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TJ Jerke, Forum News Service, Published February 23 2013

North Dakota legislative notebook: More scholarship money may become available

BISMARCK – This year’s high school graduates might be able to receive more scholarship money through the state’s Merit Based Scholarship program.

Senate lawmakers passed Senate Bill 2222 unanimously Friday, which would appropriate $3.7 million for the 2013-15 biennium and $8.8 million for the 2015-17 biennium.

The bill would raise the amount of money per student from $750 to $1,250 per semester and raise the program’s maximum allowance from $6,000 to $10,000.

The program requires a student to receive an ACT score of 29 or higher, take a list of required courses and maintain a 2.75 grade-point average.

“It will help keep students on pace with inflation and pay a larger share of tuition and fees,” said the bill’s sponsor, Sen. Tim Flakoll, R-Fargo. “It establishes a system of rigor and rewards and the money follows the students.”

The bill was unanimously supported by the Senate Education and Appropriations Committees.

Drug testing

House members voted down a proposal that would have required a drug test in order to receive benefits from the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program.

Under House Bill 1385, $595,000 would have been spent over the upcoming biennium to change eligibility requirements for the welfare program within the state’s Department of Human Services.

Rep. Mike Brandenburg, R-Edgeley, said the idea of individuals receiving the federal benefits, while some are found to be drug users, is frustrating for him and his constituents.

“With the benefits we are giving to these people, we deserve it, and the people we represent, to have something done to put a stop to the use and abuse of drugs and using the system,” he said during floor debate.

Rep. Gail Mooney, D-Cummings, said the bill would punish those in need of the assistance.

The measure failed by a 19 to 72 vote.

State lawsuit

The state Legislature will ask the state’s attorney general to file a lawsuit against the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service under a bill that was passed to the Senate on Friday.

House Bill 1399 received a 86-5 vote on the House floor.

The state’s lawsuit would be filed to require Fish and Wildlife to delineate property boundaries around the state giving agriculture producers a better understanding of private property boundaries and property managed by Fish and Wildlife.

The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Craig Headland, R-Montpelier, said the exact acreage of property was not delineated prior to 1995, which has been creating land management issues between a private ag producer and Fish and Wildlife.

“Let’s see if they can put together a case,” he said. “We know when you sue the federal government, it is difficult.Imagine how difficult it is for one property owner to do it.”

Executive orders

Concerns about potential abuse of the U.S. Constitution has prompted the state House to pass a bill to make sure the U.S. Congress and President Barack Obama recognize the constitutional powers between the federal legislative and executive branches.

House Concurrent Resolution 3027 addresses the president’s use of executive orders, which allows the president to manage the operations of the federal government without legislation and congressional approval.

Rep. Roger Brabandt, R-Minot, said the U.S. Constitution says the president should faithfully execute the law, but doesn’t specifically give the executive branch the power to make laws.

Rep. Gail Mooney, D-Cummings, said President Obama has issued 148 executive orders compared to former Presidents Ronald Reagan’s 380, Bill Clinton’s 363 and George W. Bush’s 291.

“My concern is, what is the precedent we start going down with this if we start questioning and rising above the president of the United States?” she said. “Where do we intend for this to stop?”

The resolution was sent to the Senate by a 69-23 vote.

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