Politics & Government

House passes 'self insurance' bill

Mar 30, 2017
ND Legislature

The House has approved a bill to have the state adopt a self-insurance health plan for state employees.

Right now, Sanford Health is the insurance carrier. It has a contract until 2019. The bill would end the contract by January 2018. Supporters say adopting a self-insurance pan would save the state $12 million, and employees would not see a change in coverage.

"We have a responsibility to our hard working public employees to get them the best health care coverage possible," said Rep. Mike Lefor (R-Dickinson). "That's the number one goal"

Dave Thompson / Prairie Public

A North Dakota Public Service Commissioner is joining a national conversation about infrastructure development in the wake of the controversies and protests of the Dakota Access Pipeline.

Julie Fedorchak said she was approached at a recent meeting in Louisiana to participate in this effort. Fedorchak said the protests will likely be a “new normal” when it comes to infrastructure development.

Governor Burgum's First Veto Being Challenged

Mar 29, 2017

With bi-partisan support, members of the North Dakota House overturned Governor Burgum’s first legislative veto. Reporter Todd McDonald has details...

ND Legislature

The Legislature is getting closer to creating a separate “Department of Environmental Quality.”

This kind of state regulation of water and air quality is now in the state Health Department. Supporters of the new department say it would move existing employees of the Health Department into the new agency – and the head of that agency would be appointed by the Governor.

It passed the House 69 to 23. Rep. Shannon Roers-Jones (R-Casselton)  said the Health Department’s Environmental Health Section has become the first line of defense against federal regulatory overreach.

Senate rejects 'Guns in Schools" bill

Mar 29, 2017
ND Legislature

The state Senate has defeated a bill that would have allowed school employees to carry a gun – if they work in schools 30 miles or more from law enforcement.

The bill would have set up a pilot program. The school’s administration and school board would have approval power, and the employee would have to undergo firearms training.

"The bill doesn't mandate anything," said Sen. Diane Larson (R-Bismarck). "It only allows a limited number of schools to choose ton participate in this two year pilot."

Governor's office

The former mayor of Watford City says even with the downturn in oil drilling in the Bakken, cities like Watford City, Williston and Dickinson are still larger than they were pre-boom.

Brent Sanford is now North Dakota’s Lieutenant Governor – and he spoke at the state Demographics Conference held in Bismarck this week. In an interview, Sanford said while there was rapid growth in population as the wells were drilled, there was a slower, but sustained growth in permanent oil industry employees.

The state Senate has approved a measure to put a 10-barrel floor on reportable oil spills – if they’re contained on the well pad.

Under current law, all spills are reported.

Sen. Erin Oban (D-Bismarck) opposed the bill.

"Mark my words -- if this bill passes, we're going to see a headline in a year or two that says, 'Look at how much North Dakota has reduced its oil spills,'" Oban said. "In reality, we will just have reduced what we are reporting."

Oban said the state reported 1258 spills last year -- the vast majority were 10 barrels or less.

'Real ID' bill passes Senate, headed to Gov. Burgum

Mar 28, 2017
ND Legislature

A bill for North Dakota to adopt “Real ID” is now on its way to Gov. Doug Burgum.

“Real ID” is an enhanced driver’s license. It requires more personal information to be given to the Department of Transportation.  A person would have to have “Real ID” if the person was using the driver’s license to board an airplane or get into federal buildings.

Demograpghics conference held in Bismarck

Mar 28, 2017

The second annual state Demographics Conference was held in Bismarck Monday.

It was sponsored by the UND Department of Economics and Finance, the state Health Department, North Dakota Compass at NDSU, and the state Department of Commerce. The conference looked at economic and population trends in North Dakota.

ND Legislature

A House committee has endorsed a bill to create a self-insurance plan for state employees’ health benefits.

The vote in the House Industry, Business and Labor Committee was 10 to 3 for a “do pass.”

The Committee chairman, Rep. George Keiser (R-Bismarck) said the other 49 states have self-insurance plans, as do virtually all companies employing more than 750 people.

"It is the least expensive program for the state of North Dakota," Keiser said. "It also provides the greatest flexibility."