Politics & Government

ND chosen for UAV pilot project

May 10, 2018
Dave Thompson / Prairie Public

North Dakota has been chosen as one of the 10 participants in the Unmanned Aircraft Systems pilot program.

North Dakota’s Department of Transportation will be the program manager. It will work with the Northern Plains UAS Test Site in Grand Forks, as well as local governments and businesses.

This pilot is designed to integrate drones with normal air traffic.

North Dakota’s department of Transportation says it didn’t hear many complaints about snow removal in areas served by eight shuttered maintenance shops.

To save money, the 2017 Legislature approved a plan by DOT to close maintenance garages in Gackle, Courtenay, Litchville, Fessenden, Finley, New England, Mayville and Starkweather. People in those cities came to the Legislature to protest, saying they would have to wait for snowplows from outside those areas.

It's road construction season

May 4, 2018

The North Dakota Department of Transportation will spend between $350 million and $400 million during the summer road construction season.

"It's pretty significant," said DOT office of operations director Wayde Swenson. "It's not like the last few years, where we were in the heyday of the oil boom. But it's still a significant amount of money being spent this summer."

North Dakota's Public Employees Retirement System is looking toward the future -- and some potential funding challenges.

"We're currently funded at about 70 percent," said PERS acting executive director Sharon Schermeister. "Our goal is to be at 100 percent."

Schermeister said to get there, PERS has come up with some options. One of them would be to implement the fourth part of a recovery plan, begun in 2011, after PERS went through some challenges in its investments.

Gov. Burgum 'shadows' student at Beulah High School

May 3, 2018

Gov. Doug Burgum participated in the “Shadow a Student” challenge by shadowing a student at Beulah High School Wednesday (5-2-18).

He spent the day shadowing junior Phoebe Garman. Burgum attended classes and talked with students and teachers at Beulah.

Burgum said a big takeaway from his day is that there are dedicated teachers and administrators, trying to do the best job they can in educating students.

Donnell Preskey / ND Association of Counties

The North Dakota Department of Human Services is working on a “social services redesign project.”

As part of that effort, the Department held a workshop in Bismarck on “Increasing Efficiency and Effectiveness in State Government.” (5/1/18)

The workshop featured Utah Office of Management and Budget Executive Director Kristen Cox.

"Significant improvement is possible," Cox said in an interview with Prairie Public. "Less is more. And tools exist to achieve the ambitions targets that they set."

'Real ID' rolling out in ND

May 1, 2018

03023 Real ID                                                          5-1-18 ddt

North Dakota’s Department of Transportation has begun issuing “Real ID” at its Bismarck driver’s license office.

"A 'Real ID' is a credential that meets the standards the federal government set," said DOT Driver's License Division director Glenn Jackson. "The credential can be used for boarding aircraft, entry to federal facilities, military installations, things like that."

Members of the state Board of Higher Education aren’t happy with the budget guidelines Governor Burgum issued to state agencies, to help them prepare for the 2019-2021 biennium.

But the chairman of the board is urging some caution in making a response.

Burgum’s budget guidelines call for a 10 percent reduction in state spending for the colleges and universities – a $51 million reduction – plus an additional 3 percent as a contingency cut – another $15 million. That’s on top of the $106 million cut from higher-ed in the 2017 biennium.

Dave Thompson / Prairie Public

A representative of a group studying North Dakota’s behavioral health system says the state needs to invest more in prevention programs.

Dr. Bevin Croft of the Human Services Research Institute presented a number of findings and recommendations to the Legislature’s interim Human Services Committee.

"Compared to the resources being spent on treatment services, there's a relative scarcity of funds for both prevention and early intervention," Croft told the committee. "Many stakeholders saw it as a missed opportunity."

North Dakota Insurance Commissioner Jon Godfread said Congressional inaction on the Affordable Care Act is putting states like North Dakota in a difficult position.

Godfread said it appears Congress has put any “repeal and replace” efforts on Obamacare on the “back burner” – and he doubts anything will happen before the November election.

"That leaves it to the states to come up with some creative solutions on how we address our health care market," Godfread said.

Godfread said there are major challenges in health insurance.

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