Gov. Jack Dalrymple today extended a statewide fire emergency through May 8 to protect against fire outbreaks.
Dalrymple said the state’s county commissioners should assess their counties’ fire threat and be prepared to authorize a county burn ban, if necessary, once the statewide fire emergency expires May 8.
“I have extended the statewide fire emergency because of the significant threat of uncontrolled fire that still exists throughout the state,” Dalrymple said. “However, the state’s county commissioners have authority to issue their own burn bans, and they should be prepared to manage their specific needs for any additional fire restrictions once the statewide fire emergency expires.” In his executive order, Dalrymple issued a burn ban for areas in the North Dakota Fire Danger Rating designated as “High,” “Very High,” or “Extreme,” and/or when a Red Flag Warning has been issued for an area. Burning will be allowed in designated areas with a “Low” or “Moderate” Fire Danger Rating if approved by the local fire response authority that has jurisdiction over the area.
Dalrymple has also activated the North Dakota State Emergency Operations Plan to make state assistance available to local and tribal officials in the event of a fire emergency. In addition, the governor has authorized the Adjutant General to activate and make available North Dakota National Guard resources in support of local and tribal governments. The Governor first issued a statewide fire emergency on April 1, in response to dry conditions, unseasonably high temperatures and high winds.
Gov. Jack Dalrymple syas North Dakota’s 64th Legislative Assembly was highlighted by the passage of additional tax relief and property tax reform as well as strong investments in education, statewide infrastructure improvements, outdoor recreation and conservation, and continued support to meet the needs of North Dakota’s growing communities.
“Because of our long-standing commitment to sound fiscal management, including the Legislature’s foresight to maintain strong reserves for future needs, North Dakota remains well positioned to invest in its priorities for growth and progress and to provide even more tax relief,” Dalrymple said. “North Dakotans have every reason to be optimistic about their state and the increasing number of opportunities it provides.”
STATEWIDE INFRASTRUCTURE IMPROVEMENTS
Leading into the 2011 legislative session, Dalrymple initiated the most ambitious infrastructure improvement program in state history. In 2013, the Legislature provided record funding for statewide infrastructure improvements. The 64th Legislative Assembly again worked with Gov. Dalrymple to continue needed investments in highway improvements, county and township road upgrades, water supply systems, flood protection projects and other infrastructure enhancements.
Highways, Roads and Other Transportation Improvements
The Legislature appropriated about $2.3 billion to rebuild and repair state highways, county and township roads, bypass routes and other statewide transportation infrastructure. The funding includes:
· About $1.52 billion to repair and rebuild state highways in every region of the state.
· $570 million to repair and rebuild county and township roads.
· $109 million for city and urban transportation projects across the state.
· $10 million for six cities outside the state’s oil-production region. The Legislature appropriated the funding based on population and percentage of employment associated with oil and gas development. The funding is as follows:
o $4.31 million for Mandan
o $1.44 million for Bismarck
o $1.44 million for West Fargo
o $960,000 for Jamestown
o $960,000 for Fargo
o $960,000 for Grand Forks
Flood Control and Water Supply Projects
The Legislature appropriated $648 million from the Resources Trust Fund, the Water Development Trust Fund and other sources for permanent flood control projects and water supply projects that will serve communities throughout the state. The funding package includes:
· $113 million to advance flood control projects on the Sheyenne River, at Valley City and Lisbon, on the Mouse River and in Grafton.
· $69 million for permanent flood protection in the Fargo area and $60 million to move forward on interior flood control projects within the city of Fargo.
· $61 million for general water management efforts.
· $130 million for rural water supply projects, including the Western Area Water Supply (WAWS) project; Northwest Area Water Supply and the Southwest Water Pipeline project.
· $85 million for municipal water supply projects.
· $30 million towards construction of a new water treatment plant in Grand Forks.
· $20 million for the Central Dakota Water Supply project.
· $10 million in grant funds and $40 million in loan funds for development of a water reuse facility in Stutsman County.
· $25 million in state revolving loan funds for water supply projects.
· $5 million for continued development of the Red River Valley Water Supply project.
ADDITIONAL TAX RELIEF
Gov. Dalrymple has signed into law an additional $397 million in tax relief. Since 2009, Dalrymple has worked with the Legislature to reduce property and income taxes by more than $4.2 billion. The state’s 2015-2017 tax relief package consists of:
· $250 million in property tax reductions to be provided through a state-paid tax credit during the 2015-2017 biennium. With the continuation of this program, all North Dakota property owners will again receive a 12 percent reduction in property taxes.
