WASHINGTON—Like most North Dakotans, when I walk into my local bank, I know and trust the folks behind the counter. They're my friends and neighbors and—and they're incredibly dedicated to their work and to our community. That's why when I learned that at least 5,300 Wells Fargo employees had been fired for opening roughly 1.5 million fraudulent bank accounts and 565,000 credit card applications over the past five years, I was flabbergasted. In North Dakota alone, Wells Fargo estimates that 1,939 accounts may have been unauthorized, and 84 of them incurred fees.
CLEVELAND, N.D.—Brushing aside cattails and wading into a wetland last week, I thought about how Congress would work better if members got out in the field more. In this case, it was farmer Denny Ova's field. He and his family grow wheat and corn near Cleveland, including on acres enrolled in a Delta Waterfowl pilot project I wanted to learn about up close. The program gives farmers incentives not to drain wetlands, protecting duck habitat while still letting producers farm their land.
WASHINGTON—North Dakotans shouldn't need to create community-wide Facebook groups to sort through stacks of mail that end up at the wrong address. But that's exactly what folks in a south Fargo neighborhood had to do last year to get their mail, including everything from bills to employment forms, tax returns to medication.
WASHINGTON — So many veterans carry invisible wounds of war — and it's not only veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan. In fact, 65 percent of veterans who died by suicide in 2014 were older than 50, according to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Too many of these veterans' heroic stories end in tragedy, but we can change that.
WASHINGTON—It sounds like something out of a sci-fi novel. A mosquito-borne illness that silently and largely asymptomatically infects expectant mothers, causing a generation of children with severe birth and health defects. But this is not fiction. Reports from South America of the Zika virus causing babies to be born with microcephaly—a condition in which a child is born with fetal brain defects—quickly have spread to the continental United States and its territories.
WASHINGTON—It's just common sense: if someone is too dangerous to board an airplane, he or she is too dangerous to buy a gun. But right now, our laws are permitting that to happen. That's a serious problem. The shooting in Orlando was a terrible tragedy for our country, for LGBT communities and for the families and loved ones of those who didn't come home that night. The American people want responsible action to make sure our communities are safe and free from terrorism.
WASHINGTON—When more than 50 ranchers take time out of a busy day to talk about high-frequency trading, you know you've got a problem in the cattle markets. Volatility in the cattle futures market has hurt North Dakota ranchers and their families, as well as the state's economy, given that agriculture is 25 percent of our economic base. The folks the futures market is supposed to work for—ranchers who raise cattle—are losing faith that the market is a useful tool to mitigate their risk.
BEULAH, N.D.—Walking up and down the wind-swept prairie slopes near Beulah this week, it occurred to me that this swath of grassy land—an unmined portion of lignite coal country—probably doesn't look like a coal mine to someone who's not from North Dakota.
WASHINGTON—Imagine this. You worked your entire life in a job that lets you and your family get by while providing a solid pension so you can retire with dignity. It's a hard job that requires a great deal of manual labor, which has taken a toll on your body over the years. After a few decades of work, you aren't able to do your job any more because of the injuries it caused. But you know that because you have been saving for retirement through your pension, you'll still be able support yourself and your family.
WASHINGTON—I've heard from an electrician from Bismarck who works 50 to 70 hours a week to keep North Dakotans' homes and businesses functioning. If he doesn't go to work, he doesn't get paid and can't put food on the table for his family. I've heard from a veteran from Williston who served two tours in Iraq, helping to destroy weapons stockpiles and explosive devices. That's a 24-hours-a-day, seven-days-a-week job. If he hadn't shown up for work, he or other soldiers could have died.