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Wednesday, December 26, 2018

SCHMID: LOOKING BACK FROM THE LEFT COAST - DECEMBER 26 2018

HISTORIC RUN  “I’ve been involved in the most special run in the history of college football.” — Bison head football coach Chris Klieman.  NDSU overcame South Dakota State 44-21 to advance to the January national championship game against Eastern Washington in Frisco, Texas, noon Jan. 5 (ESPN2).  The Bison are going to Frisco for the seventh time in eight sessions; they have won the title game on six previous trips.
CARSON WENTZ  An injury his senior year at NDSU and three injuries with the Philadelphia Eagles are casting a cloud over the career of quarterback Carson Wentz.  I haven’t seen these exact words used, but many must be thinking “injury prone.”
A ND POLICY GUIDE  NDSU has produced a report to guide ND policy makers using a grant from George Mason University.  Here are two important policy recommendations from the report:
  • The Legislature should define the use of the multi-billion Legacy Fund, rather than leave it to changing whims.  The report noted the state has a Budget Stabilization Fund and said the Legacy Fund should not be used for that purpose.
  • The state should re-think the use of state funding to reduce property taxes and provide aid to K-12 schools.  The report’s authors said, “When we start to remove who is paying the bill from the people receiving the services, there’s not much of an accountability connection.”  They gave an example of how state aid to education in ND increased spending, but resulted in worsened outcomes.  They also recommend restraint in putting mandates on local government.
SOYBEAN FARMERS are receiving temporary help as China is again buying.  Also, the USDA is making a second round of payments that could bring some farmers to breakeven or better.
OUT WITH THE BOOKS  "Frankly, books are passé, much as I hate to say it.” — ND Supreme Court Chief Justice Gerald Vandewalle explaining why the Court Library is shifting to electronic resources.  He asked for nearly $1 million to remodel the library and improve its information technology.  Vandewalle indicated the shift is a “money saver.”  Unneeded books will be donated to worthy schools and libraries.
PENNEY PINCHING  Gov. Burgum outlined how almost every revenue element in his proposed 2019-21 budget has been designed in a conservative manner.  And he said “If there is money left over? Pension fund, or rainy day fund.”
LET THE POLITICAL BATTLE BEGIN.  Burgum's budget proposes to relocate the women’s prison from New England to the Missouri River Correctional Center in Bismarck.  Dept. of Corrections Director Leann Bertsch characterizes New England as an isolated location which can’t provide a full range of services.  New England leaders are battling back with both operational and economic reasons why the prison should not be closed.  Bertsch’s response: Her department’s “mission is really about the correctional needs of the people in its custody and so are not beholden to the economic concerns of the area.”
LEGISLATORS, HEAR OUR PLEA  “Attendees in Bismarck, Dickinson, Fargo, Grand Forks, Minot, Watford City and Williston affirmed their belief in expanded research to strengthen our core agriculture and energy industries, diversify the state’s economy, spur economic growth and create opportunities for our citizens.” — This was the pitch of NDSU President Dean Bresciano and UND President Mark Kennedy as they traveled the state together asking the state government to invest $25 million a year for four years ($100 million) to be split and used for research at their respective schools.  Their hope lies with the Legislature — Burgum’s proposed budget did not include their request.
“THE EERC is the ‘brain trust of the Bakken’ and is not just a key to the energy industry in North Dakota and the region, but the world as a whole.”— The president of the ND Petroleum Council referring to the Energy and Environmental Research Center, part of UND in Grand Forks.  Once devoted exclusively to lignite research, the EERC focuses on oil, gas and renewables, as well as coal.
THE F-M DIVERSION  The refusal of Minnesota to approve the original design has pushed the cost of the project from $2.2 billion estimated in 2015 to $2.75 billion.  Fargo residents are threatened with rising flood insurance costs and building slowdown as long as the diversion is delayed.  The Diversion Authority needs an additional $300 million each from ND and the federal government.
THE BLOOM IS OFF THE ROSE  “Using the energy in the wind isn't new in North Dakota, and the idea of harnessing wind on an industrial scale hasn't really come as a surprise. What's new is the range of opinions and the passion with which they are held.” — Columnist Mike Jacobs.  New wind projects are no longer taken for granted.  Jacobs said “wind has replaced water as the most complex and contentious public policy issue in the state.”
PARCHED IN THE BADLANDS  Curtis Eriksmoen’s Forum column began: "All day, I've faced a barren waste / Without the taste of water, cool water / Old Dan and I with throats burned dry /And souls that cry for water / Cool, clear water.”  You may recognize words from the country music standard “Cool Water” made famous by the Sons of the Pioneers and recorded by many famous artists.  The song is said to be about the real life experience of Bobby Atcher who became lost in the ND Badlands as a boy.  Old Dan was his horse and helped Atcher discover water.  Atcher later became a famous country singer.
DAKTOIDS:  ND oil and gas production reached new highs in October . . . Congress has legalized the production of hemp — it may become an important ND cash crop . . . Ag related bankruptcies have spiked in the Upper Midwest, but not in ND where they remain constant at a relatively low level . . . Meth seizures are sharply up in ND — the primary source is Mexican cartels — meth is generally distributed to ND through the Twin Cities . . . The closing of the Cargill malt plant near Jamestown last spring was a prelude to the sale of Cargill’s entire malt business to a French company.

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