· $123 million in individual and corporate income tax relief.
· $23 million in permanent property tax relief provided through a transfer of some social service costs from counties to the state.
· An expansion of the Homestead Tax Credit program for seniors who live on a fixed income. The Legislature appropriated an additional $1.2 million to support increased eligibility for property tax reductions during the second year of the 2015-2017 biennium. The program will save qualifying North Dakota taxpayers about $21 million during the biennium.
PROPERTY TAX REFORM
The Legislature followed Dalrymple’s recommendation to not only provide additional tax relief during the 2015-2017 biennium, but to also reform the state’s property tax system. The Legislature achieved lasting property tax reform by adopting the work of the Governor’s Task Force for Property Tax Reform which began analyzing the state’s property tax system in December, 2013. The 14-member task force analyzed all 200 mill levies authorized by all political subdivisions other than school districts, as well as the processes used to assess and collect property taxes for funding of local government services.
Significant property tax reform has already been achieved within the state’s school districts. The 63rd Legislative Assembly provided more than $850 million in property tax relief for the 2013-2015 biennium, including about $656 million provided through a new K-12 school funding formula that shifted the largest share of education costs from school districts to the state.
Senate Bill 2144 creates greater transparency so that taxpayers can more easily understand the uses of their tax dollars. The tax reform also provides for greater spending discipline and allows for more meaningful comparisons of property taxes levied among political subdivisions. Key elements in the property tax reform include:
· The consolidation of tax levies and the repeal of 40 others, some of which were created before statehood and have not been used for decades.
· Required anniversary votes of the people to ensure that taxpayers understand and support the continued use of their tax dollars.
· Mill levy limits for improved spending discipline.
· Greater flexibility for political subdivisions to develop their operating budgets.
Early Childhood Education
The 64th Legislative Assembly has responded to Gov. Dalrymple’s call to establish a state grant program for early childhood education. The Legislature appropriated $3 million in state grants for certified pre-kindergarten programs that serve children who are at least four years old and qualify for free or reduced-price lunches. Pre-K programs must be approved by the Department of Public Instruction to be eligible for the voluntary grant program.
Following the Governor’s recommendation the Legislature’s appropriation for K-12 schools includes a three-percent increase in the state’s per-pupil student payment in each year of the 2015-2017 biennium. This funding enhancement, combined with the added costs of higher student enrollments, represents an increased state commitment of $164.5 million compared to current biennium K-12 funding. About $104 million of the increased funding, or 63 percent, will cover the costs of increased student enrollments.
The Legislature also adopted the Governor’s recommendation to provide additional support to schools challenged by rapidly growing enrollments. The state will provide $14.8 million in rapid enrollment grants to schools that experienced enrollment growth of two percent or more. Additionally, the Legislature increased school transportation funding by $3.5 million and increased Special Education funding by $800,000.
To further assist school districts, the Legislature authorized the Bank of North Dakota to provide up to $250 million in low-interest school construction loans. Voters will also have an opportunity to decide whether the state’s Foundation Aid Stabilization Fund should be made available to finance school construction loans on a permanent basis.
Military and Veterans
North Dakota is committed to showing its veterans and our men and women in uniform our appreciation in tangible ways:
· $500,000 to continue the Veteran’s Bonus Program.
· $325,000 to assist veterans who are enrolling in North Dakota’s higher education institutions.
· $542,100 to establish ND Cares, a coalition of statewide service providers dedicated to providing an accessible, seamless network of support for service members, veterans and families.
· $139,000 to purchase land to expand the North Dakota Veterans Cemetery.
· $700,261 to continue funding five military outreach officers to help service members, veterans and families find the resources, services and benefits to meet their needs.
· $50,000 to purchase service dogs to assist veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.
$75,000 to identify and provide assistance to North Dakota veterans who were exposed to Agent Orange during the Vietnam War.
· $20,000 for “Stand Down” events providing outreach services to homeless veterans and veterans in need.
Expanded the state’s requirements for providing public employment preference to veterans.
Bismarck, ND – State Superintendent of Public Instruction Kirsten Baesler announces the 21st Century Community Learning Centers (21st CCLC) grant competition for school year 2015-2016.
The North Dakota Department of Public Instruction (ND DPI) is accepting applications for a three-year 21st CCLC grant from school districts, REAs, consortiums, non-profit agencies, city or county government agencies, faith-based organizations, institutions of higher education, and for-profit corporations who currently do not have a 21st CCLC grant. The program’s purpose is to establish or expand community learning centers that provide students with academic enrichment opportunities along with activities designed to complement the students’ regular academic program. All 21st CCLC grants are awarded on a competitive basis, based on the availability of federal funds.
