MEDIA ADVISORY: Film incentive bills to be heard in House Finance and Tax

(BISMARCK, N.D.) – Members of North Dakota’s Finance and Tax Committee will hear two bills Wednesday, January 28th to provide incentives for film/TV productions and to provide a full-time employee tasked with regulating and promoting the industry within the state.

“These are smart bills that can do a lot of good for the state of North Dakota while asking relatively little,” prime sponsor of the legislation, Representative Marie Strinden, D-Grand Forks said. “As of now, we have absolutely no resources available for production companies looking to work in North Dakota and we have very limited resources for in-state filmmakers, why shouldn’t we take steps to simply promote more, creative business.”

The two bills would accomplish the following:

  • HB 1420 provides a 14 percent tax credit to production companies who pay North Dakota residents to work on film and TV productions. The credit is limited to the first $50,000 spent only on ND resident compensation and has a maximum financial return to production companies of $6,500.
  • HB 1422 provides the North Dakota Department of Commerce $170,000 to establish a full-time employee position and discretionary budget for two years. The position will focus on organizing, regulating, and promoting North Dakota film and TV industry. The discretionary budget will focus on support to in-state filmmakers, building infrastructure and promote the state’s industry.

In 2014, a seven-month call log provided by the North Dakota Department of Tourism showed filmmakers, production companies, universities and industry media sought information about the state’s film and TV industry.

“The need is there, and these bills will not only provide the incentive to bring more business, but also enhance the first class film industry already working and growing in North Dakota,” Strinden said.

Both Minnesota and Montana provide similar incentives and have laws in place to regulate the film industry in their respective states. Representative Strinden is the lone sponsor on both bills.

WHO: Representative Marie Strinden, D-Grand Forks
WHAT: Committee Hearing on HB 1420 & HB 1422
WHEN: Wednesday, January 28th at 9:15 a.m. and 9:30 a.m. respectively
WHERE: House Finance and Tax Committee, Fort Totten Room


MEDIA ADVISORY: Haak to introduce bipartisan “Jackie’s Law”

(BISMARCK, N.D.) –  Representative Jessica Haak, D-Jamestown will testify on behalf of HB 1321, “Jackie’s Law,” a bill providing further protections for victims of stalking Wednesday, January 28th in front of the House Judiciary Committee. The bill adds unauthorized GPS and electronic device tracking as a crime under North Dakota’s current anti-stalking law.

HB 1321 receives its name in honor of Jacqueline Wisniewski of New York, whose surgeon ex-boyfriend stalked and killed her in 2012 after placing a GPS device in her car and purse. If passed, this bill would ensure law enforcement and prosecutors have the power to intervene in domestic violence cases as well as prosecute.

“I was appalled to learn that this action alone was not illegal. It’s our responsibility as lawmakers to ensure survivors of domestic violence and stalking are given piece of mind,” Haak said. “As technology evolves, we must also evolve in order to provide victims with necessary protections.”

Today, one in four stalking cases involves some sort of technology, and one in 13 involves electronic monitoring or GPS tracking according to a U.S. Justice Department survey.

Currently, 10 states prohibit unauthorized tracking, including New York. Delaware, Illinois, Michigan, Tennessee and Texas prohibit the secret installation of tracking devices on a vehicle and California, Hawaii, Louisiana, Minnesota and Virginia prohibit placing devices on other movable objects; and/or simply prohibit using a device to track a person surreptitiously.

North Dakota has no current protections for unauthorized GPS and electronic device tracking as related to stalking. Co-sponsors include Representatives Roger Brabandt, R-Minot; Lois Delmore, D-Grand Forks; Mary Johnson, R-Fargo; Lawrence Klemin, R-Bismarck; and Senators Kelly Armstrong, R-Dickinson and John Grabinger, D-Jamestown.

WHO: Representative Jessica Haak, D-Jamestown
WHAT: Committee Hearing
WHERE: House Judiciary Committee, Pioneer Room
WHEN:  Wednesday, January 28th at 9:00 a.m.


Capitol Letters: Vol. 2 Week 3

A very Happy Birthday to one of the Senate Democrat’s more colorful members — Senator Richard Marcellais, D-Belcourt.

Behind us is week three of the 2015 legislative session, and in front of us is a whole lot of interstate as Dem-NPL legislators head home to participate in legislative forums across the North Dakota. But before we go, we want to share with you some of the right fights the Dem-NPL fought this week. We’ve also found a thing or two to shake our heads at. We’ll hope you’ll enjoy this edition of Capitol Letters as you prepare to enjoy your weekend.

The right fights: Equal pay for equal work

“A female lawmaker stood before an all-male committee Wednesday and pushed for a bill aimed at closing the reported wage gap between genders[.]” That was the punchy opening sentence of a Forum News Service story, and the above-mentioned lawmaker is our very own Representative Kylie Oversen.

We here at Capitol Letters aim to bring you not just the story of the right fights Kylie is waging here in Bismarck, but also the story behind the story. With that, we’ll start with 8:25 a.m. on Wednesday morning, when Kylie was deep in the throes of her pre-fight routine. Like any champion, Kylie uses music to rev up for the challenge ahead. Unlike most champions, however, Kylie is revved up by Pat Benatar.

Daring those who oppose equal pay to hit with their best shot, Kylie called for updating the state’s 1965 law prohibiting wage discrimination based on gender. Among other fixes, Kylie’s set of bills would “clean[] up several sections of the equal pay statute, including clarifying that someone can bring a claim for relief either with the state labor commissioner or in district court[,]” as the Grand Forks Herald noted.

