The North Dakota Agricultural Products Utilization Commission (APUC) will review funding requests for seven projects totaling $418,269 at its quarterly meeting February 19th at the North Dakota Department of Commerce in Bismarck. APUC is a committee of the North Dakota Department of Commerce that administers grant programs for researching and developing new and expanded uses for North Dakota agricultural products. The grants can be used for basic and applied research, marketing and utilization, farm diversification, nature based agritourism, prototype and technology and technical assistance. One of the applications to be reviewed includes a request from the Pembina/Walsh County Livestock Processing Committee. The committee is requesting $35,170 for consultant and legal fees related to fundraising and the construction process for the design, procurement and placement of equipment for the establishment of a multi-species slaughter and processing facility to provide custom meat processing services to area livestock producers and plant processed meat products to the public.
Grafton's Flood Risk Reduction Citizens Advisory Group met again Monday night at City Hall. The Group, formed to identify issues and alternatives throughout the project to remove Grafton from the 100 year floodplain, first met in June when it decided to move forward with Plan 2A, which includes a flood diversion bypass channel and tieback levee that would extend West of town on Highway 17. The Plan was discussed in greater detail Monday night as Jon Markusen from KLG and and Mike Opat from Moore Engineering explained the pros and cons of two tie back levee options that would be completed along with the 2.8 mile diversion channel included in Plan 2A. Tieback levee option 3 would entail a 12.1-mile levee and would lessen impacts as a whole but would have greater impacts to areas along the South branch of the Park River on the North Side of Highway 17. Opat said it's a real balancing act. The advisory group however favored tieback levee Option 1 with its 8.5 mile levee. Opat said Option 1 would give additional capacity and would protect the city against a flood event from the South. He said it would also have a smaller footprint that Option 3 and would make it easier to work with the State Water Commission moving forward. Grafton Mayor Chris West told the group it was pretty clear which option was the way to go. KLG's Jon Markusen said if the consensus was to go with Option 3, they would focus on that alternative when discussing local drainage with area landowners as the project progresses. Markusen said the next sages moving ahead would be to have one on one meetings with affected land owners, submit impact analysis and later provide an educational period for the general public. He said there's a few more obstacles yet to overcome but the project is coming along nicely so far. The city intends on discussing more funding options with the state when the next biennium starts in July. So far the goal is to begin construction sometime in 2016. It’s estimated the project will take 2 years to complete.
The President of the North Dakota Petroleum Marketers Association says the association is preparing to fight hard to turn back any proposed tax increases, including tobacco tax increases.
NDPMA President, Mike Rud, says the State should not support business tax increases of any kind as the state is not in need of additional revenue at this time.
Rud’s remarks come on the heels of bills introduced in the House by Representative Jon Nelson and a companion bill introduced by Senator Tim Mathern. The potential tax increases are staggering and could cause a major negative financial impact on businesses selling tobacco.
The purchaser of a single pack of cigarettes could face a tax increase of roughly 300%. The buyer of a single can of snuff could see a tax increase of nearly 350%. Rud says these potential increases are shocking and very troublesome for a number of reasons. “With the retail sector of the state’s economy hitting on all cylinders why would any legislator support throwing a wrench into the economic engine?”
The bills, if passed, could have a major impact on c-store sales in the state. Of particular concern to Rud and his members would be the large disparity in cigarette prices between his membership bordering the Native American reservations in the state. “Only one of the state’s Native American tribes currently has a tobacco compact in place with the state where reservation businesses charge tax on cigarettes. Such an unfair playing field in terms of taxes would severely hamper the ability of marketers off the reservation to compete,” Rud said.
The North Dakota Public Service Commission (PSC) has issued a cease and desist order against Grand Forks Bean Company and has requested a judge name them trustee in insolvency proceedings against the company after complaints from producers about not being paid for beans delivered to the warehouse. The PSC first received a call in November from a producer who had delivered dry edible beans to Grand Forks Bean Company in Grand Forks, N.D., and requested redelivery of the beans because the company was not able to market the product. Between Dec. 19 and Dec. 23, 2014, the PSC received claims from eight producers, all alleging that Grand Forks Bean has not been able to market or pay for the beans delivered to the company.
On Dec. 23, 2014, Grand Forks Bean and Commission Staff executed a stipulation agreeing that the bean inventory would not be sold, redelivered, or moved from the facility without the Commission’s approval. After further investigation, PSC staff reported that attempts to resolve the matter outside of a formal insolvency had not been successful. On Jan. 16, 2015, the Commission issued an Ex Parte Cease and Desist order and a notice of opportunity for hearing, ordering Grand Forks Bean cease and desist from receiving or purchasing grain, moving any grain out of the facility that may be an asset of the trust, or failing to maintain control of potential trust assets. The Commission yesterday approved a motion to file for appointment as trustee and for an Ex Parte Order to preserve trust assets until the court issues its order granting or denying the Commission’s application.
