North Dakota AFl-CIO Legislature Watch - Week 8

Sisters and Brothers,

This last week was a busy week being both crossover week and the time of the AFL-CIO legislative conference.  Overall it was an excellent week.

First, let’s go through the bills. HB 1248 failed on the house floor last week though not by nearly enough for such a crazy piece of legislation. As I wrote earlier, this was a bill that would allow landowners and corporations to form prosperity zones on their land and be free from most regulation… like safety, human rights, labor laws and other such “burdensome regulation”. Quite simply, this bill was crazy and had no redeeming features… unless you’re a white supremacist… or a drug cartel… or a corporation that wants to recreate the regulation free economy of Mozambique complete with a lack of those pesky labor protections.

At any rate, HB 1248 was shot down but only by a disappointing margin of 52 to 39! Really! 39 Representatives in the House thought that regulation free enclaves where employers can do nearly anything they wish were a solution to the state’s economic woes! Please look below to see how your legislator voted on HB 1248.

I doubt that the fight is over as there seems to be a push across the nation for these Zones so I’m going to guess that we’ll be seeing this Ebola of a bill in sessions to come.

Another bill, SB 2314 was "hoghouse amended” (completely rewritten) on Friday to restrict wind development in North Dakota entirely for two years. Now, I understand that there are some serious differences of opinions on wind power among our affiliates, and it is certainly true that increased development of renewables is going to put additional pressure on our coal fired power plants and the jobs that depend on those facilities. However, Building Trades workers help construct wind farms so this is a complicated issue and the AFL-CIO didn’t take an official position.

Nevertheless, watching the show as this bill wound it’s way through the senate was fascinating. First, it was a bill to restrict wind development with a complicated set of rules. When that proved unworkable, the rules were thrown out and a completely new bill was "hoghoused" into its place. This language was way simpler and just put a moratorium on all wind development. When this moratorium was shown to be unsellable to the rest of the senate, they then went back and amended the language to be a moratorium without actually calling it a moratorium. It was so confusing for a while that it was impossible to get a copy of the actual bill.

By the time it hit the senate floor nobody liked the bill’s current form.  Even Senator Cook, who spent so much of his energy last week trying to hammer this mangled bill in to a form that the rest of the senate would accept, even he recommended against voting for it after a passionate plea for understanding.

The moratorium was voted down unanimously while the accompanying study to plan for the future of energy development (a good idea) was passed through. For a while, following that bill was like riding a rabid grizzly only to find in the end that the grizzly turned into a gerbil and had a stroke at our feet.  Weird!

Our teacher and public employees with North Dakota United have had some good news amid their budget struggles. SB 2186 is a pilot program that allows schools to build upon education innovation and will help promote the creativity of teachers and learners alike across North Dakota. In addition, SB 2243 is the right direction for education in North Dakota. It allows for student loans to be paid, up to $25,000 over three years for new teachers if they work in a geographical location that has a teacher shortage, a critical need subject, or both.

Unfortunately, not all news is warm and fuzzy. NDU will be fighting budget woes for the entire session and these don’t look to be getting any better. Then there is HB 1023. This Tasmanian devil in wolf’s clothing would change to how North Dakota Public Pensions are governed. It’s an 80 page amendment to the PERS advisory retirement board, with the governor appointing an executive director. This looks to be a potential disaster as the PERS Board loses autonomy and the legislature gains more control This is likely a first step to change from a defined benefits plan to a defined-contribution retirement plan for public employees and should be wholly unacceptable to all union members.

For more information, please click below to see NDU’s full legislative update.

 In other news, the AFL-CIO Legislative Conference went very well and I would like to thank all those members who attended. The first half was a traditional legislative update while the afternoon was entirely taken up by Wellstone lobbying training. This was great as we allied with Farmers Union and went through the training with the Farmer’s Union Board of Governors.

The highlight for me was when the head trainer wanted to show how to do a sample “one on one” meeting and called up Scott Boehm the President of NALC local 957. For ten minutes Scott single handedly defeated the myth of the “union thug” for all the farmers in that room. He talked about his passion for justice and hating to see workers taken advantage of and how unions can make stronger, more efficient workplaces because union members care deeply about doing a good job. We could not have written a better script for someone to follow than Scott did up on that stage on the fly.

Thank you Scott Boehm.

The next day several Union members lobbied their senators and representatives on union issues. I can already feel the effect of that effort. Thank you all for this. You made some legislators very nervous.

Next week is when the senate takes the house bills and vice versa. Though there are a few on our calendar, I am most interested in the house hearing for HB 2135 regarding a study for changing our ballot initiative process. The current form is acceptable as we got a better balance of groups involved, but it should be the AFL-CIO’s official policy the keep our ballot initiative laws just as they are.

I wish everyone a good week and look below to see how your legislator voted and hold them accountable.

Voting Record for HB 1248 regarding prosperity zones and state compact.

Yea is against Labor. Nay is for Labor.

YEAS: Anderson, B.; Anderson, D.; Beadle; Becker, Rich S.; Becker, Rick C.; Blum; Brabandt; Damschen; Dockter; Ertelt; Grueneich; Hatlestad; Headland; Johnson, C.; Johnson, M.; Johnston; Jones; Kading; Kempenich; Klemin; Koppelman, B.; Louser; Maragos; Marschall; McWilliams; Monson; Olson; Paur; Ruby, D.; Sanford; Satrom; Schatz; Simons; Skroch; Steiner; Streyle; Toman; Vetter; Zubke

NAYS: Anderson, P.; Boe; Boehning; Bosch; Boschee; Brandenburg; Carlson; Delmore; Delzer; Devlin; Dobervich; Guggisberg; Hanson; Heinert; Hogan; Holman; Howe; Johnson, D.; Karls; Kasper; Keiser; Kiefert; Koppelman, K.; Laning; Lefor; Longmuir; Magrum; Martinson; Meier; Mitskog; Mock; Nathe; Nelson, J.; Nelson, M.; O'Brien; Owens; Pollert; Porter; Pyle; Roers Jones; Rohr; Schmidt; Schneider; Schobinger; Schreiber-Beck; Seibel; Sukut; Trottier; Vigesaa; Weisz; Westlind; Speaker Bellew

ABSENT AND NOT VOTING: Kreidt; Oliver; Ruby, M. Engrossed HB 1248 failed.  (THANK GOD!) 

Waylon Hedegaard
President/Secretary Treasurer
North Dakota AFL-CIO
(701) 595-3334