Politics & Government

Dave Thompson / Prairie Public

Another impact of the drought in south-central North Dakota.

The developer of a wind farm and new transmission line in Oliver County will delay replanting of trees and shrubs affected by the development. That replanting is required by the Public Service Commission.

Oliver Wind III, LLC will delay planting until next year.

Commissioner Julie Fedorchak said the delay is a good idea.

"They were concerned there would be a low survivability of the trees and shrubs they did plant," Fedorchak said. "That's because of the lack of rain and drought conditions."

ND University System

A job change in the University System office.

Lisa Feldner has been the chief of staff to Chancellor Mark Hagerott, as well as the System’s information technology director. She will now just handle IT.

"Because of the urgent needs we have in cyber-security, and she was an architect for the North Dakota research network some years ago, as well as in high-performacnce computing, I've put her focus on those things," Hagerott said.

Hagerott said there’s a lot to do in that regard.

DHS

Some Legislators have raised questions about the Department of Human Services’ decision to end contracts with two Red River Valley organizations that provide recreational services for clients with developmental disabilities.

Red River Human Services Foundation of Fargo and Listen, Inc. from Grand Forks each had received two year contracts worth $75,000 each. But the two providers’ contracts were not renewed.

DHS director Chris Jones said in one section of the Department’s budget bill, DHS was told to find $650,000 in contract reductions.

Sorel named new NDDOT director

Jul 9, 2017

Gov. Doug Burgum has named former Minnesota Department of Transportation Commissioner Thomas Sorel as the head of North Dakota’s Department of Transportation.

He replaces Grant Levi, who retired in May.

Sorel is currently the chief operating officer of the Minnesota Trucking Association. In an interview, Sorel said he’s excited about the new job. He said he realizes there are challenges, especially in funding for road projects.

AGC-ND

This year’s road construction season in North Dakota is a little less busy that it has been during the oil boom years.

"With the one-time funding, the surge bills of previous sessions, those were record-setting times," said Association of General Contractors of North Dakota executive vice-president Russ Hanson. "With the slowdown in the economy, the Legislature simply couldn't afford to continue that."

Hanson said the budget for roads this year is around $470 million – down from the $600 to $800 million of the boom years.

Healthcare: Meetings and rally

Jul 7, 2017
Dave Thompson / Prairie Public

A day for health care discussions in Bismarck.

It ended with a rally in Bismarck's Custer Park. It was organized by the AFL-CIO and Indivisible Bismarck.

Those attending waived signs and chanted. The group wants the GOP healthcare bills scrapped.

"They are presenting America with an immoral choice," Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND) told the rally. "They are bills that are telling us that we need the biggest tax break in the history of forever for the richest Americans, so we can take 22 million Americans off of health care."

Commerce dept.

North Dakota’s Commerce Commissioner said he welcomes the challenge to diversify North Dakota’s economy.

Jay Schuler has been at Commerce since January. He was appointed by Governor Burgum to take the reins after former Commerce Commissioner Al Anderson retired.

"My background is starting new businesses, adding value, being a disruptor," Schuler said in an interview. "That's what I want to continue."

Schuler said one of his main tasks is to keep college graduates in North Dakota.

ND Attorney General's office

It hasn’t yet been filed – but a potential legal dispute still looms over some of Governor Burgum’s line item vetoes following the 2017 Legislative Session.

The last time there was a legal clash between the two branches happened in 1977. It involved then-Lieutenant Governor Wayne Sanstead (D), and the power of the Lieutenant Governor to break ties in the Senate.

ND Tax Dept.

North Dakota Tax Commissioner Ryan Rauschenberger said he hopes Congress or the courts will start allowing states to collect sales taxes from Internet retailers.

Some of the retailers do submit sales taxes to North Dakota. Under state law, if the retailer doesn’t do it, the customer is supposed to pay. But that law is widely ignored, and not enforced.

The question last came up in the “Quill v. North Dakota” case. That case went to the US Supreme Court.

Rauschenberger: Taxable sales down, but leveling off

Jun 30, 2017
ND Tax Dept.

North Dakota taxable sales and purchases were down 5 percent for the first quarter of 2017, compared to the first three months of 2016.

"We are basically at our 2011 levels right now," said Tax Commissioner Ryan Rauschenberger.

Taxable sales and purchases for the quarter were nearly $3.7 billion. The largest sector – retail trade – was at $1.3 billion. Rauschenberger said retail sales dropped slightly – but it was a much smaller decline than in the past few years.

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