Politics & Government

Dave Thompson / Prairie Public

State auditor Josh Gallion said the Governor’s office needs more transparency in its reasons for using state airplanes for travel.

The three planes are in the Department of Transportation budget. The budget for air travel is $2.1 million for the biennium for all state agencies.

Gallion told the Legislative Audit and Fiscal Review Committee that reasons for some of the trips both current Gov.Doug Burgum and former Gov. Jack Dalrymple took were not clearly spelled out.

The US Department of Labor recently issued its Final rule on Association Health Plans. 

The rule will allow associations to sponsor group health coverage,

And North Dakota Insurance Commissioner Jon Godfread believes it will help some people find affordable health insurance. Godfread said this will help a segment of the population that he believes was overlooked in the Affordable Care Act.

The US Supreme Court has ruled states and local government can require Internet retailers to collect sales taxes.

The 5 to 4 ruling reverses a 1992 decision, in which the court ruled a retailer had to have a physical presence in that state to collect sales taxes.

North Dakota US Senator Heidi Heitkamp (D) was North Dakota’s Tax Commissioner at that time. She took that first case to court – it was called “Quill versus North Dakota.”

Dave Thompson / Prairie Public

Members of the group “North Dakotans for Public Integrity” submitted petitions Monday to place what the group calls the "Anti-Corruption Amendment" to the state Constitution on the November ballot.

The group needed 26,904 valid signatures to get the measure on the ballot.

"I'm honored to announce that over 38,000 petitioners are on the record to place the North Dakota Anti-Corruption amendment on the November ballot," the group's co-chair, Ellen Chaffee, told a rally on the state Capitol steps in Bismarck.

Highway funding option: 'Property Tax'

Jun 8, 2018
Dave Thompson / Prairie Public

The chief financial officer of the North Dakota Department of Transportation told a Legislative interim committee transportation funding is recovering from the economic downturn in the oil and agriculture industries.

"In fact, we are slightly ahead of projections," Shannon Sauer told the interim Government Services Committee.

The projection for the 2019-2021 biennium is $1.29 billion in total transportation revenue. That’s up from $1.27 billion in the current two year period.

But federal highway funding is remaining flat.

Dave Thompson / Prairie Public

North Dakota’s Department of Transportation will be proposing increases in driver’s license fees and motor vehicle registration fees in the 2019 Legislature.

DOT representatives presented that to the Legislature’s interim Government Finance Committee.

Right now, the fee for a “Class D” driver’s license – the one most people have – is $15 for six years. DOT says driver’s license fees haven’t been raised since the 1980s, and don’t cover the costs.

As the President and Congress discuss a new infrastructure plan, it appears the funding formula may change in terms of federal highway dollars.

It used to be that 80 percent would come from the feds, and 20 percent would be a state match. Now what’s being talked about is 80 percent from state and local sources, including public-private partnerships, with 20 percent being the federal share.

"I actually, at some level, welcome that," said North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum. "That gives us more local decision-making, and it can free us from federal regulations."

Dave Thompson / Prairie Public

Minot’s city manager said after years of low property taxes, the city was forced to raise property taxes substantially in 2017.

The oil boom brought with it substantial growth in city sales taxes, and increases in property valuation. That allowed the city to drop its mill levy in 2011. But city manager Tom Barry told the legislature’s interim Taxation Committee – a number of things happened when the oil play slowed down.

SCHSC

The South Central Human Service Center in Jamestown is opening a satellite office in Valley City.

Center director Dan Cramer said it will mean Valley City-area people will have greater access to behavioral health services. Cramer said a steering group in Valley City raised some issues concerning those services.

"One of the issues identified is a barrier that exists with transportation, for folks having trouble getting to Jamestown," Cramer said. "Also, just a general need for mental health and addiction treatment in the community."

Secretary of State's office

In the wake of the Republican-endorsed candidate for North Dakota Secretary of State withdrawing his name from the ballot, incumbent Secretary of State Al Jaeger  has decided to run.

But he will run as an independent.

Jaeger said state law does not specifically address this kind of situation – when an endorsed candidate voluntarily withdraws.

"I'll need 1000 signatures on a petition," Jaeger said. "They will have to be filed before Sept. 4th. That option is what exists in state law."

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