Politics & Government

Smoking ban could be headed to the Nov. ballot

Aug 2, 2012
Dave Thompson / Prairie Public

Supporters of a law to ban smoking in all public places in North Dakota say they have more than enough signatures to get the measure on the ballot.

Smoke Free ND turned in petitions with more than 21.000 signatures to the Secretary of State. The group needs just over 13,000 valid signatures to get in on the November ballot.

Chancellor's plans to expand staff meeting resistance

Jul 30, 2012

The new Chancellor of the North Dakota University System is facing some resistance to his plan to add 30 staffers to the system office.

Ham Shrirvani says many of the new staff would be compliance officers – to help make sure the campuses are following policy.

"Whatever policy we put together, it has to be monitored," Shirvani told the Legislative Audit and Fiscal Review Committee. "That's the reason we need compliance officers in the Chancellor's office. Establishing a policy is one thing -- monitoring it is something else."

Dave Thompson / Prairie Public

The new Chancellor of the North Dakota University System says his office will be looking at the student fees at the state’s public colleges and universities – in terms of what’s charged and how the funds are used.

This comes in the wake of a performance audit report of student fees at NDSU and UND. The report says some of the money was spent of such things as first class airline tickets to India for an NDSU dean, purchase of iPads and t-shirts at UND, and to fatten up some reserve funds.

More UND Med School grads staying in ND

Jul 25, 2012

The dean of the University of North Dakota Medical School says over the past few years, more med school graduates have decided to stay and practice in North Dakota.

Doctor Joshua Wynne told the Legislature’s interim Health Services Committee – about 71 percent of the med school grads stay in-state. Wynne says that’s due, in part, to an increase in the number of residencies the Legislature approved two years ago.

The state Tax Department is trying to hire sales tax auditors in Dickinson and Minot.

But so far, the Department hasn’t had a lot of luck.

"Part of it is wages," said Tax Commissioner Cory Fong. "In some cases, we're competing with other state agencies that can offer more money.  We're also competing with the private sector."

Fong also said cost-of-living is an issue. He said housing shortages in the two cities has become a major issue."

"You almost have to look for people who already have a place to live," Fong said. "That limits your pool, you know."

PERS to seek continuation of recovery program

Jul 17, 2012

The head of North Dakota’s Public Employees Retirement System says the 2013 Legislature will be asked to implement the second half of a pension recovery plan.

Sparb Collins says the 2008 downturn in the financial markets meant that 30 years out, the system would be out of money. Collins says PERS  proposed a recovery plan to the 2011 Legislature.

All eyes, ears on the US Senate race in ND? Maybe

Jul 17, 2012

The ads are airing – the pollsters are polling – and the pundits are practicing punditry. But are people paying attention?

Mark  Springer is a political science professor at Bismarck’s Universityof Mary. He says while there are a lot of ads airing, especially in the Senate race between Rick Berg and Heidi Heitkamp, there’s a lot more to come – especially after Labor Day.

EU Ambassador Visits North Dakota

Jun 21, 2012

The European Union Ambassador to the United States is spending some time in North Dakota as he tries to learn more about the U-S – outside the Washington DC belt-way...

"North Dakota is a very important state with a booming economy, I'd like to know why. I'd like to understand better."

João Vale De Almeida says the trip will include visits to the North Dakota Trade Office, North Dakota State University, and with leaders in Fargo, Bismarck -- and Lisbon…

"Because I was born and raised in Lisbon -- Lisbon, Portugal. And I want to meet Lisbon, North Dakota."

PSC mulling lawsuit response

Jun 21, 2012

The Public Service Commission is working on its response to two lawsuits brought by environmental groups. More from Prairie Public's Dave Thompson.

The Dakota Resource Council has sued Commission members – saying those elected commissioners should be disqualified from regulating companies from which they have taken campaign contributions. The DRC and Sierra Club have also sued Interior Secretary Ken Salazar to force the feds to take over North Dakota’s coal reclamation program, for the same reason.

Administrative law judge tapped for PSC

Jun 21, 2012

An administrative law judge has been named to the North Dakota Public Service Commission. As Prairie Public's Dave Thompson reports, Gov. Jack Dalrymple appointed Bonny Fetch to serve out the rest of Tony Clark’s term.

Clark resigned last week to join the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. Clark was up for re-election this year, but decided not to seek another term.

Fetch has been a state employee for 40 years, and has been with the Office of Administrative Hearings since it was established in 1991. Fetch says she has been an ALJ for several PSC cases.