The committee’s chairman, Representative George Kaiser, counter-punched by questioning whether “there is, in fact, a problem out there[.]” Laying a glove squarely on the issue, Kylie pointed to data from the National Women’s Law Center, which “showed full-time, year-round female workers in North Dakota made 70 percent of their male counterparts’ median earnings, compared with 78 percent nationally, for a rank of 47th among states[.]“

After returning to his corner, Chairman Kaiser “appointed a subcommittee” of lawmakers “to define whether a pay gap exists and how the bill would address the problem.

Without intending disrespect for our colleagues, wouldn’t it be better to have the Department of Labor, on a case by case basis, determine whether an employee has experienced unlawful wage discrimination? Your Capitol Letters co-authors think Kylie’s approach is preferable to sending out sleuthing legislators in deerstalker hats to broadly investigate “whether a pay gap exists[.]“

As we await round two, our bets are on Kylie (we will add that her initials are, uncoincidentally, “KO”). Equal pay for equal work. Non-discrimination. Protecting the paychecks of working families. That’s what Kylie is all “a bout.”  She’s fighting the right fights for North Dakota.

Head-scratcher of the week:

This week’s head-scratcher is of the conventional variety. Literally. It’s about one lawmaker’s seeming obsession with calling a constitutional convention.

Before we get into that, we bring you the customary Capitol Letters civility caveat: We value the diverse opinions of our fellow lawmakers, and Representative Jim Kasper’s push for a constitutional convention is no different. That’s why we intend no pun when we explain to you the idea in, um, a nutshell:

Citing “state legislators” as the “guardians of liberty,” the first of Representative Kasper’s myriad resolutions on this topic seeks to have the North Dakota Legislature apply to “Congress, under the provisions of Article V of the Constitution of the United States, for the calling of a convention” to add a balanced budget amendment to the foundational document of our country. A second resolution applies for a constitutional convention of the states. Representative Kasper’s third resolution deals with the process for appointing delegates to a constitutional convention. A fourth resolution calls for members of the Legislative Assembly to book their tickets to the constitutional convention using’s “name your own price” tool.

In truth, Representative Kasper does have a fourth resolution on this topic, but it actually seeks a convention to amend the constitution for purposes of allowing states to “collectively countermand or repeal any law or ruling by the Congress, the President, or other regulatory body.” He has resolved to roll out these resolutions before the House Government and Veterans Affairs Committee during “Balanced Budget Day.” That’s on February 5th, should you be interested.

There is a whole cottage industry developing around the possibility of an Article V constitutional convention, and we will allow interested readers to delve into that subject in their moments of repose. But this isn’t the first time that statesmen (and women) have debated the appropriate application of federalism in our constitutional democracy: Madison, Mason, Hamilton, Jay, Marshall, Jefferson. And now, Kasper.

In all fairness to Representative Kasper, not one of us in the North Dakota Legislature is a Thomas Jefferson or James Madison. Not even close. But we do have an important responsibility to our state when it comes to addressing oil impacts, funding education, and making permanent investments in the next generation of North Dakotans from our one-time harvest of our natural resources. Taking even one day out of this time-limited session to focus on a proposal that can only be charitably described as grandiose detracts from these important priorities. It’s those priorities that we here in the Dem-NPL caucuses intend to focus on this session (right after we get done shaking our heads).

Meet a member:

After the wildly successful and universally lauded inaugural edition of Meet a Member, your Dem-NPL House & Senate Caucuses are here with Round 2. This week, we’re thrilled to introduce you to Representative Kris Wallman, D-Fargo.

So long for now

That’s all for week three. We’ll be back next week discussing sensible legislation we’re introducing to protect our land and water from brine spills like the one our state unfortunately experienced this week. We’ll also be working on legislation ranging from human trafficking, to pre-K, to civil rights. Until then, keep the faith, keep up the fight, and like us on Facebook.

Meet a Member: Kris Wallman

Representative Kris Wallman, D-Fargo, learns the ropes from her new chamber neighbor and long time Dem-NPLer Representative Bill Amerman, D-Forman.

After the wildly successful and universally lauded inaugural edition of Meet a Member, your Dem-NPL House Caucus is here with Round 2. This week, we’re thrilled to introduce you to Representative Kris Wallman, D-Fargo.

Kris wasn’t really sure what to expect before heading out to Bismarck for the session. If you believe everything you read in the headlines, she said, you’d think that everyone out here has an axe to grind. Most, on both sides of the aisle, however, have been helpful and all are looking for the same thing: effective policy that will move our great state forward.

Every colleague she has talked to is constantly on the lookout for how bills will affect their constituents, while also balancing the impact on North Dakota as a whole. Kris has quite enjoyed hearing regularly from her constituents in eastern Fargo. As she previously served as a school board member, Kris has seen the value in enabling her new friends and neighbors to participate in their communities. She comes to the Capitol everyday seeking out ways to improve the lives of not only those New Americans, but every person that represents.

Kris’s favorite memory so far is having her daughter Lydia, 11, join her on the floor on Martin Luther King Day. Not only did Lydia have the honor of seeing up close and personal a celebration of Dr. King’s legacy, she did so surrounded by so many strong female leaders who are

great role models. A student from the Maple Valley School District also joined Kris on the floor. He sat through a lot of bills and was legitimately interested in the process and learning as much as possible. It is times like those with Lydia and others that will one day lead this state that remind Kris of what’s really important, and why she decided to take on this challenge.


