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Ray Holmberg

Holmberg would support Legacy dollars for research

GRAND FORKS -- Sen. Ray Holmberg, R-Grand Forks, said he is in favor of a bill that would devote a certain percentage of Legacy Fund earnings to the state’s two research universities, but noted it is just one of two similar bills being worked on in the Legislature.

Senate Bill 2282 would transfer 15 percent of Legacy Fund earnings to an economic diversification research fund that would support work by the University of North Dakota and North Dakota State University.

This fall UND President Mark Kennedy and NDSU President Dean Bresciani spent time traveling the state speaking about the importance of research for economic diversification in North Dakota. They had originally proposed that the state invest $100 million in research at the two campuses, with each school getting $25 million a year.

Holmberg, who is the chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, previously said he wanted to allow the presidents the chance to state their case to the Legislature, but Monday, Jan. 28, he gave more definite support for the idea, stating he would vote for the bill or one similar to it.

“I wouldn’t have a great deal of trouble (voting for the Senate bill), but it’s just one of two major proposals,” he said.

The Senate bill includes the creation of an advisory committee for the fund, which would include the president of the Bank of North Dakota, the commerce commissioner, the chair of the State Board of Higher Education and the two university presidents, as well as four others.

House Bill 1333 contains similar language as Senate Bill 2282, but does not limit grants to just the state’s research universities.

The House bill, introduced by Rep. Mike Nathe, R-Bismarck, would create a Legacy Innovation Fund that would support technology advancement in the state. Under this bill, a committee would be created that would also include the president of the Bank of North Dakota, with no specific higher education officials.

Under the House bill, applications would have to be approved by the committee, which would have to consider whether the proposal would be beneficial to the economy of North Dakota.

The Legacy Innovation Fund would be a “special fund” in the state treasury and would be administered by the Bank of North Dakota, according to the proposal.

Holmberg said HB 1333 “seems to be moving forward” and he hopes that the Senate can pass SB 2282 over to the House, so the two bodies can decide what they want the final version to look like.

Kennedy and Tom Erickson, CEO of UND’s Energy and Environmental Research Center, will be testifying on behalf of the Senate bill Thursday. Bresciani is also set to testify.