North Dakota Legislature: What to watch this week

Published on NewsOK Modified: February 3, 2013 at 2:06 pm •  Published: February 3, 2013
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BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — The North Dakota Legislature promises to provide fireworks this week as lawmakers consider lifting a ban on bottle rocket sales and debate a proposal to restructure oil taxes in the state.

Here's a look at what's expected:

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LIFTING THE BOTTLE ROCKET BAN

The biennial debate over bottle rockets has been sparked again in the state Legislature.

Lawmakers are expected to weigh whether to lift a four-year-old ban on selling skyrockets. The last effort was a dud.

Eye doctors helped the Legislature see the need to ban bottle rocket sales two sessions ago, in 2009. Last session, in 2011, the House voted down an attempt to overturn the ban.

The current law still allows people to possess and shoot off bottle rockets.

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OIL TAXES

Speaking of fireworks, North Dakota Democrats have blasted a Republican-backed plan to restructure oil taxes in the state.

Senate Democratic minority leader Mac Schneider says the plan is radical and reckless. He says the measure could cost the people of North Dakota more than $595 million in the first five years.

Republican Sen. Dwight Cook of Mandan says the bill introduced last week attempts to bring certainty and stability to the oil industry and the state.

The legislation closes some loopholes for the oil industry in exchange for a lower tax rate beginning in 2017.

Cook says he worked with oil companies to craft the proposed legislation.

Oil industry representatives so far have been mum on the measure, but they likely won't be this week when it comes before the Senate.

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DRUG TESTING FOR PUBLIC ASSISTANCE?

Several Republican lawmakers have proposed drug testing for certain recipients of public assistance — and they want the needy to pay for the testing to ensure public money isn't funding an addiction problem.

HB1385 would require people who get public assistance from the Temporary Help for Needy Families and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program to submit to drug testing. "The cost of the drug testing is the responsibility of the individual tested," the measure says.

The state could deny public assistance for one year after the date of a positive drug test, and three years after the date of a second positive test.

The measure would not affect assistance for children. A third-party would manage the aid if a parent or guardian tests positive for illegal drugs.