Politics & Government

State's bond rating unchanged

Aug 3, 2017
Office of Management and Budget

Moody’s Investor Services has decided to keep North Dakota’s bond rating at AA-1.

But it's with a negative watch.

"Less than a year ago, Moody's put us on a negative watch," said Office of Management and Budget director Pam Sharp. "That means things aren't going great, so Moody's will look to see if things are getting better."

Sharp said the agency decided not to make a change.

"they're not ready to downgrade us, that's for certain," Sharp said.

Dave Thompson / Prairie Public

A special commission has begun looking at North Dakota’s initiative and referendum process.

The Initiated and Referred Measures Study Commission was created by the 2017 Legislature. And it is to make recommendations to the 2019 Legislature on any changes in laws and procedures governing those citizen-initiated ballot measures.

Dave Thompson / Prairie Public

"We are going to be starting something new in North Dakota."

That's how Sen. Ray Holmberg (R-Grand Forks) opened the first meeting of the Legislative Revenue Advisory Committee. Holmberg chairs it.

"The Legislature is going to get involved much earlier than we have ever before in the past regarding budget projections," Holmberg told the Committee.

Normally, the executive branch would issue an “official” forecast. And the Legislature would make adjustments to the assumptions as the session went on. Holmberg said this is a significant change in that procedure.

Dave Thompson / Prairie Public

More than 150 teachers from across North Dakota gathered at Bismarck's Legacy High School for a "hands-on" training session.

The session was sponsored by the National Math and Science Initiative. It was designed to give teachers some real world exercises they could use in their classrooms.

In one classroom at Legacy, teachers were asked to make boxes out of paper and adhesive tape. The goal: to estimate the volume of material the box could hold.

So far this year, 9 North Dakota school districts have declared impasse in their contract negotiations with teachers.

Once that impasse is declared, the state's Fact Finding Commission is brought in to try and held the two sides reach an agreement.

"Nine would be higher than normal," said Commission chair Dean Rummel of Dickinson. He said although K-12 funding wasn't cut in the 2017 Legislative session, it wasn't increased, either.

ND Legislature

North Dakota’s Legislative Council is still working on the parameters of a lawsuit the Legislature will likely bring against Gov. Doug Burgum for some of his line-item vetoes.

The Legislature objected to Burgum vetoing Legislative intent language without vetoing certain appropriations.

Senate Majority Leader Rich Wardner (R-Dickinson) said lawyers who are members of the Legislature are also taking a look at the issues.

"This is not a witch hunt," Wardner said. "It's simply trying to make sure people understand that these are the rules when it comes to vetoes."

VCSU carbon capture project moving ahead

Jul 24, 2017
Valley City State University

Valley City State University is making progress on a “carbon capture” project.

VCSU president Dr. Tisa Mason said the old heat plant had to be replaced, and the new heat plant is now operational. It will be ready to capture the carbon.

Mason said the university has been in discussions with partners who may buy the “activated carbon” to be captured from that heat plant. She said a “request for proposals” will soon be out, and she says she’s hoping to have some responses back in September.

The Bismarck School District has a goal of building its ending fund balance back up.

That’s a goal made a little more difficult in the present school funding environment.

While the Legislature didn’t cut state spending on K-12 education, it didn’t increase it, either. And property valuations are not expected to increase enough for the district to get a lot of extra money from property taxes.

The District right now has a $160 million budget – but a projected ending fund balance of about 6.3 percent.

Dave Thompson / Prairie Public

The state Health Department says it has so far received 9 letters of intent from people interested in submitting a proposal to become a registered “compassion center” for medical marijuana.

Under state law, a compassion center is a medical marijuana grower or manufacturing facility, or a dispensary. The law says up to two manufacturers and eight dispensaries can be established.

ND University System

North Dakota colleges will be getting a little less money from Minnesota under the tuition reciprocity agreement.

The agreement allows a Minnesota student to enroll in a North Dakota college at a tuition rate of 112-percent of what an undergraduate North Dakota student pays in tuition. For graduate students, it would be 127 percent. But because there are more Minnesota students attending North Dakota colleges than vice-versa, the state of Minnesota makes a supplement payment to help pay for the educational costs for Minnesota students.