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GOP Legislative leaders: Workforce is the top issue

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The new Republican Majority leaders in the North Dakota House and Senate say workforce development tops their lists of issues for the 2023 Legislature.

House Majority Leader Mike Lefor (R-Dickinson) and Senate Majority Leader David Hogue (R-Minot) were elected by their caucuses this week.

In an interview, Hogue said so far, Legislative efforts to address the workforce issue have been “half-hearted." He said the Legislature needs to be bolder in addressing that issue.

"It might have been a minor annoyance — you didn't get the great service in a restaurant, to the restaurant closing," Hogue said. "Now we see it affecting the quality of health care you get in hospitals, it's affecting the quality of education that our students get, it's affecting administering the criminal justice system. We have to do something about it, and stop saying "it's our biggest challenge," because we can do more."

Hogue said one strategy is to revitalize and refocus the state’s Labor Department. And he said he wants to establish a new Legislative committee for that issue.

"I hope to establish a new policy committee, called 'Workforce Development," Hogue said. "It will be focused on those issues."

Lefor said there are examples in North Dakota of workforce development programs that seem to work.

"The Fargo Chamber has a wonderful program called 'Ignite,'" Lefor said. "They have agreed to visit with us, and maybe move that across the state, because it's a great recruitment tool."

Lefor said hand-in-hand with that is child care.

"We have the 'Wolf Pups' program in Watford City, which takes care of about 360 kids," Lefor said. "That is a big component of workforce recruitment."

The Legislative session begins in January.

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