Local Stories

PERS changes studied by a Senate committee

Mar 3, 2017
ND Legislature

A Senate committee is looking at a proposal to change the governance of the Public Employees Retirement System.

As it is now, a board oversees the system. That board is also responsible for picking a health insurance carrier for all state workers and retirees.  The House made changes in that structure – so that the current Board would become an advisory board, with the director of PERS being appointed by the Governor, and the Legislature’s Employee Benefits Committee having more of an oversight role.

People from the eight North Dakota cities that would lose their local Department of Transportation shops packed a hearing room at the state Capitol – to try and get the House to restore those cuts.

The reductions already passed the Senate – and a hearing was held before the House Appropriations Government Operations section.

Boyd McKenzie is a businessman from Courtenay – one of the cities that would lose a DOT shop. He said his concern is about snow removal.

ND Legislature

A Bismarck lawmaker wants the Legislature to study whether the Life Skills and Transition Center in Grafton should be closed – and replaced with community based services.

That center serves people with disabilities. In the 1980s, when it was called the Grafton State School, it was one of the focal points for a lawsuit brought by the Association for Retarded Citizens. That lawsuit led to the closing of the San Haven State Hospital.

ND Legislature

Supporters of replacing buildings on the Valley City State University and NDSU campuses say they hope to keep the discussions alive – until the new state revenue forecast is issued March 9th.

VCSU wants to replace Foss Hall, the fine arts building – which will be on the wrong side of the proposed Sheyenne River dike. That building was the only one to make the list in the Board of Higher Education’s budget request.

NDSU wants to replace Dunbar Hall.

Neither project was approved when the Senate passed the higher-ed budget.

Senator calls it 'real property tax reform'

Mar 2, 2017
ND Legislature

A bill is making its way through the Legislature that its sponsor calls “real property tax reform.”

"It's going to change the way folks get notified of a potential property tax increase," said Sen. Dwight Cook (R-Mandan), the bill's sponsor -- and the chairman of the Senate Finance and Taxation Committee.

The bill requires all potential property tax increases – whether it be county, schools, park districts or some other taxing entity  -- to be provided to taxpayers on one single form.

Secretary of State's office

Secretary of State Al Jaeger is hoping the state Senate will restore funding for new voting machines and new electronic poll books.

Jaeger proposed a $6 million expenditure to replace the voting machines, as well as another $4 million to have electronic poll books in all the counties. But the House nixed both items.

Jaeger said the current voting machines were purchased in 2004 as part of the federal Help America Vote Act. He said the counties have had to cannibalize existing machines for parts to keep some of the machines running.

A conversation about Addiction and Incarceration with North Dakota Senator Judy Lee and Representative Kathy Hogan.

Figuring out how to reduce overcrowding in the state’s prisons is high on the agenda for many state legislators. Meg Luther Lindholm recently discussed the twin problems of drug addiction and incarceration with two legislators (a Republican and a Democrat) in this Journeys Through Justice report.

Natural North Dakota: Pierre Shale

Mar 1, 2017

Wednesday, March 1 – Sculptor Korczak Ziolkowski was already well-known in Boston when he received a letter from Lakota Chief Henry Standing Bear asking the artist to consider carving a mountain to honor a chief. In a recent presentation, Jeff Wehrung, assistant professor at Black Hills State University in Spearfish, South Dakota, reflected on Korczak's celebrity status. He visits with Lori Walsh of South Dakota Public Radio’s “In The Moment” as they discuss his presentation titled “Who is the Reluctant Celebrity?" ~~~ It’s Ash Wednesday. Pastor Joe Larson of St.

ND Legislature

A potential disagreement looms between the House and Senate over the budget bill for the Public Employees Retirement System.

The House made several changes to the make-up of the PERS board, and would make it a cabinet agency, giving the Governor appointment power for the agency director. It would also give the Legislature’s Employee Benefits Committee more oversight.

That issue boiled over two years ago, after the PERS board changed health insurance carriers. It led to a special session.

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News from NPR

After yesterday's pulled health care vote, many on the left and the right are seeing it as a failure for Republicans — but former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay says it's actually a blessing in disguise.

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