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Here’s a sample of the newsletters we’ve sent recently:

 

3.2.21
North Dakota State Senator Judy Lee (R) of West Fargo joins News & Views with Joel Heitkamp to talk about the effort to rescind North Dakota’s support for the Equal Rights Amendment.

North Dakota lawmaker: I moved my desk to escape GOP colleauge’s harassment: “In a Saturday statement, Rep. Emily O’Brien (R-Grand Forks) said the inappropriate behavior by Rep. Luke Simons (R-Dickinson) became so bad that her colleagues had to help her relocate to a desk “further away from him.” The move was made “under the pretense that my pregnancy required closer proximity to a restroom rather than addressing his harassing behavior,” she explained. “Mine is just one of many instances that were handled by avoiding the real issue. If you have endured similar harassment, now is the time to speak up, and now is the time to demand action.” Read more.

Democratic lawmakers fighting for North Dakota families: The Dem-NPL caucus is fighting to improve health care for North Dakotans, including more transparency for prescription drug prices. We support providing continued health care coverage for the families of law enforcement killed in the line of duty. We believe mental injuries must be treated the same as physical injuries on workers’ compensation claims.The Dem-NPL caucus works to make North Dakota a welcoming place for everyone. We sponsored bills to track bias-motivated crimes to make our state a safer place and to create a paid family leave program so families can take care of family while still collecting a paycheck. However, many members of the super-majority did not support those ideas,” Sen. Joan Heckaman and Rep. Josh Boschee, Grand Forks Herald

Playing hardball in state politics:Because every sitting legislator wants to keep his/her seat, Republicans will be giving up no seat out of fairness or compassion. They will try to keep all seats, even expanding the size of the Legislature to be sure that no Republican loses a seat in the decennial lottery. It is during the reapportionment process that we see the use of raw power. Even though the Republicans can govern without winning another seat, their lust for the sport will overcome them. They will protect the malapportionment they already have and try to add more malapportionment before the 2023 season. It’s hardball all the way,” Lloyd Omdahl, Fargo Forum.

3.1.21 Along with the allegations, lawmakers must address the environment that enabled the alleged behavior:Buried in the 14-page complaint against Simons, were details and a timeline that also needs our attention. Legislative staff who felt harassed have yet to file a formal complaint against Simons. The documents claim that is because the staff didn’t believe they had the support of other legislators. That claim was reported in February of 2021. Two years before that revelation, in March of 2019, those same records claim Assistant House Majority Leader Scott Louser from Minot questioned whether the victim did anything to give Simons the impression she would welcome his “advances.” No wonder the staff didn’t feel like other legislators were taking this harassment seriously,” Tyler Axness, NDxPlains.

Representative Luke Simons has a long list of complaints of sexual harassment against women at the state capitol and his behavior will not be tolerated. His behavior resulted in restricting him from interacting with all female staff. Simply, a slap on the wrist that failed to appropriately condemn his behavior and protect women staff at the Capitol. His actions show a complete lack of respect for women and his disregard for the people of District 36 and the great state of North Dakota. Send this message to your representatives and demand Luke Simons be removed from office.

Amid crumbling farm roads, ND producers push for infrastructure funds: “Farmers say timing is everything for successful production, but North Dakota producers said it’s not just changing weather patterns they’re contending with. Declining infrastructure is another barrier, and they hope lawmakers come through with key funding. So far this session, bonding proposals of different sizes have been floated as the Legislature looks to pay for a number of infrastructure projects. But price tags for these plans have come down, and money for county and township-level improvements has been removed. Matt Perdue, government relations director for the North Dakota Farmers Union, said rural communities need those funds, with roads deteriorating around them. “In North Dakota, in the eastern half of the state, we’ve had wet conditions the last several years that have caused a lot of stress on our roads,” Perdue observed. “And in some cases, [conditions] have even overwhelmed or flooded out some of our rural roads.” Read more.