News of the Week 1.17.15 – 1.23.15


After latest spill, ND Democrats to revisit monitoring bill – (C. Mock, M. Schneider, D. Anderson, M. Nelson)

Spill bill gets second look: Big leak from small pipeline puts focus on saltwater lines – (C. Mock, R. Wardner, D. Anderson)

Sinner proposes ND rail safety committee; PSC member says it’s unnecessary – (G. Sinner, C. Mock, J. Fedorchak)

Lawmakers float changes to North Dakota’s voter ID law – (C. Mock, R. Boehning, M. Schneider, J. Heckaman)

Bill expanding conceal-carry areas in ND meets with opposition – (R. Streyle)

ND lawmakers wary of bill requiring headlights within hour of sunrise, sunset – (R. Weisz, W. Belter, C. Olson, B. Hanson)

House bill would make churches, concerts, parks and more legal places to possess a firearm – (R. Streyle)

BSC requests $5 million budget increase to combat staff turnover – (M. Dosch, D. Monson)

Senate bills authorize study, audit at NDSH – (J. Warner, J. Grabinger)

Oil spill renews worries

Pipeline through farm country raises questions: Dakota Access would ship 450K barrels of oil from North Dakota’s Bakken

Lawmakers mull creating accounts for newborns – (O. Larsen)

Heitkamp reintroduces bill on Native American children

Officials: No oil detected in city’s water system

Williston water deemed safe

Researchers find snow is dirtiest in Great Plains, especially in ND

Correction: Sponsor incorrect


President needs to show a desire to work together

Steve Stark cartoon (Jan. 23) – (D. Kiefert)

Letter, Paul Cline: Let N.D. voters elect higher-ed board members – (A. Carlson)


Police Concerned ND On Path To Legalize Recreational Pot

TENORM Meeting A Rocky Debate

ND Lawmakers Consider Gun Bill – (R. Streyle)

Heitkamp Wants Support for Native American Children

Democratic Lawmakers Sponsor Bills to Improve Train Safety – (C. Mock, G. Sinner)

ND Legacy Fund Expected to Have More Than $5 Billion by 2017 – (O. Larsen)

North Dakota Lawmakers Look at Expanding Gun Rights

Bill Calls for Improvements to State Rail Safety – (G. Sinner, C. Mock)

Students Learn Lesson Through “Cowboy Logic” – (R. Taylor)

Proposed Legislation Would Boost Permitting For Natural Gas Projects

Prairie Public:

Balanced budget amendment proposals pending in ND Legislature – (J. Kasper)

Tobacco tax increase bills introduced – (T. Mathern)

Grand Forks lawmaker wants to go back to the pre-2013 voter ID law – (C. Mock)

Bismarck lawmaker proposing tax credits for parents who send their children to non-public schools – (M. Nathe)

Bill would change ‘rapid enrollment’ funding formula for local schools – (D. Rust)

Rolla lawmaker wants to end Constitutional prohibition on direct govt. payments to North Dakotans – (M. Nelson)

House committee approves civics test bill

Debate continues on state employees and teachers retirement

Committee considers extending moratorium on UND nickname and logo – (S. Louser)

News Clips 1.22.15


Former Fargo state legislator Donald Clark dies at age 75 – (B. Thoreson)

GOP lawmakers want more study on gender wage gap in North Dakota – (K. Oversen, G. Keiser, G. Sukut, R. Becker, J. Boschee)

Bills would raise ND tax on cigarettes for first time since 1993 – (J. Nelson, T. Mathern, E. Glassheim)

Bill would give lawmakers power to set ND college tuition, fees – (K. Koppelman, M. Dosch, B. Koppelman)

Lawmakers battle educators for control to set tuition rates – (K. Koppelman, M. Dosch)

Fargo lawmaker submits bill to regulate marijuana from farm to pharmacy to patient – (P. Anderson, K. Hawken, A. Maragos, M. Nelson, M. Strinden, Mary Schneider, L. Delmore, K. Koppelman, T. Beadle)

Radioactive plan draws controversy, comments

Nearly 3M gallons of brine spill; ND oil boom’s largest leak

Elevated levels, efforts

North Dakota PSC shuts down Grand Forks Bean Co.


Forum editorial: Put the kibosh on ‘fishing’ – (J. Kasper)

OUR OPINION: Constitution requires ‘balanced’ higher-ed board

Bismarck Tribune Editorial: Bills to change Industrial Commission flawed – (K. Kempenich, B. Bowman)

Trygve Olson cartoon (Jan. 22)

Letter, Betsy Dalrymple: Civics Assessment bill a step toward an informed electorate

LETTER, John Johnson: NCAA is not villain in ‘nickname’ issue

LETTER, David Kiefel: Fossil fuels remain America’s go-to source


Representatives Discuss Bill Related to Equal Pay – (K. Oversen)

Lawmakers Propose Increasing Cigarette Taxes – (J. Nelson)

Lunskis’ trip to State of the Union is one they will never forget

North Dakota Senate passes law to give immunity to those who report overdoses to authorities

Devils Lake citizens seek answers about environmental impacts of proposed refinery

Lawmakers Battle Over College Tuition Costs – (K. Koppelman)

Bismarck Page Meets President

People Sound Off About Radioactive Waste Limits in North Dakota

News Clips 1.21.15


The fight for oil funding pushes on

Committee hears first of many bills aimed at cutting ND income taxes – (D. Hogue, T. Axness, A. Carlson, S. Louser)