Eligible agencies and organizations are required to collaborate with schools that primarily serve a high concentration of economically disadvantaged students and must average seven hours a week of programming.
The ND DPI will be hosting two bidders’ workshops to provide training for prospective applicants. To assist in planning these workshops, the ND DPI 21st CCLC office is asking interested applicants to submit a Letter of Intent. The Letter of Intent is no way binding; it is only a tool for the 21st CCLC to use in planning bidders’ workshops for eligible applicants. The Letter of Intent can be found on the 21st CCLC website at www.dpi.state.nd.us/21stCent/index.shtm. Please submit your completed Letter of Intent to the 21st CCLC by Friday, May 1, 2015. Please email to Patty Carmichael at firstname.lastname@example.org or fax to (701) 328-0203.
The North Dakota Game and Fish Department’s Becoming an Outdoors-Woman program is accepting registrations for the annual summer workshop Aug. 7-9 at Lake Metigoshe State Park, Bottineau. Enrollment is limited to participants age 18 or older. Workshop fees of $150 cover instruction, program materials, use of equipment, all meals and lodging. Participants can choose from a number of different activities, including archery, firearms, fishing, hunting, paddling sports, wildlife and plants, cooking and outdoor knowledge. BOW workshops are designed primarily for women with an interest in learning skills associated with hunting, fishing and outdoor endeavors. Although open to anyone age 18 or older, the workshops are tailored primarily to women who have never tried these activities or who are beginners hoping to improve their skills. Women interested in attending the summer workshop [ http://gf.nd.gov/education/becoming-outdoors-woman/summer ] can register online, or print and mail an information brochure and enrollment form at the Game and Fish website, gf.nd.gov. More information is available by contacting Alegra Powers at 701-527-3075, or email email@example.com.
Another Warnex exercise has been scheduled for the region. The message will originate from the National Weather Service around 11:15 Wednesday morning. Walsh County Emergency Manager Brent Nelson says the warning message will be a simulated tornado warning. He says once the Grafton area warning point (Walsh County Communication Center) is notified, they will initiate the County Alert & Warning Annex and disseminate the information through their notification procedures. He says many communities will be activating their sirens as well at that time.
The United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) has confirmed the presence of highly pathogenic H5 avian influenza (HPAI) in a commercial turkey flock in LaMoure County, North Dakota. The premises contained approximately 69,000 turkeys and also about 2,000 chickens. A presumptive positive case was first identified by the University of Minnesota’s Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory and confirmed by the APHIS National Veterinary Services Laboratories in Ames, Iowa. This is the second case confirmed in North Dakota. A response team has been working with a Dickey County poultry farm since the first case was confirmed earlier this month.
The State Board of Animal Health and the North Dakota Department of Agriculture are working closely with USDA-APHIS and local officials in the LaMoure County response. The premises has been quarantined and the flock will be destroyed to prevent the spread of the disease. Domestic birds in a 6-mile control zone around the affected farm will be monitored and tested; and movement is being restricted to help prevent the spread of HPAI. Birds from the flock will not enter the food system. There is no immediate public health concern due to this finding. The risk to people from HPAI is low despite the disease often being fatal for birds. No human infections with these viruses have been detected in the U.S.
“We have activated the avian influenza response plan that has been in place for some time,” said North Dakota State Veterinarian Dr. Susan Keller. “It is a collaborative effort with help from federal and state agencies, local officials and poultry producers.” The avian influenza response team is working around the clock to control the outbreak and serve as a resource to residents. In an emergency clause, the North Dakota legislature has allotted $300,000 of federal spending authority to respond to and combat avian influenza. Due to the recent findings of HPAI in North Dakota and surrounding states, poultry owners should immediately report death loss to their local and state veterinarian, restrict access to their property, prevent contact between their birds and wild birds and practice enhanced biosecurity. Avian influenza exists in many wild birds and can be transmitted by contact with infected birds or ingestion of contaminated food and water. As the number of HPAI cases continue to rise across the Midwest, scientists anticipate warmer temperatures will slow the spread of the disease. Typically, influenza viruses are hampered by warm, dry conditions.
A legal battle is being mounted against the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) over its expanded approval of a new herbicide for use in North Dakota and other states across the Midwest. The herbicide from Dow AgroSciences is called Enlist Duo.