2.26.21
Fear of ‘blowback’ prevents women from coming forward with harassment complaints: “In a March 19, 2019, note, Bjornson documented a conversation he’d had with Majority Leader Chet Pollert and Assistant Majority Leader Scott Louser about inappropriate comments by Simons directed toward a staff member.“Rep. Louser inquired whether she would have done anything to give Rep. Simons the impression she would be interested in his advances. I responded that would be the last thing she would do and she has acted in a professional manner,” Bjornson wrote. On Feb. 25, 2020, a woman who had raised concerns about Simons wrote an email following a discussion she had with Louser. “Rep. Louser then said he thinks Rep. Simons is ‘harmless,’ ‘naive,’ and ‘just from the ranch.’ I do not agree with this assessment,” she wrote, adding that Louser characterized his conversations with Simons as calls for him to “grow up.” Read more

The time has come for the North Dakota legislature to meet every year:In a way, the state of North Dakota is a company – one that’s been working on a schedule created decades ago when transportation and communications were markedly slower than today. And when it was first decided the Legislature would meet every two years instead of annually, lawmakers could never have foreseen how the future would change not only their ability to meet, but also the volatility that can quickly shake state government. Meanwhile, the North Dakota Legislature remains one of just four that meets every other year,” editorial, Grand Forks Herald.

2.25.21
North Dakota legislature has no business regulating University research:
Capitalizing on anti-abortion rhetoric and the stigma around Planned Parenthood, the last-minute amendment by Sen. Myrdal would effectively allow the legislature to control what kind of research can and cannot be conducted at the university level. In 2013 this was an attempt to tie up federal grant money because some of it would go toward sex education. Such grants pay for and promote undergraduate and graduate research; they attract national attention and put North Dakota on the map,” Anastassiya Andrianova, Fargo Forum.

Could politicians live on minimum wage: Since out of town “law makers” get $1,800/month housing allowance, we must assume the addition $186.00/day is to cover the “law makers” other expense such as meals. I think $62/meal in Bismarck ND would provide pretty good fare. To look at it another way, two days of per diem is more than someone on minimum wage earns in a week $372 vs $290 or 80 days of per diem is only $200 less than the minimum wage earner makes all year ($14,880 vs $15,080). WHO NEEDS HELP?,” Thomas Coleman, Bismarck Tribune

2.24.21
Charley Johnson is the President and CEO of the Fargo-Moorhead Convention and Visitors Bureau and is against House Bill 1298 that would restrict the rights of transgender students. Johnson discusses the impact of the bill on News & Views with Joel Heitkamp.

Union Food Giveaway: “Red River Valley Trades Union and the North Dakota Labor Union held a Food Giveaway. They gave out 1300 boxes full of food.” Watch coverage here.


Larger-than-expected turnout for forces food giveaway event to start early: “People showed up at 8 a.m. Monday, Feb. 22, for a 30-pound box of fresh fruit, vegetables, meat and milk, hours before the noon event was to start. As a line of cars threatened traffic flow on First Avenue North, Ehlert and the volunteers on hand opened the gates early to begin handing out free food. “We had so many cars lined up so we had to start at 11,” said Ehlert, president of the Red River Valley Building Trades Unions. “And it’s just been all over the place. There is a great need. I am shocked.” Ehlert stopped counting cars at 300, he said. Holding up a bag of chocolate Kisses, a gift from a grateful recipient, he said the people coming in for the food ranged from young to elderly, and nearly everyone was thanking him and offering blessings.” Read more.

2.23.21 North Dakota House advances bill banning mask mandates by governments, businesses and schools: Minot Republican Rep. Jeff Hoverson, the bill’s sponsor, painted government-issued mask requirements as part of a larger conspiracy driven by “unelected, wealthy bureaucrats who are robbing our freedoms and perpetuating lies.” Hoverson said North Dakota should be free like its sister state to the south and called mask mandates “diabolical silliness”. Lidgerwood Republican Rep. Kathy Skroch and several other bill supporters claimed without evidence that mask-wearing doesn’t help prevent the spread of COVID-19. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has found strong evidence that widespread mask-wearing is effective in mitigating transmission of the virus.” Read more.

