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Monday, May 01, 2017



THE 65TH LEGISLATIVE ASSEMBLY in ND is winding down. Retired GF Herald publisher Mike Jacobs, who is covering the legislative session, issued his preliminary conclusions. First, he observed that “the Legislature has taken a significant turn to the right” in the form of the Bastiat Caucus, a group whose mission Jacobs described as “Make government smaller.” He also said this year’s Legislature acted with a distinct bias towards higher education brought on by a “loss of confidence” attributable to perceived “bad management” at the universities. On the plus side, Jacobs noted a greater willingness to address issue related to behavioral health (mental illness).

THE BIESIOT ACTIVITIES CENTER at Dickinson State University has debt which hangs like a cloud over the university, according to Senate Majority Leader Rich Wardner. DSU is a defendant in a lawsuit brought by banks which own the debt. That is the reason Wardner, a Dickinson resident, proposed legislation transferring funds intended for the T. Roosevelt Presidential Library to pay the $3.1 million BAC debt. Another $4.8 million would be transferred from TRPL money to bailout DSU operations. A Senate committee passed the bill, but the House found it too cozy and the bill was revamped.

THE UND LAW SCHOOL is considered one of the most affordable law schools in the nation -- tuition does not differ significantly from that for UND undergraduates. A reduction in state support is forcing the school to cut important programs. Dean Kathryn Rand says affordability needs to be balanced with quality and believes the law school should consider raising its tuition. UND President Mark Kennedy agrees: “Current tuition rates at the school are ‘not rational nor sustainable’ and said he didn't believe it was in the best interest of the program to be known as the lowest priced law school in the country.”

NORTHERN PLAINS NITROGEN was a $2.5 billion twinkle in the eyes of ND corn growers. The 2013 idea was to pipe Bakken natural gas to Grand Forks and convert it into nitrogen fertilizer. The project was unable to attract investors and low farm commodity prices further reduced feasibility. Bret Weber, a member of the GF City Council, hated to see the opportunity slip away. He would like to fund the project from what is becoming the Mother of All Dreams, the ND Legacy Fund.

THE NEWSPAPER BUSINESS remains under stress and there is a constant need to find efficiencies. The Jamestown Sun announced reductions in the size of its paper and now the Grand Forks Herald is making cuts in its news staff. Also, parent Forum Communications announced tentative plans to consolidate its GF real estate by selling either the Herald building or the WDAZ-TV studio. Staff would be combined in the remaining building. Herald publisher Korrie Wenzel said they need “to do more with less.”

DOLLAR DOUG DEAL That's the name columnist Rob Port gave to a legislative amendment to reduce Gov. Doug Burgum’s salary (at his request) to $1. The bill seemed headed for passage.

IT DIDN’T HAPPEN In January, there were dire predictions that Devils Lake would rise four feet to a new record. It now looks like the rise will be only two feet -- a sweet spot for the lake that is one of the country’s premier fishing destinations. The Woodland Resort with rooms for 180 people is the largest resort, but many other smaller resorts and 1,500 campgrounds serve anglers. In 1993, the lake was 56,000 acres, today, it’s over 200,000 acres.

SENDING MONEY TO ND “My point then was that just 6.8 percent of Heitkamp’s itemized, individual contributions and just 2.67 percent of her total 2017 Q1 campaign haul, came from North Dakota residents.” -- Columnist Rob Port. Why do the vast majority of Heitkamp’s donations come from out of state? At least two reasons: First, she is seen as a vulnerable candidate and her re-election is critical to Democrats in the Senate. Secondly, with ND’s relatively small population, it is less expensive to influence elections there than in most other states.

MINOT AIR FORCE BASE is one of a kind. It’s the most intensely nuclear base in the U.S. military with both bombers and missiles that employ nuclear weapons. The Pentagon is beginning a nuclear posture review which could impact the Minot AFB. The review will determine nuclear strategy for the next five to ten years.

BUSY BORDER Victor Omoruyi is charged with smuggling nine Nigerian nationals for $2,000 each from Minot into Canada and then transporting other illegal African aliens from Canada to ND. Omoruyl’s wife met the Nigerians on the Canadian side -- she is being charged by Canadian authorities. Their arrests are the result of of a joint U.S.-Canadian enforcement team.

BACKFIRE Nearly 2,000 people have crossed illegally into Canada since January hoping to receive more lenient treatment for asylum. They may have miscalculated. Many of their cases have been rejected by Canadian courts. Reuters said, “Canadian refugee tribunals are wary of ‘asylum-shopping’ and look askance at people coming from one of the world's richest countries to file claims.” The immigrants may have been better off pursuing their asylum cases in the U.S.

MINNEAPOLIS is well known for its network of skyways (enclosed bridges between downtown buildings) which take pedestrian traffic off the streets. Eric Dayton, a member of the Dayton retailing family, says the skyways create empty streets and vacant storefronts, rob the downtown of vitality and make streets less safe. Dayton says “bring down the skyways.”

DAKTOIDS The U. of Mary in Bismarck is the fastest growing university in the state. Enrollment grew 11 percent in 2016 -- more than 50 percent of the 3,250 students are from out of state . . . The Fargo area has about six percent (4,700) of the nation’s 77,000 Liberian-born residents, many have moved to Fargo from other regions . . . The Army Corps of Engineers says it’s going ahead with the F-M Flood Diversion project, lawsuits be damned, because federal law trumps state (MN) opposition.


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