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POLITICAL NOTEBOOK: Stenehjem foe blasts steep pay increase

Stenehjem foe blasts steep pay increase The Democratic candidate for North Dakota attorney general says a big pay raise for the job represents a "breach of trust" with voters. Jeanette Boechler said Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem's salary is go...

Jeanette Boechler
Jeanette Boechler

Stenehjem foe blasts steep pay increase

The Democratic candidate for North Dakota attorney general says a big pay raise for the job represents a "breach of trust" with voters.

Jeanette Boechler said Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem's salary is going up more than 35 percent. The Legislature approved the pay raise after lawmakers found the attorney general is one of the lower-paid lawyers in state government.

Stenehjem said the increase won't take effect until next year -- after the November election. The Republican incumbent said Boechler herself could collect the higher pay if she wins at the polls.

Stenehjem is now paid $96,304 annually. The attorney general is in line for two more pay raises in January and June. They will push the salary for the office to $130,228 on July 1.


Heitkamps to stump for GF candidates

Former North Dakota attorney general Heidi Heitkamp and Joel Heitkamp, her brother and a Fargo radio talk-show host, will be in Grand Forks next week to stump for local candidates for the North Dakota Legislature.

The Heitkamps will attend the Tuesday evening event with Democratic-NPL candidates for District 43, which includes most of southwestern Grand Forks.

The event will be held 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at Columbia Park Towers, 2200 S. 29th St.

Democrats hold two of the district's three spots in the state Legislature, and Sen. JoNell Bakke and Rep. Lois Delmore are running for re-election this fall. Democratic-NPL candidate Don Vangsnes is running to win the seat retiring Republican Rep. Darrell Nottestad has held since 1995.

They're competing with three Republican candidates this fall: Senate challenger Lonnie Laffen and House candidates Donald Dietrich and Curt Kreun.

NDEA endorses John Hoeven

Republican Gov. John Hoeven got the endorsement of the North Dakota Education Association on Thursday as he runs against Democratic-NPL candidate Tracy Potter to win a seat on the U.S. Senate.


In a written statement, NDEA President Dakota Draper said Hoeven "has always had a positive working relationship with us," something he believes will continue if the governor is elected to Congress.

"Gov. Hoeven's record of support for public education funding and his commitment to ensuring that public educators have a role in the policymaking process make him a great pick for the U.S. Senate," Draper wrote.

Conrad pushes to make Devils Lake a top priority

Sen. Kent Conrad, D-N.D., urged the nominee for director of the Office of Management and Budget on Thursday to make the flooding emergency in Devils Lake a top priority once confirmed.

The OMB has been leading a White House interagency working group established earlier this year to develop a set of options to address the rising Devils Lake.

Conrad said the issue needs "action, and we need it now," not more meetings and additional reports.

"I know you are not yet confirmed and unable to influence this pending report, but I want to stress to you the urgency of the situation we face," he said to nominee Jack Lew. "It is absolutely imperative that we start to move water off this runaway lake."

The Devils Lake working group has held a series of meetings in North Dakota over the past several months to get feedback from local officials. It also met with North Dakota leaders in Washington, D.C., on Sept. 3 to get additional input for a report that is scheduled to be released later this month.


House passes bill to provide loans for rural energy upgrades

The U.S. House passed a bill today that, if approved by the Senate, would help reduce electricity costs in rural areas in North Dakota and across the country.

The Rural Energy Savings Program Act, H.R. 4785, passed by a 240-172 vote. The act authorizes the U.S. Department of Agriculture to provide loans to those in rural communities to renovate their homes or farms to become more energy-efficient.

In a written statement, Rep. Earl Pomeroy, D-N.D., said reducing the costs of financing energy efficiency investments will help encourage rural residents to take steps to reduce their energy costs.

"Lower bills will mean a higher quality of life for North Dakotans who live in rural areas, and will improve efficiency and production for farms," Pomeroy wrote.

If enacted, the programs would offer homeowners and farmers loans of $3,000 to $7,500 to help with the upfront cost of home energy upgrades. Customers could then repay the loan over 10 years on their electric bills, with their energy savings covering most of the cost of the loan, Pomeroy said.

He said energy conservation would also help rural electric cooperatives by delaying the need to build expensive power infrastructure, something he said could help keep rates low for all customers.

"This program is so exciting because the benefits can be felt by all rural electric cooperative customers," Pomeroy said. "This program reinforces the understanding we have in North Dakota that helping our neighbors helps everybody in our community."


The Associated Press contributed to this report. Johnson reports on local politics. Reach him at (701) 780-1105; (800) 477-6572, ext. 105; or send e-mail to rjohnson@gfherald.com .

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