More work needed to fight hunger, housing issues:With an extreme poverty rate in North Dakota of 5% and a fifth of working families living well below the poverty line, struggling families need substantial nutritional and housing support just to get by. Because they are the most vulnerable, the children in these families especially deserve our support…The coronavirus has brought this crisis to center stage, but our longstanding wealth gap has created the conditions for it. I ask Senators John Hoeven and Kevin Cramer and Representative Kelly Armstrong to help devise a robust plan that addresses the dire needs which undermine our children’s hope for a better future,” Kathleen Ness, Grand Forks Herald.

Feed our greed before feeding those in need:A true moral conundrum presented itself to the Republican supermajority last week in Bismarck. One that would reveal their true priorities and expose their shamelessnes on the question of: should every worker in the state be able to afford basic necessities like food, shelter and clothing? For most of us, a living wage doesn’t pose much of an ethical dilemma, but let us not forget who we are dealing… It’s not complicated folks. We, the collective, believe that if you work hard, you should be able to provide for you and your family with a safe and secure place to live, food on the table and clothing on your back. In reality, these become empty words for Republicans to mouth as they shun their responsibilities and passively watch more and more working North Dakotans fall into distress and deeper into the economic abyss”, Amy Jacobson, Prairie Action ND.

2.22.21
Proud to support Haaland for interior secretary:We have lived alongside and worked with Indian Country our entire careers and we have seen and experienced firsthand that Indigenous values are values of balance. As a citizen of the Laguna Pueblo Tribe, Rep. Haaland will bring those values of balance to the Department of the Interior. Rep. Haaland will bring a Westerner’s perspective and familiarity to the energy issues facing the Department of the Interior. As any nominee for Interior Secretary would must do, she must support the vision of the Biden-Harris administration on climate change and the goal of transition away from fossil fuels. Rep. Haaland has been clear in her belief that a robust climate agenda is also an economic agenda – and has also demonstrated her understanding that investments in clean energy generation can work hand in hand with maximizing job retention and creation with the energy sector,Byron Dorgan, former U.S. senator from North Dakota and Tom Daschle, former U.S. senator from South Dakota, Bismarck Tribune.

North Dakota lawmakers scale back bill aimed at curbing insulin costs: “A bill that would have capped the upfront cost of insulin at $25 for residents with a North Dakota insurance plan is a shell of its former self after changes by lawmakers. Senate Bill 2183 garnered strong objections to its attempt to make insulin affordable for people with diabetes. Some diabetics require insulin — a hormone the body uses to allow blood sugar to be made into energy — in order to survive…The original version of the bill would have put a $25 cap on the amount a person with a North Dakota health insurance plan pays in either copay or coinsurance when picking up insulin at a pharmacy or distributor…As the amended bill stands now, only residents enrolled in the North Dakota Public Employees Retirement System (NDPERS) would qualify to obtain a 30-day supply of insulin with a maximum copay or coinsurance of $25.” Read more.


Dozen of students protest bill affecting transgender athletes: “North Dakota students have a message for lawmakers today. This comes after the House passed a bill to ban transgender athletes from playing on sports teams according to the gender they identify with. They were all kids; teenagers. The next generation of North Dakota decision-makers are so frustrated with legislation, they spent the day at the Capitol, instead of in school.” Watch the clip.


2.12.21

ACLU of North Dakota opposes legislation to rescind ratification of Equal Rights Amendment: “Leveling the playing field between women and men should be a priority for North Dakota legislators, but House Concurrent Resolution 3037 suggests otherwise.