Sponsor only one to testify in favor of ND bill allowing elected officials to carry guns in public buildings – (B. Koppelman, K. Koppelman)

Lawmakers debate carrying concealed weapons – (B, Koppelman, K. Wallman)

$500 fine proposed for ND agencies violating open records, meetings laws; spurred by higher ed violations – (R .Boehning, G, Kreidt, M. Schatz)

State aims to restrict schools’ ending fund balance – (M. Nathe)

State retirement plan for police rejected

Representation from home of UND on ND higher ed board in flux

Prosecutors, police gather in Bismarck for human trafficking training

Challenge to North Dakota’s gay marriage ban on hold until Supreme Court decision

Larimore railroad crossing to get automated arms

Larimore train-bus accident rescuers enjoy special seat at State of Union address

County Commission considering loaning funds to the JSDC for SEPA rail loop connection

Dickinson commissioners approve letter of support for low-income housing project

Public bring long list of suggestions for TENORM rules

Dairy decline: Some say solution is allowing corporations to own dairy operations in ND

Grand Forks American Indian students, administration debate allowing eagle feathers as graduation attire

Heitkamp’s reaction to Obama’s State of the Union address

Cramer reaction to State of the Union address

Hoeven reaction to State of the Union address

Halliburton, Baker Hughes to lay off thousands as oil slumps

A big water problem

North Dakota will test for oil in drinking water

Second death in oil fields under investigation

Oil giant cutting jobs


OUR OPINION: Enhanced Driver’s License enhances recreation options – (M. Strinden)

Forum editorial: Rollback would be a blunder – (K. Kempenich)

LETTER: ‘Civics test’ bill will not promote patriotism – (M. Schatz)

Letter: Preschoolers shouldn’t need to be prepared for workforce – (T. Flakoll)

Letter: Rethink dropping income tax


New Bill Creates Tax Breaks for Parents of Private School Students

ND Legislators Discuss DUI Law – (K. Armstrong)

Good Samaritan Bill Passes in ND Senate

Number of House Bills Up from Last Year

Bill Would Allow Elected Public Officials to Carry Concealed Weapons in Public Buildings – (B. Koppelman, K. Wallman)

Oil Fatalities Reach Previous Year’s Totals Already

Prosecutors Train to Fight Human Trafficking

News Clips 1.20.15


ND at risk of losing millions in tax revenue if flaring, oil conditioning orders are voided – (K. Kempenich)

ND lawmakers propose border-crossing driver’s license – (M. Strinden, T. Mathern)

Oil pipeline spill along Yellowstone threatens Glendive drinking water; precautions taken for downstream cities, including Williston

Civic test bill could reach ND governor’s desk this week – (T. Flakoll)

Lawmakers opt for study, not regulation of unmanned vehicles – (B. Hanson, D. Ruby)

City to consider affordable housing proposal

Fargo commissioners decide to have separate laws for taxis, ride-hailing companies like Uber

Tributes, protests mark U.S. Martin Luther King Jr. Day

ND higher ed board not ‘three-headed monster,’ member says during University System budget presentation – (B. Martinson, D. Monson)

State Board of Higher Education seeks applicants for open seat – (D. Dever)

‘NBC Nightly News’ profiles former Fargo police chief Chris Magnus

Two ND oilfield spills reported

Two men burned by oil worksite fire in western ND

Oil spills in Yellowstone River after pipeline leak

Public hearing set Tuesday for radioactive waste disposal rules

KVLY clip on Jezebel after Chris Berg calls Oscar nominations ‘white man keeping the brown man down’


Forum editorial: Legislative bullies win weeds

THE ONLOOKER: Legislature should ignore higher-ed ultimatum

RAY HOLMBERG: The board should follow the law and govern

Steve Stark cartoon (Jan. 20)


Addison’s Law Pushes Safe Sleep in Daycares – KVLY (K. Oversen)

New Bill Proposed to Protect Children Sleeping at Daycare – KFYR (K. Oversen)

Senate Bill Calls for Yearly Sessions – (J. Grabinger, T. Beadle)

News Clips 1.17.15 – 1.19.15


Minority party keeps things in check in ND Legislature – (M. Schneider, C. Mock, R. Wardner, A. Carlson, T. Mathern)

North Dakota Political Notebook: Annual sessions, direct checks to residents floated – (K. Kempenich, C. Triplett, P. Silbernagel, V. Steiner, M. Nelson, G. Sinner)

Support grows for annual sessions – (C. Triplett, R. Carlisle, K. Onstad, K. Kempenich, R. Holman, P. Silbernagel, V. Steiner, J. Delzer)

Western ND officials ask lawmakers to fast-track more than $800 million in emergency funding – (R. Holmberg, A. Carlson, K. Armstrong)

Jump-start funding bills compete – (B. Bekkedahl, K. Armstrong, B. Bowman,

Legislature eyes package of human trafficking bills – (N. Poolman)

ND House defeats UND nickname bill – (B. Martinson, M. Nathe, C. Mock, S. Louser, Rich Becker, J. Schmidt)

UND nickname moratorium bill shot down – (C. Mock, S. Louser, Rich Becker, M. Nathe)

N.D. lawmakers introduce body camera bill aimed at protecting privacy of those interacting with police – (K. Koppelman, G. Paur)

Bills filed in N.D. in attempt to make farmland valuation system more fair – (J. Schmidt, D. Cook, J. Unruh)

Farmers, ranchers left waiting for ban to drop before they can use unmanned aircraft

North Dakota drone bill introduced again – (Rick Becker)

360 reviews offer broad insight, but ND higher ed officials may not get them due to public records laws

ND higher ed committee approves online course fees, lower non-resident tuition

ND’s school lunch program rate second-lowest in nation

Drop in dairy discouraging

Brine spill reaches Missouri River

Man found dead at Dunn County oilfield site

Multiple arrests in massive crime ring

Kalk to lead national subcommittee


Our View: Surge funding moves forward; law quiet on another shooting – (K. Armstrong)

Railroads and towns must work together

Forum editorial: Education opponents fool a few – (J. Kasper)

OUR OPINION: The nickname key: What’s best for UND?

