BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — Many of North Dakota's newest legislators are already readying an assortment of proposals, which would exempt clothing from the state sales tax, boost college student tuition aid and help finance compressed natural gas fueling stations.
The North Dakota Legislature is wrapping up a three-day organizational session Wednesday, during which lawmakers receive committee assignments, desks, parking spaces and briefings on issues. Gov. Jack Dalrymple is presenting lawmakers with his spending recommendations for the state's 2013-15 budget Wednesday.
When the Legislature begins its regular business session next month, 25 of its 147 members will be new. Republicans have 10 new House members and five senators, while Democrats have seven new House members and three senators. Republicans hold two-thirds majorities in both houses of the Legislature.
Sen. George B. Sinner, D-Fargo, promised during his campaign to push an exemption for clothing from North Dakota's 5 percent sales tax, an idea that lawmakers have rejected in the last two sessions. Local governments, most of which collect sales taxes of their own, have opposed the idea.
Sinner believes the exemption is gaining support. Minnesota already exempts clothing from its state sales tax, and merchants on the North Dakota side of the Red River are put at a disadvantage, Sinner said.
Grand Forks' Scheels sporting goods store, for example, must collect sales tax on clothing, while Cabela's, a competing business in East Grand Forks, Minn., does not, he said.
"I think it's a competition issue in Fargo and some of the other border communities ... but it is also a tax break that affects everybody," Sinner said. "We all need our clothes. Everybody has to have some ... and it's an immediate impact on families."
Rep. Dwight Kiefert, R-Valley City, said he is considering a bill that would provide state support to establish compressed natural gas fueling stations in North Dakota's larger cities. At present, there are only two — Montana-Dakota Utilities Co. installations in Bismarck and Dickinson, which company spokesman Mark Hanson said are seldom used.