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Wednesday, January 23, 2019


MEGAKOTA was the name jokingly included in an online petition to combine ND and SD.  The petition has over 10,000 signers.  St. Paul journalist David Montgomery analyzed the economic effects of a merger.  His bottom line was that the new state would have a more diverse economy and a larger, but no more diverse population.  Demographically and politically there would be little change.  A merged state would be the 4th largest in area, 40th in population and 37th in GDP.
MUCH ALIKE  Sioux Falls is the largest city in SD — it’s 1/4 larger than Fargo, but the metro populations are both close to 250,000.  Rapid City and Bismarck, the second largest cities in each state, have similar populations.  The population center of a merged state would be a little west of Aberdeen.  American Indians are a larger percent of SD’s population than ND’s, so a combined state would be about seven percent Indian.

WOULD THEY SHARE?  ND has less to gain from a merger than SD.  SD’s financial services industry and tourism must be weighed against the potential of ND’s energy industry.  Both states are financially stable, but ND has billions in growing rainy day funds (made possible by oil), which it might not be eager to share.  Montgomery concluded that the loss of two U.S. Senate seats with little compensating benefit would by itself defeat a merger.

LEGACY FUND EARNINGS  Columnist Rob Port held a podcast interview with Gov. Doug Burgum.  The governor voiced two strong positions:  He wants the Legislature to allocate $50 million of Legacy earnings for the T. Roosevelt Library in Medora.  Burgum believes national organizations will raise $100 million to match the $50 million, and the state will be wise to capture the combined $150 million investment for the Dickinson area.  He was adamantly opposed to using Legacy earnings for short-term purposes, for example, to reduce taxes.
WESTERN GOVERNORS ASSOCIATION  Gov. Burgum will become the WGA chair in June and will welcome new governor’s from Minnesota and South Dakota.  Burgum has business with each — with MN Gov. Tim Walz, it’s the F-M flood diversion project; with SD Gov. Kristi Noem, it’s the two Indian reservations which straddle their states.

“NEW ECONOMY”  UND President Mark Kennedy said a “new economy” is coming and ND is “not well prepared.”  He addressed a ND House Appropriations Committee about technology advances and the need to maintain funding at UND to meet the challenge.  He said automation will reduce jobs in the oil and ag industries.  “We do believe UND and North Dakota are at an inflection point between sinking and swimming,” Kennedy told the committee.
PRIVATE LAND IN ND is open unless posted — that’s the law.  Hunters like it — property owners don’t.  A GF Herald editorial advocates a common sense law “that assumes private land is closed to hunting and all other entry.”
FLARE OR STORE?  The ND Industrial Commission had the UND Research Center study the feasibility of storing excess natural gas underground.   Director of Mineral Resources Lynn Helms says the study shows “the economics aren’t great,” but capture is feasible under the right circumstances.  Simulated recovery rates after five years range from 25 percent to 74 percent.  Complex issues associated with underground storage create a legal thicket.  Underground storage is being considered because of the high rate of flaring due to inadequate gas infrastructure.

MEDICAL MARIJUANA DISPENSARIES are coming to ND.  Permits have been issued in Bismarck-Mandan, Fargo, Grand Forks and Williston.  The Dept. of Health is seeking applications for licenses in Jamestown, Devils Lake, Dickinson and Minot where dispensaries could be opened as soon as February.

TEEN BIRTHS  The Center for Decease Control reported “North Dakota’s teen birth rate (per 1,000 births) was significantly better than the national average in 2005 — 29.7 compared to 40.5 — but by 2016, the most recent comparative figures available, equaled the national rate, 20.3, a position reflecting the higher rate of declines in some other states.”  ND’s rate is lower than Montana (23.7) and SD (25.1), but higher than Minnesota (12.6).

TAMMY WINS LOTTERY  “Edland plans to use the winnings to remodel her kitchen, buy a truck for her husband and pay off farm equipment.” — The ND Lottery announced Tammy Edland of McHenry had won $1 million, the largest prize won in Powerball online play.

TWO-IN-ONE OBITUARY  The obituary of Virgil Rude (83) of Minot gives you a surprise.  It describes an education career which began in Bottineau in 1953 when he taught rural school just after graduating from high school.  After several years earning a teaching certificate, he gained bachelor and masters degrees.  All the while advancing with the Minot Public Schools for 25 years.  Here’s the surprise — the obituary began anew describing a parallel military career, which also began when he was just out of high school and involved active duty, advanced training and eventual promotion to colonel.  He retired from both professions in 1995, but held post-retirement positions in both.

GREAT WHITE HUNTER  Jerry Hennessy has been indicted for tax evasion and a $5.5 million fraud which brought down the Ashby Minnesota Farmers Elevator.  The public has been treated to photos of his properties and the big game trophies they house, including a tiger, other African animals and mountain goats.  Hennessy's property and big game hunting was financed by fraud money and he often recorded the thefts as “purchases of soybeans, wheat or corn.”

SHRIMP SHUN MINNESOTA  The town of Luverne, MN, thought it had sewed up a deal for a $350 million indoor shrimp farm, but it was not to be.  The facility goes to Madison, SD, a town of 7,400 northwest of Sioux Falls.  The issue was cost and delay caused by Minnesota regulations.  Tim Walz, Minnesota’s new governor, acknowledged problems with taxes and regulations in a speech to the MN Chamber of Commerce and Minnesota lawmakers expressed frustration with unnecessary policies.

DAKTOIDS:  ND’s congressional delegation supports barriers on the Mexican border . . . Sen. Hoeven has been re-elected chair of the Indian Affairs Committee . . . The Block 9 high-rise being built in Fargo will have condos ranging from $1.7 million to $3.8 million — a penthouse is estimated at about $7 million . . . A Star Tribune columnist says Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Nick Foles will probably be traded and NDSU’s Carson Wentz will be next year’s starter . . . Former U.S. Sen. Heidi Heitkamp has joined CNBC as a contributor.

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