The North Dakota Public Service Commission is a constitutionally created state agency with authority to permit, site and regulate certain business activities in the state including electric and gas utilities, telecommunications companies, power plants, electric transmission lines, pipelines, railroads, grain elevators and buyers, auctioneers and clerks, commercial weighing devices, pipeline safety and coal mine reclamation. For more information, contact the Public Service Commission at (701) 328-2400 or www.psc.nd.gov.
Walsh County Commissioners awarded funds for the county's 2014 "1/2 Mill Self Help Program" yesterday. The program provides funds to cities undertaking community improvement and betterment projects. This year 11 communities requested a total $13,765. In past years commissioners have awarded between $500 and $750 to each city with the exception of last year when each community received a total of $480. Chairman Jack Karas noted the commission took some heat last year for the lower payout. Commissioner Ernie Barta said with the county giving less last year they should be able to give a little more this year. Barta then moved to provide $750 to nine of the communities and $500 to Edinburg and Fairdale who had only requested that amount. Stacie Sevigny with the Red River Regional Council told commissioners since Edinburg and Fairdale were paying for half of their $1000 improvement projects, they could not receive the full $750 grant. Barta's motion was seconded by Karen Anderson and passed unanimously.
Walsh County Sheriff Ron Jurgens discussed the need for a PREA audit of the Walsh county jail with county commissioners on Tuesday morning. PREA stands for the Prison Rape Elimination Act and Jurgens says due to recent controversy at the jail, the county is required to undergo an audit to ensure compliance with the act. The controversy stems from multiple accusations of jail officer misconduct, which led the North Dakota Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation to put the jail under close watch. There have been two main complaints, one in which an inmate died under their watch due to what some say was improper training. The second allegation involves a woman allegedly falling victim to an act of voyeurism when an officer allegedly watched her take a urine test. The audit will be conducted by the Correctional Management and Communications Group out of Florida for a cost of $3,860. Jurgens told commissioners the county has a short timeframe to complete the audit or face possible closure. Commissioners unanimously approved funding the audit. PREA standards are enforced by the U.S Department of Justice.
Budget bills. Early childhood education. A proposed new state educational foundation. A “surge” of financial support for western North Dakota school districts. There was education news aplenty in the Capitol this week, but nothing drew more attention than a proposal to require North Dakota high school students to pass a civics exam before they may graduate.
The bill, HB1087, whizzed through the House on Thursday, and Senate Education Committee Chairman Tim Flakoll scheduled a hearing for it on Monday. It may be on the governor’s desk within a week as North Dakota competes to be one of the first states to approve the measure, which is being nationally promoted by civics educators. _Kirsten Baesler, North Dakota’s superintendent of public instruction, has insisted on maximum flexibility for schools in administering the test. It is the same exam that is given to new Americans who are applying to become naturalized citizens. Members of the Class of 2016 must answer at least 60 of the test’s 100 questions correctly to pass. For the Class of 2017, the passing grade rises to 70 percent. North Dakota students may take the test as many times as needed to pass, Baesler said. It can be administered in parts, rather than all 100 questions at once, and questions can be incorporated into tests that civics teachers are already giving. The law does not require schools to report test results to the state. Superintendents and principals will be on their honor that students who graduate will have met the state requirement.
“The next generation of North Dakota students must know about the foundation of our republic,” Baesler said at the House Education Committee’s hearing on the bill.
“Ronald Reagan once said, ‘Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction,’” Baesler continued. “`We didn’t pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, and protected, and handed on for them to do the same.’”
More than two dozen bills of interest to North Dakota educators got their first hearings this week. More than 20 supporters of early childhood education packed the Senate Education Committee on behalf of legislation that earmarks $6 million for community early childhood education programs that would benefit 4-year-olds.
A coalition of groups that has often had differences over the best approach to coaxing early childhood money from the Legislature is united behind the bill. Gov. Jack Dalrymple has included the $6 million in his executive budget recommendations.
Superintendent Baesler’s proposal to set up a new North Dakota Education Foundation (SB2088) was warmly received in Senate Education. A state foundation, Baesler explained, would make donations more convenient for companies and individuals who are eager to support North Dakota public education. The money would be used to support innovative education throughout the communities in our state.
In the coming week, Senate Education will begin digging into SB2031, the Legislature’s main bill for providing state aid to schools.
Lawmakers will get their first looks at legislation to set up a school construction loan fund at the Bank of North Dakota (SB2178), an $8 million bill for schools with declining enrollment (HB1168), a proposed state aid floor for small rural schools (HB1248), limits on school district reserve funds (HB1218), and a required Department of Public Instruction study of how to expand online learning opportunities for K-12 students (HB1263).
