John Hageman covers North Dakota politics from the Forum News Service bureau in Bismarck. He attended the University of Minnesota in the Twin Cities, where he studied journalism and political science, and he previously worked at the Grand Forks Herald and Bemidji Pioneer.
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NEAR BOWDON, N.D.—Kathy Holtan Wilner is known as "The School Lady." It's a nickname that's well-earned. Over the past several years, she embarked on a quest to find one-room schoolhouses where countless North Dakotans were educated. Using atlases, public records and the help of strangers, she documented roughly 500 of them. "We found them everywhere," Wilner said. "I could tell you stories for hours. Pick a school."
BISMARCK — Attorneys representing several members of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa have filed a new complaint challenging North Dakota’s latest voter ID law. The amended complaint, filed Dec. 13, asks a federal judge to declare House Bill 1369 unconstitutional and prevent it from being implemented, arguing that it violates the national Voting Rights Act. The bill, sponsored by Republican lawmakers, was signed into law by Gov. Doug Burgum in late April.
BISMARCK — North Dakota's tax commissioner predicted the state will see a "very small bump" in individual income tax collections due to the federal tax overhaul passed by Congress Wednesday, Dec. 20. Ryan Rauschenberger, a Republican, released a one-page analysis of the tax bill's impact the day House Republicans sent their $1.5 trillion legislation to President Donald Trump. His office predicted state individual income tax revenues would increase by $4.8 million, a roughly 1.3 percent increase from the $357.2 million in fiscal year 2019's estimated collections.
BISMARCK — North Dakota regulators approved an interim rate increase for Otter Tail Power Co. that amounts to a nearly $9 average monthly residential increase Wednesday, Dec. 20. The three-member Public Service Service Commission approved the $8.86 monthly increase unanimously. The rates will be effective Jan. 1 until the case is resolved.
BISMARCK—North Dakota's attorney general will defend Gov. Doug Burgum from a legislative legal challenge, the governor's spokesman said Tuesday, Dec. 19, sending one-time political rivals to the same side of the courtroom. State law requires Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem to "appear and defend all actions and proceedings against any state officer in the attorney general's official capacity." If both parties are state officers, the attorney general may decide which one to represent.
BISMARCK—A North Dakota regulator repeatedly implored representatives of a company planning an oil refinery near Theodore Roosevelt National Park to go through her agency's process for approving the location of such facilities Tuesday, Dec. 19. But the CEO of California-based Meridian Energy Group resisted those calls, and the Public Service Commission chairman acknowledged the agency doesn't have the legal authority to compel the company to face the additional regulatory scrutiny.
BISMARCK—Carryover funding for the North Dakota Children's Health Insurance Program will keep it sustained until May 2018, a state Department of Human Services spokeswoman said. The program covers nearly 2,800 North Dakota children whose families can't afford health insurance for them but earn too much to qualify for Medicaid. Federal funding for the program expired at the end of September, and Congress hasn't yet reauthorized it.
BISMARCK — North Dakota state employees gave mixed reviews in a wide-ranging survey about their jobs and workplace, according to results provided to reporters Friday, Dec. 15. More than 3,800 employees in cabinet-level agencies responded to the survey, which was conducted anonymously in October. Employees gave a 76 percent score for the "overall" category of questions, representing the rate of favorable responses.
THEODORE ROOSEVELT NATIONAL PARK — A pack of horses roamed a snow-covered field on the eastern edge of Theodore Roosevelt National Park on a recent afternoon, not far from where the landscape transforms into the rugged Badlands of western North Dakota. The natural scenery was contrasted by vehicles whizzing by on Interstate 94 nearby. A rail facility near Fryburg was clearly visible in the background. Now conservationists are fighting what they fear will be an unwelcome sight on the park's doorstep: an oil refinery.
BISMARCK — A federal judge issued a preliminary injunction Thursday, Dec. 14, preventing the state of North Dakota from enforcing a new law dubbed by supporters as a "farm equipment dealer bill of rights." U.S. District Judge Daniel Hovland said "common sense dictates that the law cannot stand constitutional muster" because it applies retroactively, prohibits arbitration clauses in contracts and conflicts with previous decisions involving similar legislation. He said Senate Bill 2289 can't be enforced in order to preserve the status quo while the case is pending.