OUR OPINION: Board should learn from Diederich’s mistakes

Letter: Preserve the right balance among North Dakota taxes

LETTER: No need for Legislature to act on nickname – (S. Louser)

Forum editorial: A uniquely American holiday

Lloyd Omdahl: Old fears drive debate

Jim Shaw: Legalize medical marijuana – (P. Anderson)

Jane Ahlin: Rape by any other name: Not such a big deal?

Trygve Olson cartoon 01.18.15

Steve Stark cartoon 01.18.15

LETTER: Civics proposal distracts from Common Core


Conservationists say North Dakota’s Habitat is Disappearing

Right to Life Rally at State Capitol

Legislative Update – Week 3 – Senator Phil Murphy

Legislative Update, Week 3, 64th Session
Senator Phil Murphy

Our state can expect world oil prices to remain volatile over the long run.  That is about the only consensus that the oil industry analysts can affirm at this point.  I can tell you that we will be extracting oil out of our state for the next fifty to seventy five years, according to the engineering firm we hired to do a report for our Energy Interim Committee.  They also stated in their update yesterday in front of our caucus that they do not believe we are overbuilt in the Oil Patch and that we will probably continue, on average, to produce 1.2 to 1.4 million barrels a day as the years go by.  So, we need to continue to strengthen our infrastructure out in that part of the state.  As we debate whether the Surge Plan or the Kick Start Plan to help the west, I am trying to see how they will benefit our eastern part of the state.  We cannot forget our infrastructure needs there as well.

  In his State of the Union speech President George W. Bush stated that “We need to prepare our children to read and succeed in school with improved Head Start and Early Childhood Development Programs”  That was in 2002.  Last month, Governor Dalrymple finally said “I believe that the time has come to support a proposal that will be brought before the legislature to place funds behind every four year old child in ND wishing to enter a certified Pre-K program…” I am offering a universal Pre-K bill that will allow that to happen.  I envision that someday soon, we will join the 44 states that have had those in place for years so that our children can more comprehensively compete with their peers from other countries and states.  This is not only an educational effort, but will help alleviate the waiting lists that daycare providers experience and hopefully allow more parents to stay in the workforce without having to shuttle their charges from daycare to school or vice versa. 

I am a signatory on the bill that would begin to transfer payment for some Social Services mandated by the State (Foster Care is one) from the Counties to the State.  Nothing like an unfunded mandate, right?  That will result in a dollar for dollar reduction in our property taxes.  I am also on a bill that will provide incentives to move natural gas to our unserved areas as well as another to study that effort and keep it moving along.  We lost three businesses last year in Traill County simply because they had no access to natural gas.  And am primary sponsor on a bill that would lead to the expansion of some small businesses.  There are hundreds of other issues swirling out here and I will write some more next week.  Thanks for caring enough about your state to read this column – it is an important step to being a good citizen.

Senator Phil Murphy 1-22-15

Sinner introduces legislation to promote rail safety

Bill would create Rail Safety Committee, provide funding for safety improvements

(BISMARCK, N.D.) – During a press conference Thursday, Senator George Sinner, D-Fargo, announced the introduction of legislation addressing rail safety. The bill, SB 2293 creates a 5-member Rail Safety Committee and reallocates the special fuels excise tax paid by railroads on diesel fuel into a rail safety fund controlled by the Public Service Commission.

Since 2006, there have been 948 total accidents/incidents involving rails or rail cars in the state of North Dakota, including 170 derailments and 39 fatalities, according to the Federal Railroad Administration Office of Safety Analysis. That same report shows rails accidents/incidents have increased by 16 percent between 2006 and 2014.

Sinner cited these numbers as evidence that more can and should be done when it comes to the safety and security of North Dakota families.

Sinner asked, “Who’s listening to the public? Who is taking the time to hear their concerns? Over the next several years the amount of cargo that will be carried on our state’s rail systems is only going to increase. This bill will ensure North Dakotans that conduit to make sure their concerns are heard.”

The committee will be made up of three members appointed by the Public Service Commission and two members appointed by the Governor. They will hold four public meetings a year and have the following duties:

  • Reviewing rail accidents/incidents that have occurred in North Dakota since 2004.
  • Inventorying all unprotected rail crossings in North Dakota that intersect with school bus routes.
  • Prioritizing crossings based on the above reviews.
  • Recommending expenditures for rail safety improvements, training for emergency responders and school bus drivers, or otherwise enhance or maintain rail safety and accident response in the state.

The bill also reallocates funds for the explicit purpose of improving rail safety, providing approximately $6 million per biennium. Sinner was joined by Assistant Minority Leader Representative Corey Mock, D-Grand Forks. Mock discussed a complementary bill going through the legislative process, HB 1357, which requires a two-person crew to man all freight cars and to provide a penalty.

“Between these two bills, we’re aiming to do more to ensure safety on our railways,” Mock said. “We look forward to continued public input on an issue that has been at the forefront due to several unfortunate incidents.”


