimpse at what's expected:

INCOME TAX BREAK

Don't feel like filling out state tax forms for the next two years? Neither does Rep. Scott Louser.

The Minot Republican has proposed a bill that would give North Dakotans a break from paying state income tax this year and next.

Louser said it's an attempt to decrease the tax burden on the citizens of oil-rich North Dakota. The measure would apply to individuals, estates and trusts.

Budget analysts say North Dakota's coffers would take a more than $1 billion hit over the next two years if the bill becomes law. The proposal would reinstate the state income tax in 2015.

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STRIPPER WELL EXEMPTIONS

North Dakota lawmakers are revisiting a law that slashes taxes for low-producing oil wells to keep them pumping. But the law also has been applied to some gushers in North Dakota, costing the state a millions of dollars in revenue.

Stripper wells are broadly defined in North Dakota as those that produce fewer than 30 barrels of crude daily. But a 1980s-era law has a loophole that extends the tax break to wells that lie near the weaker wells but are productive thanks to advances in drilling technology. Attempts to close the loophole have been soundly defeated in the past three legislation sessions. Will it be a fourth?

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PACKING HEAT IN CHURCHES AND SCHOOLS

Lawmakers will consider proposals this week to that would allow people with concealed carry permits to have guns in churches and schools.

Current North Dakota law forbids carrying concealed weapons in public places. But the proposals would allow someone with a concealed weapon permit to carry a gun inside a school if the school district has authorized a policy for doing so. And someone with a concealed carry permit could have a weapon inside a church, if church officials allow it.

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ABORTION LAW AMENDMENT

A proposal being considered by lawmakers would impose further restrictions on North Dakota's already strict anti-abortion laws.

The proposal by six Republic House members and six Senate members would prohibit abortions for "sex selection or genetic abnormalities."

The proposal defines genetic abnormalities "as any defect, disease, or disorder that is inherited genetically. The term includes any physical disfigurement, scoliosis, dwarfism, Down syndrome, albinism ... or any other type of physical or mental disability, abnormality or disease."

North Dakota has only one abortion provider: the Red River Women's Clinic in Fargo.

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EXPANDING JUDGESHIPS

The Senate Judiciary committee will look at adding three new judgeships in the state to keep up with increased caseloads caused by record oil development.

North Dakota Chief Justice Gerald VandeWalle appealed state lawmakers during his State of the Judiciary speech to add two judgeships in the epicenter of the oil boom in northwestern North Dakota, and one judgeship in Fargo. The cost to establish the judgeships is pegged at about $1.7 million.

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Follow James MacPherson on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/macphersonja .

Copyright 2013 The Associated Press.