Gov. Jack and First Lady Betsy Dalrymple held a news conference yesterday to highlight the accomplishments of the ND Cares Coalition since its inception 18 months ago. The Governor also signed an executive order officially establishing the ND Cares Coalition, a group dedicated to strengthening an accessible and seamless network of support for service members, veterans, families and survivors.
The news conference was held in conjunction with ND Cares Legislative Day at the state Capitol, where a number of coalition partners promoted their services and programs. The Governor and First Lady were joined by Sen. Dick Dever, Rep. Alan Fehr, and ND Cares co-chairs Connie Sprynczynatyk and Kathleen Wrigley.
“There are many ways in which we have done a really good job of supporting those who have served and are serving,” said First Lady Dalrymple, who chairs the coalition. “However, there is more that all of us can do, and because of that need, ND Cares was formed. For the past 18 months, we have been running on lots of passion. Now, today, with this executive order, we have the authority and potentially the funding to advance our efforts.”
ND Cares was formed in May 2013 through an invitation from the federal Substance Abuse Mental Health Services Administration. The coalition is comprised of more than 45 military and civilian professionals throughout the state focused on supporting those who have served and is dedicated to providing awareness and creating a well-recognized brand to help these heroes find the services they need. Behavioral health and wellness is the focus of ND Cares, as these problems are far-reaching and exact an enormous toll on individuals, their families, communities and the broader society. During the news conference, Gov. Dalrymple signed an executive order officially establishing the ND Cares Coalition. He also included $500,000 in his 2015-2017 executive budget to help expand the coalition’s work and fund its future goals.
“Our veterans and service members have sacrificed so much to take care of us and this coalition is another meaningful way we can take care of them,” said Gov. Dalrymple. “When they return from deployments, their service may be over, but ours is just beginning, as we work to provide them with the benefits and services they deserve and have so honorably earned.” For the past several months, coalition members have been working hard to conduct a comprehensive assessment of needs, integrate existing programs and resources, and develop a leader network to support collaborative efforts. Some examples of the progress that has already been made include:
· Met with administrators from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to determine methods for data sharing.
· Resolved a barrier to services that resulted from an eligibility disconnect between regional Human Service Centers and the VA.
· North Dakota National Guard personnel are using regional Human Service Center boundaries to define their areas of service.
· Providers are more informed of available state resources and connections to those resources are strengthening.
· Created the North Dakota Military Data Book, which provides an overview of the services and programs available to service members, veterans, families and survivors.
In addition, a new Veterans Caucus has been formed within the North Dakota Legislative Assembly to discuss policy ideas and support legislation submitted on behalf of North Dakota’s veterans and service members. Sen. Dever helped found the caucus and serves as its chair. “The Veteran’s Caucus is important for North Dakota because it will create an awareness of resources for veterans and because caucus members, who will be veterans themselves, will be able to effectively relate to the needs of our service members past and present,” said Dever.
Initial Meeting that was set for January 8 has been rescheduled due to weather to January 15.
An initial watershed stakeholder meeting will be held on Thursday January 15, 1:00-3:00 pm at the NDSU Extension office, main conference room, in Park River, ND. This past year the Walsh County Three Rivers Soil Conservation District received special funding to begin a 319 water quality program for the South Branch of the Park River upstream from the Homme Dam Reservoir. The grant is designed to improve and protect the water quality of the reservoir by offering special cost share to property owners and operators to reduce erosion.
We value your feedback and hope you can attend. Please contact us for more information:
WALSH COUNTY THREE RIVER SOIL CONSERVATION DISTRICT
Phone: (701) 284-7363
Sarah Braaten Johnston, 319 Watershed Coordinator
Walsh County Three Rivers Soil Conservation District
13351 Hwy 17 W
Park River, ND 58237
It is still more than three months away, but North Dakotans are being urged to spend a little time now to get ready for the upcoming income tax-filing season.
Luis Garcia, a spokesman for the Internal Revenue Service, says by locating and organizing all your important tax documents early in the process, you won't be scrambling to find them when the April 15 deadline is looming.
"That means if you've got Form 1099s from your bank, or you have your W-2 from your employer, you want to make sure that all those documents end up in the same place," he advises. "Now, whether it's a shoebox or a folder - that's really the most important thing."
More detailed information, forms and publications are online at IRS.gov. Garcia also notes this is the first tax season in which the Affordable Care Act figures heavily, which could mean a little extra paperwork for those who gained coverage. "The people who purchased health insurance, they want to be on the lookout for Form 1095A," he points out. "And that's the form that you're going to use to make sure that you get the credit that you need, in order to make sure that you're getting your health insurance covered properly." Garcia adds there also is a form to fill out for anyone who received an exemption to the health insurance mandate for 2014.