Senate Bill 2293

Capitol Letters: Vol. 2 Week 2

Senators Connie Triplett and Mac Schneider speak with members of the media following Thursday press conference.

Week two of the 2015 legislative session was an eventful one, with a mysterious illness spreading through the House and Senate like cholera through a wagon train. We here in the Dem-NPL caucuses believe laughter is the best medicine (and perhaps that’s why so many of us remain seriously ill . . .), so with a jaunty attitude we pioneered on to fight the right fights for North Dakota. We also witnessed some head-shaking antics to go with our roiling stomachs. We bring you a healthy dose of this week’s legislative action in the below edition of Capitol Letters.

The right fights: Planning rather than panic amidst falling oil prices

Last week, there was bipartisan agreement that the state is strong.* This week, however, there’s been an air of unease in the capitol secondary to the falling price of oil and the potential impact sustained low prices could have on North Dakota’s tax collections. One key lawmaker even compared the issue to a “big, black cloud hanging over the session[.]”

Determined to approach the situation with a level head, Senator Jim Dotzenrod (Wyndmere) asked the crack staff at Legislative Council to put on their green eyeshades and crunch the numbers. We will let our faithful readers digest the entirety of this Legislative Council memorandum as leisure allows, but suffice it to say that state tax collections would take a big hit if the oil market remains flat.

For instance, if the price of oil averages $44 to $52 dollars a barrel throughout the biennium, the state would collect $3.181 billion less than predicted in the December 2014 revenue forecast. If the once-obscure oil tax “triggers” are pulled, collections could dip by an additional $2.4 billion.

The numbers aren’t pretty, but neither are they cause for panic. That was the message delivered by Senator Connie Triplett (Grand Forks) this week when she called for “backup budgeting” to simultaneously guard against both overspending and leaving critical needs unmet.

As noted in the Fargo Forum, “the idea would be to set up revenue-based trigger mechanisms for releasing contingent appropriations, or to give the Legislature’s Budget Section more power to approve them at certain levels[.]” Encouragingly, the idea was met with an open mind by Senate Majority Leader Senator Rich Wardner (Dickinson). Somewhat less open minded was House Majority Leader Al Carlson (Fargo), who said his intent was “to get a realistic (revenue) number that we believe would be accurate and budget off that[.]” We wish Representative Carlson luck, but a realistic revenue projection would be a first for North Dakota since the oil boom began. So we’re not counting on it.

Rather, Dem-NPL legislators will be pushing for a “Goldilocks” approach to appropriations this session — not too big, not too small, but just right for whatever revenue the state takes in over the coming months and years.

We can’t control the market price of oil, but we can control how we react to it. With contingent appropriations we can avoid running up red ink in the wake of continued low oil prices and also provide needed resources to address our state’s challenges if there is a correction in the market after the legislature adjourns. We think it’s a sensible approach to a serious concern, and we hope you’ll agree it’s the right fight for North Dakota.

*How falling oil prices make a black swan event more likely – The Wall Street Journal, January 8, 2014

Head-shaker of the week: Fighting Sioux re-do

In 2011, the GOP majority in the legislature took a running swan dive into quicksand when it decided to legislate on the issue of the University of North Dakota’s Fighting Sioux nickname. Four years hence, Representative Scott Louser (R-Minot) has decided to take another dip.

Louser’s bill, which would prohibit UND from adopting a nickname for another two and a half years under force of North Dakota law, was heard by a House committee this week. In remarks to the committee, Louser hoped for “compromise” on the nickname issue and said that not being called something has, somehow, been a “unique identifier” for UND.

We’re all about treating colleagues with respect here at Capitol Letters, so we won’t call Representative Louser names just because he doesn’t want UND to have one. But we will share what others have said about his bill: “[N]ot helpful,” said UND President Robert Kelley, with understated civility resembling that of a career diplomat. “[I]ll-conceived” and “dumb[,]” the Fargo Forum redundantly noted. One letter-writer even went as far as to categorize the bill as the sort of “bold commitment to do nothing” worthy of the U.S. Congress.

Louser’s decision to revisit the Fighting Sioux nickname reminds your Capitol Letters co-authors of the famous Monty Python dead parrot sketch: The legislative debate over the nickname has “passed on.” It is “no more.” It has “ceased to be.” It is “bereft of life.” Its “metabolic processes are now history.” It has “kicked the bucket, shuffled off its mortal coil, run down the curtain and joined the beedin’ choir invisible.” And so on. The point is, let’s move on as a legislature and, in so doing, let UND move on as well.

Fortunately, it looks like Louser’s bill, HB 1155, will soon be nailed to the perch. Until then, we’ll be shaking our heads.

Meet a member:

Live in District 25? Interested in the North Dakota Dem-NPL House and Senate Caucuses? Or do you simply want to know more? Enjoy our new ‘Meet a Member’ feature. This week, we’re featuring one of our newest members, Rep. Alisa Mitskog, D-Wahpeton. Click here to find out how her first few days/weeks have been going at the North Dakota Capitol.

On to week three:

So long for now. We’ve got a big week in front of us, including consideration of legislation to fund oil impacts in western North Dakota. We’ll also have big announcements on pre-kindergarten and other key issues. Until then, keep the faith, keep up the fight, and like us on Facebook.

Meet a Member: Alisa Mitskog

“Teaching” Rep. Glassheim about the Civics test that, pending passage in the Senate, all students will be required to pass before they graduate.