According to legal documents, Enlist Duo contains glyphosate and 2,4-D, which includes a component also found in the Vietnam War defoliant known as Agent Orange.
The Center for Food Safety is one of several organizations challenging the herbicide's approval, which staff attorney Sylvia Wu says isn't consistent with the agency's mission.
"There are many risks associated with the use of Enlist Duo, which is contrary to the agency's duty to ensure that its approval would not have adverse effects," she says. "The human health and environmental harms are the reasons we are challenging this decision."
Dow AgroSciences describes Enlist Duo as a "powerful tool for fighting hard-to-control weeds," that features a minimal amount of odor and less "potential for drift."
Marcia Ishii-Eiteman, senior scientist with the Pesticide Action Network, says this powerful herbicide cocktail will have serious impacts on groundwater, endangered species and those who live and work near fields where it's applied.
"Two 4-D has been linked to birth defects, developmental harm and endocrine disruption, as well as cancers like non-Hodgkin's lymphoma," says Ishii-Eiteman. "Now we have the new finding from the World Health Organization that glyphosate is considered a probable carcinogen."
The Pesticide Action Network, Center for Food Safety and other members of the coalition had challenged the use of Enlist Duo when it was initially approved for use on genetically engineered corn and soy crops in six states. This latest motion comes as the EPA has expanded where the herbicide can be used to another nine states, including North Dakota.
Tax Commissioner Ryan Rauschenberger reminds North Dakota residents that they may be eligible for a partial refund of their rent. Senior citizens and disabled individuals may qualify for the Renter’s Refund on a portion of the rent they paid for housing in 2014, if they meet income eligibility requirements.
“With the Renter’s Refund deadline of May 31st approaching, we want to remind qualifying individuals to get their applications in soon,” stated Rauschenberger. “Eligibility requirements were just expanded in 2013 and we want to make sure North Dakota residents apply if they think they are eligible.”
The Renter’s Refund is a part of the Homestead Tax Credit program and requirements are as follows:
· 65 years old, or older; or disabled
· Income is less than $42,000 per year
· 20% of annual rent exceeds 4% of net income
Money paid for lot rent by mobile home owners may also qualify for the Renter’s Refund.
Residents may find an application and instructions on the Office of State Tax Commissioner’s website: www.nd.gov/tax. For more information, residents may call 701.328.3127 or 877.328.7088 (option 6).
U.S. Senator Heidi Heitkamp emphasized the need to address crimes involving human trafficking as human rights issues while speaking at the State Historical Society of North Dakota’s “TALK 2015: Human Rights Challenges and Solutions.”
Heitkamp joined former North Dakota U.S. Attorney Tim Purdon in discussing human rights abuses involving human trafficking, and how to tackle these crimes through collaboration between law enforcement, social services, and civic involvement. Heitkamp has long been a leading advocate in North Dakota and nationally fighting for the eradication of human trafficking in the Senate, holding an initial Senate hearing in September 2013 on efforts underway at the federal, state, and local levels to combat human trafficking, including in Indian Country. Before her Committee hearing, there had been little discussion on the issue in the Senate.
She has been a strong advocate for numerous anti-trafficking bills, including the Runaway and Homeless Youth and Trafficking Prevention Act, which would provide essential outreach and services to homeless youth to prevent them from getting caught up in trafficking rings. When statistics show that on average, children are 13 years old when they are forced to become victims of sex trafficking, it’s clear that the nation’s most vulnerable children are often the most susceptible and in need of protections from these crimes. Just this month, a 14-year-old runaway from Las Vegas was rescued by Minot police after her mother recognized her photo in a Backpage.com advertisement, which her traffickers were using to sell her for sex. In the United States, children under 18 make up about a quarter of the homeless population, with one in 30 children is homeless across the country.
“Working together, we must protect our most vulnerable populations from human rights abuses, and that means unmasking sex trafficking as the form of human enslavement that it is,” said Heitkamp. “To do that, we need to improve protections for victims of human trafficking, increase and create harsh penalties for those benefitting from this multi-billion dollar criminal enterprise, and boost resources for social service organizations and our communities. It’s also critical that we protect homeless and runaway youth – who traffickers specifically target to perpetuate these crimes. This statistic became all too real last week when a 14 year old girl who had run away from home was being sold for sex in Minot. To help support these kids, our bill would help build up a support system and construct policies that protect victims who fall prey to trafficking. Together, we must make sure we are providing a safe and secure community for generations to come.”