The ACLU of North Dakota opposes HCR 3037, legislation that would rescind North Dakota’s ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment to the Constitution. HCR 3037, which passed the House, will be heard in the Senate’s Government and Veterans Affairs Committee today.

The Equal Rights Amendment is just as critical today as it was in 1972.” Read more.

Bill to restrict transgender high school athletes passes North Dakota House: “Lawmakers from both parties and LGBT advocacy groups strongly oppose the legislation. The American Civil Liberties Union said the bill is discriminatory, addresses a nonexistent issue in North Dakota and jeopardizes the state’s standing with national athletic organizations. Limiting opportunities for transgender athletes could also have damaging mental health consequences, the ACLU said.” Read more.

Does gerrymandering happen in North Dakota?:Gerrymandering happens when lawmakers draw new legislative district boundaries so as to favor themselves and their party in future elections. In the year following each U.S. Census, legislative district boundaries must be redrawn so that each district has nearly the same number of voters. A committee of legislators updates the state’s district map. In other words, elected officials pick their voters, not the other way around. Legislators want to be re-elected, so there is a motivation to use the redistricting process for incumbent protection,” Carol Sawicki, Fargo Forum.

2.11.2021
PRO Act would ensure workers’ right to unionize: Under current law, the penalties against employers who illegally fire or retaliate against workers who are trying to form a union are a drop in the bucket. As a result, employers routinely retaliate against pro-union workers, because they know it will undermine the organizing campaign and they will face no real consequences. To them, it’s simply the cost of doing business. For the first time in modern history, however, we have the chance to turn this around. The Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act would hold employers accountable and institute civil penalties for violations of the law, including back pay and damages,” Landis Larson, president North Dakota AFL-CIO, Fargo Forum.

With Oscar Season Approaching, Kevin Cramer Performs Award-Worthy Fake Outrage: “Sen. Kevin Cramer released an official statement responding to the impeachment proceedings of former President, Donald Trump. The statement, which included words generally associated with Cramer’s treatment of constituents and fair and free elections – “mockery” and “disgusting” – comes shortly after Cramer supported several events, rallies, and fake news on the election results that led to the events on Jan. 6. In reference to Sen. Cramer’s statement, Democratic-NPL Executive Director, Michael Taylor said: “What’s truly disgusting is a former Congressman and current Senator who perpetrated the behavior that incited the events on January 6th. It’s disgusting that he actively spoke against free and fair elections, consistently lied to North Dakotans, and held and participated in rallies that led up to the Capitol Insurrection. He has neither the position nor the merit to make statements like that, especially when the irony is completely lost on him.” Read more.
2.09.2021
North Dakota lawmakers looking to establish reporting and training system for hate crimes: “Buffalo has drafted a bill for police to make a system to collect information related to a bias crime, which also calls for the Peace Officer Standards and Training board to create a training program that teaches the difference between hate crimes and regular crimes…Along with reporting the bias, the bill also shows police would have to take motivation of the crime into account as well, which is a sticking point for those who aren’t in favor of the bill.” Read more.

Bismarck Public Schools update policy after Confederate flag ban request: “Marianna Miller, 16, who is Black, told school board members at a Jan. 25 meeting that the flag should be banned because it causes distractions during the school day and makes people of color feel unsafe. She cited a recent incident in which a white student wearing a piece of clothing with the Confederate flag was confronted by another white student. Superintendent Jason Hornbacher told the Bismarck Public School board about the change at the board’s meeting Monday. The new policy is worded to strengthen a policy that already existed and gives teachers and staff the ability to be more proactive about items that can disrupt the learning environment or make students feel uncomfortable, Assistant Superintendent Ben Johnson told the Tribune.” Read more.

Legislature corrupting the redistricting process: “It’s a corrupt process because in most states, legislatures have kept to themselves the authority to chart their own waters. Prominent jurists condemn situations in which people or legislatures become the judges in their own cases. When humans are involved, greed is a given – greed for money, greed for honor, greed for power. So fairness is overcome by greed for power in the cases of legislature reapportionment,” Lloyd Omdahl, Grand Forks Herald.