We here in the Dem-NPL House Caucus have the great fortune of spending considerable time with our intelligent, committed, and often entertaining members. And, being the good Democrats that we are, we don’t want to keep everything that our members have to offer for ourselves. Moving forward, then, we’re going to introduce them to you. Our first legislator up is freshman Alisa Mitskog of Wahpeton (District 25).

It’s only been a couple weeks, but Alisa’s had quite an experience already. In addition to learning about the legislative process, drafting legislation, and meeting countless new people, she celebrated her birthday on Wednesday by carrying from Committee her first bill to the floor.

As if learning the ropes and legislative duties and birthday celebrations weren’t enough to keep her busy, Alisa took it upon herself to start a recycling program—which, for some reason, never existed before—that will bring recycling bins to both the House and Senate Chambers.

Concerned with the amount of paper that our legislators go through, and nowhere to dispose of it besides the trash, Alisa contacted the hard-working folks who keep the building running to see what they could do together. She met with the Capitol facilities director and House leadership, convincing them to allow recycling bins in both the House and Senate Chambers.

As the deadline approaches for filing bills, the energy and activity in the Capitol halls are ramping up. Alisa, along with the rest of our Caucus, is continuing to draft legislation that impacts her constituents in a positive way. She is honored to be part of our Caucus, while serving her district and the state.





News of the Week 1.10.15- 1.16.15

News 1.16.15

ND Democrats urge backup budgeting to guard against oil price swings – (M. Schneider, R. Wardner, C. Triplett, A. Carlson)

Dem-NPL calls for middle ground on budget – (C. Triplett, M. Schneider, R. Wardner)

ND bill would end anonymity for lawmakers’ open records requests – (T. Flakoll, A. Carlson, M. Schneider, R. Wardner, T. Beadle, M. Nathe, J. Kasper, B. Skarphol)

Sides clash on bill to shield college students’ contact information from public record

Bill raising threshold for public project bidding passes house – (W. Trottier, M. Strinden, Rick Becker)

Dollars at stake on both sides of UND’s nickname debate – (S. Louser)

ND legislators introduce bill allowing concealed carry in schools – (D. Kiefert, R. Streyle)

Billings Co. zoning board says ‘yes’ to worker camp

State: Brine spill reached Missouri River

Penalties for refusal of DUI testing upheld by ND Supreme Court

Governor officially establishes North Dakota Cares Coalition

Proposed new Fargo taxi laws could shut out Uber, Lyft

Moo-ve over steak: Beef byproduct values at record highs

Doosan, Bobcat contribute $3 million to largest endowment in NDSU history for STEM-student scholarships


Editorial: No need to chip away at open records, meetings

LETTER: GOP framed 2013 bill as tax relief for oil companies – (A. Carlson, L. Laffen)

LETTER: Call it the N.D. Corporate Health Department

LETTER: Don’t take away effective law-enforcement tool

Lawmakers are wasting time legislating against rumors – (R. Streyle)


State Democrats Call for “Backup Budgeting” – KXMB (K. Onstad)

Bill introduced to allow conceal and carry guns into ND schools – WDAY

Bill to Limit Public Access to Student’s Personal Information – KFYR

Oil and Gas asks for more money to clean up spills – KXMB (T. Porter)

News 1.15.15


Diederich resigns as head of ND higher ed board to avoid ‘power struggle’ with Legislature – (R. Wardner, T. Flakoll, J. Miller, M. Schneider)

Bill requiring ND students to pass citizenship test clears first hurdle – (M. Nathe, J. Heckaman, A. Carlson)

Legislators recommend do-not-pass for UND nickname moratorium bill – (J. Kelsh, M. Nathe, M. Schatz, S. Louser, K. Karls)

Blacktail spill appears ‘significant’

Fed: Oil price drops bring pain to Texas, North Dakota

Low oil prices could mean too few rigs to keep up production

Oil, brine spill reported in Renville County

Williston to shut down man camps for fire sprinklers

City closes 2 man camps

Death reported in oilfield incident

Fault Lines: Death on the Bakken Shale

Trafficked Documentary


Forum editorial: UND logo extension a bad idea – (S. Louser)

While oilfield activity slows railroad use stays the same

OUR OPINION: Consider a joint UND/Grand Forks library

Steve Stark cartoon (Jan. 15) – (S. Louser)

Column: The rhythm of chore season

Letter: Does Stark County lack civil service procedures?


Committee Votes Down Bill to Delay New UND Nickname – KFYR (C. Mock)

Legislators Review State Officials’ Salaries – KXMB

House Education Committee Votes Against UND Nickname Moratorium Extension – KXMB (C. Mock, M. Nathe)

A Record Number of Wells Waiting for Completion – KXMB

News 1.14.15


Early childhood education bill debated – (T. Flakoll, J. Heckaman, D. Schaible)

ND bill could void new flaring, oil conditioning standards – (K. Kempenich, B. Bowman)

State bill addresses fentanyl derivative – (D. Hogue)

Majority leader: Senate’s integrity ‘on the line’ in higher ed board confirmations – (R. Wardner, R. Holmberg)

Airport officials plead for tax bill exemption – (D. Cook)

Lawmakers aim to provide fertilizer plant incentives – (R. Wardner, P. Murphy)

N.D. lawmakers re-introduce school concealed carry bill – (D. Kiefert)

Bills to alter Industrial Commission introduced – (K. Kempenich)

‘Yes means yes’: Affirmative consent policies for sexual contact on the books at Concordia, NDSU; being considered at MSUM

In UND researcher’s study, nearly one-third of respondents say they would rape a woman – as long as it wasn’t defined as rape

