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Committee votes 'do not pass' on ed funding

BISMARCK -- The House Education Committee wanted to make a statement that the Legislature's school funding bill has far too little money in it. So all 14 voted Tuesday morning to kill the only vehicle for state support of public schools, Senate B...

BISMARCK -- The House Education Committee wanted to make a statement that the Legislature's school funding bill has far too little money in it.

So all 14 voted Tuesday morning to kill the only vehicle for state support of public schools, Senate Bill 2154, sending it out with a unanimous "do-not-pass."

"There's a message being sent, saying we want more in there," said Chairwoman Rae Ann Kelsch.

She said the committee of nine Republicans and five Democrats wants the Legislature to revive an idea to raise the state tobacco tax, and use the extra funds to increase money for education.

Rep. Kathy Hawken, R-Fargo, is on the Education Committee.

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"It was a symbolic vote, and we believe as a committee we need to do better," she said.

But Kelsch's counterpart in the Senate said the vote seemed a hollow symbol and wonders why the House panel didn't put in the bill how much money it wants.

"What I can't understand is, if they wanted $10 million, $15 million or $20 million in the bill, why didn't they just put it in and send it out?" asked Sen. Layton Freborg, R-Underwood, the Senate education chairman. 'The early talk was they wanted $10 million or $11 million more. The responsible thing would have been to put it in."

Hawken said she had suggested an amendment to do that but it didn't get adopted.

Freborg predicts the House committee vote is "going to cost us a couple of days," making the session last longer.

"They're just buying time," agreed Sen. Tim Flakoll, R-Fargo, a member of Senate Education. "Do you think they're going to kill the bill? No."

Kelsch said the committee will meet again this morning to reconsider its action. She said the vote had made its point with leadership.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Janell Cole at (701) 224-0830

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