Jack Dura / Bismarck Tribune
BISMARCK — Gov. Doug Burgum is moving up a step he introduced last year for North Dakota state agencies' budget planning. After issuing his new two-year budget guidelines in April 2018, Burgum's office introduced "strategy reviews" held with 57 state agencies to go over their missions, functions and needs to aid the executive budgeting process before the 2019 legislative session.
BISMARCK — North Dakota's new Ethics Commission will meet for the first time next month in Bismarck. The five-person panel will meet beginning at 1 p.m. Sept. 12 at the Russell Reid Auditorium of the North Dakota Heritage Center, with the meeting continuing at 10 a.m. Sept. 13. "We have a lot of stuff to do," convening Chairman Ron Goodman said. The panel likely will meet again in October for another 1 ½-day meeting, he added. Goodman will lead the first meeting, for which he is working on an agenda to post.
BISMARCK — The numbers of births and deaths in North Dakota were virtually unchanged from 2017 to 2018, according to recent data from the state's Division of Vital Records. North Dakota recorded 10,630 live births and 6,343 deaths in 2018. That was a 1% drop in births and a 0.5% rise in deaths from 2017. Live births fell 5.5% and deaths rose 3.2% from 2016 to 2017. "There really isn't much deviation from year to year," Deputy State Registrar Carmell Barth said of the 2018 data published in late July.
BISMARCK — How involved the state should be in helping sustain small-town North Dakota grocery stores is an early question in a legislative study of rural food distribution. State lawmakers on the interim Commerce Committee heard initial testimony on the study Monday, Aug. 12. A prior study by rural service cooperatives, grocery stores and food charities tied the decline of rural grocery stores to low sales volumes and difficulty in attracting certain suppliers and competing with larger stores in urban areas. So-called "food deserts" result when grocery stores close.
BISMARCK — North Dakota State Auditor Josh Gallion released audit results Tuesday, Aug. 6, that found the information technology arm of the North Dakota University System didn't seek formal bidding for several contracts totaling about $3.2 million. The audit covered July 2016 to June 2018. Gallion said the noncompliant contracts, mostly for software, essentially were renewed after they ended without required rebidding or without university system officials spelling out reasoning for "sole source" purchases.
BISMARCK — Mike Nathe sees funeral homes as an unsung hero for indigent burials. "Somebody has to step up and help these unclaimed, indigent cases, so I think that speaks very loudly and proudly about the industry that I'm in," the Bismarck Funeral Home director and Republican state representative said.
BISMARCK — Petitions for two proposed referendums in 2020 might be sunk, one of them perhaps partly due to conflicting deadline information from the state. Dickinson electrician Riley Kuntz is leading three referendum efforts on items passed in North Dakota's 2019 legislative session. The proposals seek to repeal a restriction limiting the state auditor in launching certain audits, a budget provision for a proposed Theodore Roosevelt presidential library and a bill shielding lawmakers' communications with state employees from open records.
BISMARCK — Morton County Auditor Dawn Rhone is looking forward to new election equipment. "Thankfully we haven't had a lot of problems with ours as some counties have, but it's reassuring that we don't have to worry about the equipment at this point anymore," she said. North Dakota lawmakers in their 2019 legislative session budgeted $8.2 million to meet $3 million in federal funds for the new election equipment statewide to replace 15-year-old machines.
BISMARCK — Three petitions seeking to repeal laws from the 2019 legislative session are due in coming days to North Dakota Secretary of State Al Jaeger. Dickinson electrician Riley Kuntz is leading the efforts to place referendums on the June 2020 primary ballot. They would target new laws related to a restriction limiting the state auditor on launching certain audits, a budget provision creating an endowment fund for a proposed Theodore Roosevelt presidential library and a bill passed to shield lawmakers' communications with state employees from open records.
BISMARCK — North Dakota House members never met as a full body in the 2019 legislative session, and 85 senators and representatives missed at least one day of the 76-day period but still were paid. Pay to lawmakers with excused absences totaled about $56,000, according to figures The Bismarck Tribune requested from the Legislative Council, the Legislature’s nonpartisan agency of fiscal and legal experts. North Dakota's Legislature meets for up to 80 days every two years.