Activists gather in Fargo, across Minnesota to protest Keystone XL pipeline

On Campus: UND still developing plan for old buildings

U of M president requests expanded tuition freeze


OUR OPINION: Accused students need due-process rights – (L. Delmore, R. Holmberg)

Andy Peterson: Common Core critic flunks core test: Accuracy – (J. Kasper)

Letter: Republican hypocrites and the politics of greed

Letter: Still not hearing from grown-ups

Steven Morrison: Personhood amendments: Bad medicine


Bill Would Create Traumatic Brain Injury Registry in North Dakota – WDAY (D. Anderson)

Falling Oil Prices Cause Concern In North Dakota and Minnesota – KVLY (A. Carlson)

Wear and tear rings in hefty price tag for Fargo Public School District – KVLY

North Dakota authorities debate drug crimes, lowering mandatory minimum – WDAZ

Former Homeless Man Gets Job at Capitol – KXMB (E. Oban)

Oil Prices, Rig Counts Tumble – KFYR

ND Lawmakers Discuss Good Samaritan Bill – KFYR

News 1.13.15


Column: Bakken oil wells and the Red Queen’s revenge

Gov. Bill Walker: The hard truth about Alaska’s oil revenue

Oil tumbles 5 percent to new low

North Dakota rig count at lowest level since November 2010

Law enforcement wary of ND bill eliminating sobriety checkpoints – (T. Campbell)

A small band of moderate Democrats could be key to the GOP Senate’s success – (H. Heitkamp)

Heitkamp mum on possible run for governor in 2016 – (R. Streyle)

Real estate industry says Fargo area’s new flood plain creates uncertainty in market

Bill extending UND nickname moratorium ‘not helpful,’ president says – (S. Louser, C. Mock, M. Nathe, Rich Becker, M. Schatz, K. Armstrong)

UND’s Kelley: Nickname remains ‘Fighting Question Mark’ – (S. Louser, M. Nathe, K. Armstrong, Rich Becker, M. Schatz)

Confirmation of four higher ed board members pending in ND Legislature

College administrators give Obama’s free-tuition proposal thumbs up

Free-tuition proposal sparks feasibility questions

Lakota farmer arrested with help of drone to get new trial after ND high court tosses conviction

Gateway to Science aims for $40M expansion


MIKE JACOBS: Session hits high points and low in opening week – (S. Louser, J. Kasper)

OUR OPINION: An unbalanced, less representative higher-ed board

Letter: Don’t push law change that’s not needed in ND

Forum editorial: The vision for Bison pays off


Bill Would Seal Teacher Personnel Files – KVLY

North Dakota authorities debate drug crimes, lowering mandatory minimum – WDAY

Property Tax Relief for North Dakotans – KVRR (J. Kasper)

ND Legislature Discusses Children’s College Tuition Fund – KFYR (O. Larson)

ND University System Responds to Tuition Proposal – KXMB

News 1.10.15 – 1.12.15


GALLERY+STORY: Grand Forks legislators handle the legislative lifestyle in different ways – (M. Schneider, L. Laffen, M. Owens, K. Oversen, T. Campbell, C. Mock, R. Guggisberg)

Bill would mean audits for health department, oil and gas division – (K. Onstad, R. Wardner)

State looks to jump-start infrastructure projects – (A. Carlson, G. Sinner, B. Martinson, R. Becker)

From both sides of the tracks: Like everyone else, train workers have to deal with accidents

TV report examines workplace deaths in ND Oil Patch

Groups advocate for state fix for teachers’ retirement fund

Controversy surrounds North Dakota’s divisive Common State Standards – (J. Kasper)

Fargo lawmaker trims back massive Common Core records request – (J. Kasper, K. Baesler, T. Grindberg)

Bill would limit access to school district records – (D. Rust)

West Fargo legislator offers bill settting framework for testing driverless cars in ND – (B. Hanson, D. Ruby, T. Beadle)

Bill would let ND elected officials carry concealed weapons in public buildings – (K. Koppelman, K. Onstad, D. Kiefert)

Bill aims to delay UND nickname selection until 2017 – (S. Louser)

Temporary flaring exemption granted

Trafficked: Day 6 – Squaring Up A Challenge

Trafficked: Day 7 – What’s Next

Sex trade survivor tells story at ‘Trafficking’ event in Fargo – (H. Heitkamp)

Record number of births reported in ND Oil Patch in 2014

Call him ‘Mayor Mahoney’: Former deputy mayor using term for legal purposes

Keystone XL clears hurdles, stage set for Washington showdown


MAC SCHNEIDER: Laffen’s letter lacks a lot of facts on SB 2336

Our View: More could have been done to protect Elkhorn Ranch

North Dakota Political Notebook: Lawmakers to hear about ‘surge’ funding, muskrats and cash for babies born in ND – (K. Armstrong, R. Holmberg, D. Oehlke, O. Larsen)

OUR OPINION: Diversity letter on UND nickname issues good, but hurdles remain

Column: Flaring benchmarks could be pushed back – (R. Streyle, H. Heitkamp)

Forum editorial: A bouquet to chief justice

Letter: Where is updated fatality projection?

Forum editorial: Put an end to an evil ND plague

Steve Stark cartoon 01.11.15

Trygve Olson cartoon 01.11.15

Jane Ahlin: Mary Contrary’s ‘wisdom’ about ND higher ed board

Letter: Senators wrong on Keystone

LETTER: Legislators need to keep the common good at forefront