Politics & Government

New state revenue forecast coming at the end of Oct.

Sep 28, 2017
Office of Management and Budget

There will be an updated North Dakota state revenue forecast.

It will most likely be available toward the end of October.

"In the past, we always did three revenue forecasts per biennium," said state Office of Management and Budget director Pam Sharp. "But in light of everything that's going on, we've decided we should do four in a biennium."

Sharp said the new forecast is important, in light of drought conditions over parts of North Dakota. But she said it’s also a good practice to have more frequent forecast updates.

ND University System

The North Dakota University System is seeing growth in the use of “open educational resources.”

"In its simplest form, it's electronic versions of textbooks," said NDUS vice-chancellor for academic and student affairs Richard Rothaus. "But its more exciting form includes multi-media, video simulations, games, links to historic documents -- the whole gamut of pulling in what is out there that is available and free."

Rothaus said the Legislature invested $100,000 in promoting the use of OER in college classes.

The leader of a group to put a measure on the ballot to repeal North Dakota’s Sunday “blue law” says his group is on track to make its goal.

Brandon Medenwald is a Fargo businessman who heads “North Dakota Open on Sundays.” He wants to get rid of the law that now prohibits most retailers from being open before noon Sundays.

"We've been out now for about 8 or 9 weeks,'" Medenwald said. "If I had to guess, we're somewhere between 12 and 15 percent completed."

The issue was brought up in the 2017 Legislature. It passed the House, but was rejected in the Senate.

ND University System

The state Board of Higher Education’s Budget and Finance Committee has given the okay to NDSU’s new tuition model for fall 2018.

The model says students will be charged per-credit hour. That amount would be capped after 13 hours, meaning anything over that would not come with a cost. And NDSU officials say that will help encourage students to finish their degrees faster.

ND Grain Growers Assoc.

An interim Legislative committee has begun a study of vomitoxin.

That’s a fungus that affects small grain crops – and can render the crop useless.

"It's cost billions of dollars over the past three or four decades," said North Dakota Grain Growers executive director Dan Wogsland. "Not just to farmers, but to elevator operators, end users and everything else."

Wogsland said in 2016, vomitoxin was a serious problem in the durum crop.

ND Association of Counties

The executive director of the North Dakota Association of Counties says you’ll see some differences in your property tax bills this fall.

Mark Johnson said the 12 percent buy down is gone. Johnson says with the slowdown in the oil industry, state lawmakers decided the state could no longer afford that.

"Legislators said that on the floor," Johnson said in an interview. "They said it's probably not sustainable."

Johnson said at the time the 12 percent buydown passed, legislators wanted to, as Johnson put it, "Share the abundance we had for a couple of years."

Dave Thompson / Prairie Public

State school superintendent Kirsten Baesler has launched a new “strategic visioning process” – with a goal of strengthening public education in North Dakota.

Baesler said this will involve various state educational agencies and education groups.

"There are a lot of things going on right now in North Dakota," Baesler said. "Each agency is working very hard."

But Baesler said right now,the agencies are going in their own direction.

Dave Thompson / Prairie Public

The director of the North Dakota Corrections Department’s Division of Juvenile Services wants to change the conversation about measuring whether the state is doing a good job with rehabilitating youth.

"I am a little passionate about the notion of positive youth outcomes," Lisa Bjergaard said in an interview.

Bjergaard said all too often, the success of a program in corrections is measure by the rate of recidivism – that is, people who go through the system, but later re-offend.

ND Legislature

An interim Legislative committee has begun its study of health insuarnce for public employees.

Sanford Health has the current contract to provide that insurance. But the Interim Health Care Reform Review Committee is looking at the possibility of adopting a “self-insurance” plan for North Dakota public employees. Right now, the state has a “hybrid plan” – which combines elements of a fully-paid plan with self-insurance.

Interim committee studying juvenile justice reform

Sep 14, 2017
Dave Thompson / Prairie Public

An interim Legislative committee has begun its study of the juvenile justice system.

Members of the Justice Reinvestment Committee are hoping that some of the juveniles who now go through the court system will be able to be diverted into community-based treatment programs.

The Department of Corrections Director of the Division of Juvenile Services, Lisa Bjergaard, said some work toward that reform is already underway, thanks to the study done two years ago, and the recommendations that came from the Council of State Governments.