Politics & Government

Dave Thompson / Prairie Public

A representative of a group studying North Dakota’s behavioral health system says the state needs to invest more in prevention programs.

Dr. Bevin Croft of the Human Services Research Institute presented a number of findings and recommendations to the Legislature’s interim Human Services Committee.

"Compared to the resources being spent on treatment services, there's a relative scarcity of funds for both prevention and early intervention," Croft told the committee. "Many stakeholders saw it as a missed opportunity."

North Dakota Insurance Commissioner Jon Godfread said Congressional inaction on the Affordable Care Act is putting states like North Dakota in a difficult position.

Godfread said it appears Congress has put any “repeal and replace” efforts on Obamacare on the “back burner” – and he doubts anything will happen before the November election.

"That leaves it to the states to come up with some creative solutions on how we address our health care market," Godfread said.

Godfread said there are major challenges in health insurance.

"It's a starting point."

That's how Sen. Ray Holmberg (R-Grand Forks), the chairman of the North Dakota Senate Appropriations Committee, characterizes the budget guidelines laid out to state agencies.

Burgum has called for more reductions – 5 percent for smaller agencies, 10 percent for the larger ones, plus a five percent reduction in state government workers. K-12 education and Medicaid are spared cuts.

Holmberg said a lot can happen between now and the 2019 Legislature.

Gov. Burgum releases budget guidelines for 2019-2021

Apr 18, 2018
Dave Thompson / Prairie Public

Gov. Doug Burgum has given state agencies their budget guidelines for the 2019-2021 biennium.

This comes on the heels of the significant budget reductions enacted by the 2017 Legislature, where the budget was balanced by cutting general fund spending from $6 billion to $4.3 billion.

"It was paired with the use of every available dollar from various savings and reserve accounts," Burgum told the department heads. "We have to continue to pursue a vision of a leaner and more responsive state government."

ND Tax Dept.

The US Supreme Court will hear a case tomorrow (Tuesday, 4-17-18) that could force Internet retailers to start collecting state sales taxes.

The case comes from South Dakota.  It attempts to reverse the decision in the earlier “Quill” case from North Dakota. “Quill” sold office supplies through catalogs. The high court would not allow North Dakota and other states to require the collection of sales taxes from retailers that don’t have a physical presence in that state.  The justices ruled that it would be extremely difficult to collect sales taxes in different states.

City of Minot

The state Water Commission has reallocated just over $11 million from the flood protection efforts in the city of Minot to do work outside the city.

Construction on the first three phases of the project is underway in Minot.

Souris River Water Board representative Ryan Ackerman told the Water Commission the budget for those three phases was about $120 million.

"The bids came in roughly around $100 million," Ackerman said. "We had the savings of $20 million."

The state share is roughly 65 percent of that, or about $11 million.

Using electricity to produce ammonia

Apr 10, 2018

The project is called “Low Pressure Electrolytic Ammonia Production.”

And it has received support from the federal Department of Energy.

The key is to use electricity to produce ammonia. The Energy and Environmental Research Center at UND is partnering with UND’s Chemistry Department and NDSU Mechanical Engineering to look at ways of using electricity – specifically in this case, wind power – to produce ammonia.

"I guess it's electricity-agnostic," said EERC Chemist and researcher Ted Aulich. "It could be renewable, or from the grid. It doesn't matter."

Dave Thompson / Prairie Public

A state Senator from Casselton is hoping the 2019 Legislature will keep the Public Service Commission’s rail safety program.

That program was set up as a pilot project. And it expires next year, unless the legislature re-authorizes it.

Sen. Gary Lee (R-Casselton) helped get the program approved by the Legislature.  He said he thinks the two inspectors have done good work.

"They will need to prove that to the Legislature," Lee said. "I do think they do good work, and have some things they do. I think we will be satisfied with the work they've done."

Cramer: Cool the 'hysteria' over Chinese tariffs

Apr 9, 2018
Rep. Cramer's office

The potential for Chinese tariffs on US agriculture products has some growers upset.

That’s especially true of soybean growers, because China is a very big customer.

China would impose those tariffs because the US is imposing tariffs on some Chinese goods, to try and chop into the US trade deficit with China.

Rep. Kevin Cramer (R-ND), the GOP candidate for US Senate, said he thinks the hysteria needs to be ratcheted back.

10 apply for Board of Higher Education

Apr 5, 2018

Ten people have applied to be on the Board of Higher Education.

Two spots are available. One current board member whose term is up, Kevin Melicher of Fargo, has applied to serve a second four-year term.  Mike Ness was eligible for a second term, but did not apply.