Politics & Government

Social service 'zones' proposed

Sep 24, 2018

As part of a reorganization of social services in North Dakota, the Department of Human Services is proposing grouping county social services into “zones.”

"Over the last few years, there have been a number of counties that have formed multi-county social service districts," said Department of Human Services director Chris Jones. "We're looking at that concept to group some other counties together."

Jones said not only are there administrative efficiencies, it could better serve North Dakotans.

"We will be able to move dollars across borders," Jones said.

Opponents of the measure to legalize recreational marijuana have asked the state Board of Higher Education to formally weigh in against the measure.

University system director of student affairs Katie Fitzsimmons told the Board’s Governance Committee the Attorney General’s office and other organizations opposed to measure 3 made the request. She told the committee it could be a great opportunity to approach the issue from a student health and wellness perspective.

Burgum: 30,000 jobs probably open in ND

Sep 21, 2018
Dave Thompson / Prairie Public

Job Service North Dakota lists around 14,500 open jobs in the state.

But Gov. Doug Burgum believes it’s more than that. He said the number is likely closer to 30,000. He told reporters he gets that number from talking with employers.

"I always ask them, 'How many jobs do you have open, and how many jobs do you have posted?'" Burgum said. "In some cases, with our health care providers, they only have 10 percent of the nursing positions posted. In manufacturing, they often have five times as many jobs as they have posted."

The Bismarck-Mandan Metropolitan Planning Organization has begun updating the metro transportation plan.

That plan is called “Arrive 2045.”

"We will be looking for members of the public, stakeholders, folks interested in transportation," said KLJ project manager Wade Kline. "We want them to come in and help worth through the identification of transportation needs in the Bismarck-Mandan-Lincoln area for the next 20-25 years."

The MPO has developed some projections for population and job growth in the Bismarck-Mandan-Lincoln area.

On-line retailers are facing an October first deadline to register with the state of North Dakota to start collecting state sales taxes.

North Dakota Tax Commissioner Ryan Rauschenberger said the first reflection of that will come in the taxable sales report for the fourth quarter of 2018. That won’t be available until 2019. Meanwhile, Rauschenberger had to come up with an estimate of tax collections from on-line sales, so that could be built into Gov. Doug Burgum’s executive budget recommendation, that will be given to state lawmakers in December.

Taxable sales and purchases in North Dakota were up 10 percent for the second quarter of 2018, compared to the same period a year ago.

Tax Commissioner Ryan Rauschenberger sais taxable sales and purchases for April, May and June were $5.15 billion. Rauschenberger said a lot of the growth is coming from western North Dakota.

"The growth is coming from oil exploration," Rauschenberger said. "If you look at Dickinson, taxable sales and purchases were up 14 percent. In Williston, it was up over 30 percent."

The director of North Dakota’s Housing Finance Agency said there appears to be a shortage of home builders who are willing to build single-family homes at the price point that’s affordable for first-time homebuyers.

"What we're hearing is that if the typical buyer is looking for a $450,000 house, that's what they're building," said HFA director Jolene Kline. "There's less profit in the lower, entry level homes, and they're not willing to target that market today."

Kline said the search is now on for builders willing to take on the more modest priced homes.

The Legislative Procedures and Arrangements Committee is now on-record supporting pay raises for state employees.

The Committee approved a proposal to give Legislative branch employees two percent raises each year of the upcoming biennium.

Senate Appropriations Committee chairman Ray Holmberg (R-Grand Forks) made the motion to put money for those raises in the branch’s budget proposal.

"We are sending a message," Holmberg said in an interview. "The Legislature feels state employees deserve a pay raise."

Riemers officially off the ballot

Sep 4, 2018
Dave Thompson / Prairie Public

It’s now official – Roland Riemers won’t be on the November ballot.

And that means the Libertarian Party has some work to do before the 2020 election.

Riemers, from Grand Forks, ran for Secretary of State as the lone Libertarian on the primary ballot. He received 247 votes in the count just after the primary election. He needed 300. After that, a recount was ordered by the state Supreme Court. The recount gave him 248 votes.

Wardner: Infrastructure bill taking shape

Sep 4, 2018

North Dakota Senate Majority Leader Rich Wardner (R-Dickinson) said a bill for infrastructure spending is almost ready to go.

Wardner and a number of Legislative colleagues announced the proposal earlier this year. It would create three new “buckets” for oil tax revenue -- $115 million for cities, $115 million for counties and $50 million for airports.

Wardner said tweaks are being made to the proposal. But he said there’s a lot of support for the plan, because the benefits are statewide, not just in the oil patch.

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