Since her time as North Dakota’s Attorney General, the insidious problem of sex trafficking has proliferated across the country, and in North Dakota the influx of people and money accompanying the state’s oil and gas boom has also attracted a criminal element looking to profit through the exploitation and trafficking of individuals. Heitkamp has been working tirelessly to bring these issues to light. In the Senate, Heitkamp has been a leader on the issue, traveling to Mexico last spring with Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Cindy McCain – a global leader in the fight against trafficking, and meeting with United Nations Ambassador Samantha Power as well as with female ambassadors from countries around the world to combat the issue internationally.
This Congress, Heitkamp renewed a bipartisan push to crack down on sex trafficking in the United States by putting forward legislation to give prosecutors the tools they need to combat domestic minor sex trafficking, and to help give victims the support they need. Last month, Heitkamp worked with Republican Senator Susan Collins of Maine to offer a bipartisan, compromise path forward on legislation to stop human trafficking. Heitkamp has also been a vocal advocate for the Runaway and Homeless Youth and Trafficking and Prevention Act, which would help protect some of the most susceptible targets of human traffickers. Last month, Heitkamp spoke on the Senate floor and appeared on CNBC to talk about the dire need for protections provided in the bill.
In North Dakota, Heitkamp helped lead three local training sessions with U.S. Department of Homeland Security officials since May to train North Dakotans, women leaders in the state, and law enforcement and victims service providers on how to identify, report, and investigate incidents of human trafficking. In September, Heitkamp launched her Strong and Safe Communities Initiative to help address some of the emerging challenges facing the state, including the increase of human and sex trafficking. On National Human Trafficking Awareness Day in January, Heitkamp led a conversation in Fargo with law enforcement and local advocates on the progress of eradicating human trafficking across North Dakota, and what more needs to be done.
The Red River Regional Council (RRRC) awarded funding to three regional projects at its Board of Directors meeting on April 16 in Grafton. The awards are as follows:
$13,185.84 of Red River Riparian Program funds to the City of Grafton as part of a debris removal project in the Park River within the city limits. This represents 60% of the total project cost of $21,976.40. Matching funds will be contributed by the City and the State Water Commission. This project will remove debris in a three mile stretch of the Park River including 30 debris items and 60 trees.
$150,000 of Red River Riparian Program funds to the Walsh County Water Resource District to support a debris removal project in the Park River. These funds would be matched with $100,000 each from the district and the State Water Commission and will address debris removal from an estimated 47 miles. Project is currently under development.
$9,000 of Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funds was reallocated from the Cavalier Housing Rehabilitation Project to the Grafton Housing Rehabilitation Project to complete the Grafton project this spring/summer. The City of Grafton will also contribute $4,170 to complete the project.
The debris removal projects are designed to maintain navigable waters, stabilize at-risk banks, and minimize in-stream erosion caused by non-beneficial woody debris. “Repetitive flooding within the region over the past decade has resulted in significant buildup of debris and garbage within the Park River,” said Dawn Keeley, Executive Director. “Assisting with debris removal such as this will improve water quality in this area and these are the first projects to receive funds through our Phase 5 of the riparian program.” The 2015 to 2016 grants for the Pembina and Walsh County Historic Preservation Commissions have been approved in the amount of $11,198 per organization and will be matched with $10,028 each. These grants are funded by monies awarded to the ND Historic Preservation Program by the US National Park Services and reallocated by the State Historical Society. Funds were approved to support an administrative budget, logo and website development, and geocaching of historic sites and trails. The RRRC manages these organizations in partnership with the counties.
Denise Johnson, USDA Rural Development, provided an overview of the agency's programs for community, business, and infrastructure projects to the Board of Directors. The RRRC is anticipating its 2015 CDBG funding to total $192,325 which will be split evenly between public facilities and housing opportunity. Eligible projects for public facilities funding could include water and sewer, fire protection, ambulances, community centers, storm sewers, flood or drainage facilities, removal of architectural barriers and planning. Housing opportunity includes rehabilitation, repair, expansion, or similar activities to provide for affordable housing. The majority of CDBG funds are targeted to the benefit of low and moderate income households. The RRRC will accept pre-applications for its 2015 CDBG funding through July 15, 2015.
For more information, please contact the RRRC at 701-352-3550 or visit the website at www.redriverrc.com. The RRRC is one of eight regional planning councils in North Dakota established in 1973 to enhance the ability of local governments to jointly plan, address issues, and seize opportunities that transcend individual boundaries. The RRRC serves Region IV which includes Grand Forks, Nelson, Pembina, and Walsh Counties.