2.08.2021

Listen to teachers to stop recruitment and retention crisis: “We have a looming teacher recruitment and retention crisis in North Dakota that is growing worse because of added pressure and burnout. We need to act now to defend the promise of great public education for the next generation. A recent survey by North Dakota United revealed that just 50% of North Dakota teachers expect to retire as teachers, a dramatic drop from 83% who started their career planning to retire in the profession. The statistic shines an ominous spotlight on the efforts of some state legislators to divert critical funding from public schools and silence the voice of teachers,” Nick Archuleta, president of North Dakota United, Fargo Forum.

 

Paid family leave is pro-family bill:The bill is House Bill 1441 and it offers a voluntary, not mandatory, paid family leave program that would help employees replace lost wages if they need time off from work to take care of a new baby or a sick family member.  More and more states are looking into this idea. Just about all the other developed countries in the world already have it. It’s a pro-family bill that will help thousands of North Dakotans when they need to be with family,” Melissa Gjellstad, Bismarck Tribune.

 

Bill is grave threat to ND public education: There never has been a truer wolf in sheep’s clothing: the “empowerment” the bill promises is both façade and farce. Initiatives like HB 1369 are neither promising new reforms nor tried and true initiatives that have improved education elsewhere. Instead, bills of this kind beginning with vouchers and extending to plans like Arizona’s education savings accounts have been around for decades, now growing stale as they have failed to yield measurable improvements in student learning. Even more importantly, not only have efforts to privatize public education not, on balance, increased test scores but they have served to erode public schools and the communities that depend on them,” Diana D’Amico Pawlewicz and Cheryl Hunter, Bismarck Tribune.

 

2.05.2021
House Bill 1119 would suppress voter participation in measures: North Dakota’s legislative session is in full swing, and some legislation under consideration would impact our elections. In today’s column, I’ll focus on House Bill 1119. This bill, which you can learn about by visiting tinyurl.com/HB-1119, aims to change what we see on our ballots when we vote on statewide measures. If passed, the language on a ballot that describes a measure (the measure “title”) could no longer be a summary. Instead, the language would always be the full text of the measure. Proponents of House Bill 1119 argue that the bill’s goal is to increase transparency. It’s a laudable goal, but the bill is unlikely to lead to more transparent understanding among voters,” Ellie Shockley, Bismarck Tribune

Physicians voice concern over controversial North Dakota abortion bill: “Dr. Erica Hofland, an OB-GYN physician in Dickinson, believes this bill would limit a mother’s choices if her pregnancy is considered high risk. “If you’re not telling people all of the options that are available to them, that definitely is taking away a patient’s ability to act within their own best interests,” she said. Hofland added not all pregnancies lead to babies being born healthy, which is why she argued for patients to have the choice to have an abortion, even if keeping the baby in the womb doesn’t pose a health risk to the mother.” Read more

Labor union seeks state’s help getting wind developers to hire local: “Companies involved in wind farm construction sometimes hire workers from other states who will accept lower wages, or they use a traveling workforce that moves from project to project across the country, according to the union. “There are hundreds of skilled workers in the state waiting to fill these jobs,” said Pam Trhlik, director of government relations and new business development for the Laborers District Council of Minnesota and North Dakota.” Read more

ACLU of North Dakota files amicus brief urging court to affirm rural roads are traditional public forums: “In the brief, the ACLU argues that public streets are quintessential traditional public forums. Roads of every kind — including rural roads, multi-lane roads and high-speed roads — have served as sites of protest throughout United States history, from the civil rights marches and anti-war demonstrations of the 1960s and ’70s to more recent protests, including marches in opposition to abortion, in support of rural healthcare and against police brutality. The environmental and Indigenous justice protests at issue in this case are no different.” Read more