Politics & Government

"Stand with Charlottesville" event in Bismarck

Aug 15, 2017
Dave Thompson / Prairie Public

More than 70 people turned out at Bismarck’s Custer Park for what organizers called a “Stand with Charlottesville” event.

They were there to protest racism – and remember the woman who was killed during Saturday’s protests in Charlottesville.

"We're coming together in peace and unity," said Kevin Tangesdahl, one of the rally's organizers. "We want to share support for persons of all colors across the country, and especially here in North Dakota."

Court victory for NAWS supporters

Aug 12, 2017
Dave Thompson / Prairie Public

Fifteen years after the state began construction of the Northwest Area Water Supply Project – and 12 years after Manitoba sued to stop the project  -- a court has ruled the project meets the requirements of the National Environmental Protection Act.

The project will bring water from Lake Sakakawea to Minot and surrounding areas of northwestern North Dakota.

Sen. John Hoeven (R-ND) said that would give the northwest an unlimited supply of water.

"In a drought year, you realize how important that is," Hoeven said.

03054 CSR payments                                             8-11-17 ddt

North Dakota’s Insurance Commissioner said health insurance companies are wondering if the “CSR” payments from the federal government will continue.

“CSR” stands for “Cost Sharing Reductions.” It’s part of the Affordable Care Act. Insurance companies get direct payments to help low-income people cover the costs of co-insurance and deductibles.

President Trump has threatened to withhold those payments, after attempts to repeal and replace the ACA have failed.

ND Legislature

The chairman of the Legislature’s interim taxation Committee said her committee will be taking an extensive look at North Dakota’s property taxes.

"The last time we have any big, sweeping changes in the way that we assess property taxes was in 1981," said Sen. Jessica Unruh (R-Beulah). "That was a long time ago."

Unruh says the changes could be minor, or they could be substantial.

A program to reduce “wait times” for people seeking treatment for an addiction or a mental health need is now available at regional human service centers statewide.

It’s called “Open Access.”

State budget cushion will be larger than expected

Aug 7, 2017
Office of Management and Budget

North Dakota likely has more of a budget cushion as the 2017-2019 biennium begins.

"When the Legislature left town, they anticipated that our ending balance would be about $30 million," said state Office of Management and Budget director Pam Sharp. She said June tax collections were actually $28 million ahead of the budget forecast. And that will make the cushion $58 million.

But Sharp said there's another item that is boosting the bottom line.

Interim committee studying impact of refugees on ND

Aug 3, 2017
Dave Thompson / Prairie Public

The chairman of an interim Legislative committee studying the costs of bringing refugees to North Dakota  wants the committee to also look at the benefits of having the new Americans come to this state.

"There is a concern that we don't know what the actual costs are, said Rep. Kathy Hogan (D-Fargo). "If we have it, I think it's important to put that on the record."

But Hogan said the committee needs to look at the economic benefits the refugees bring to North Dakota.

DHS

Interim legislative committees are looking at North Dakota’s delivery of human service programs.

One study looks specifically at county social services, and another looks at a potential reorganization of the state Department of Human Services.

"The goal, from my perspective, is not necessarily how we redesign DHS," said department director Chris Jones. "It's how we take a step back and look at how we most effectively and efficiently deliver social services across the state."

State's bond rating unchanged

Aug 3, 2017
Office of Management and Budget

Moody’s Investor Services has decided to keep North Dakota’s bond rating at AA-1.

But it's with a negative watch.

"Less than a year ago, Moody's put us on a negative watch," said Office of Management and Budget director Pam Sharp. "That means things aren't going great, so Moody's will look to see if things are getting better."

Sharp said the agency decided not to make a change.

"they're not ready to downgrade us, that's for certain," Sharp said.

Dave Thompson / Prairie Public

A special commission has begun looking at North Dakota’s initiative and referendum process.

The Initiated and Referred Measures Study Commission was created by the 2017 Legislature. And it is to make recommendations to the 2019 Legislature on any changes in laws and procedures governing those citizen-initiated ballot measures.

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