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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BISMARCK -- North Dakota utility regulators unanimously approved an agreement with Xcel Energy requiring it to refund its electric customers in the state almost $9.8 million due to federal tax cuts Wednesday, Feb. 6. The agreement was first unveiled in October before the all-Republican Public Service Commission gave its blessing Wednesday. It includes a two-year moratorium preventing the company from imposing new base rates until 2021. Minneapolis-based Xcel Energy previously estimated residential customers would see an average one-time refund of $46.
BISMARCK — A Microsoft official pitched a data privacy bill unveiled in the North Dakota Legislature as way to head off a “rising tide” of public distrust in technology Wednesday, Feb. 6, as industry groups warned lawmakers not to quickly approve the “sweeping” mandates. House Bill 1485, pushed by Fargo Republican Rep. Jim Kasper, would allow consumers to request companies like Google and Facebook to delete and stop collecting their personal data. It would also require companies to provide information about data they’ve collected and to correct inaccurate information.
BISMARCK — The president of Bismarck State College opposed a proposal to split North Dakota's higher education governance into multiple boards Tuesday, Feb. 5. Larry Skogen, who previously served as the North Dakota University System's interim chancellor, questioned the conclusion of a task force convened by Gov. Doug Burgum that recommended three boards for the state's colleges and universities.
BISMARCK — North Dakota House lawmakers rejected a bill creating a new paid family medical leave program Tuesday, Feb. 5. House Bill 1509, championed by Fargo Democratic Rep. Karla Rose Hanson, would have required larger employers and its workers to put money toward a fund to benefit eligible employees on leave for personal medical reasons or to care for a family member. The program would have provided for 66 percent of an eligible employee's wages, up to $4,000 per month.
BISMARCK — The North Dakota Senate agreed to raise driver’s license fees that have remained stagnant for more than three decades Tuesday, Feb. 5. Senate Bill 2244 doubles the fee for commercial and noncommercial driver’s licenses from $15 to $30. Noncommercial licenses are good for six years — elderly drivers must renew every four years, however — and commercial ones are good for four years.
BISMARCK — A North Dakota lawmaker wants to give DUI offenders who stay out of trouble better odds of getting a job. House Bill 1334, sponsored by Devils Lake Republican Rep. Dennis Johnson, requires North Dakota courts to seal records for people who haven’t been found guilty of a DUI or “any other criminal offense” within seven years of their first DUI violation. The bipartisan bill doesn’t apply to licensed commercial drivers.
BISMARCK - The North Dakota Senate rejected a 4-cent boost in the state’s gas tax Monday, Feb. 4. Senate Bill 2288 failed in a 26-18 vote. Pushed primarily by Fairmount Republican Sen. Larry Luick, the bill would have inched the state’s taxes on motor vehicle and special fuels, including diesel, to 27 cents per gallon. Bill proponents urged lawmakers to address the state’s road funding needs. Sen. Kyle Davison, R-Fargo, said the state’s top industries, oil and agriculture, rely on well-maintained roads.
BISMARCK — The chief backer of a bill restructuring North Dakota’s higher education governance said Monday, Feb. 4, she will introduce an amendment seeking to split the system into two boards instead of the three proposed by a task force led by Gov. Doug Burgum.
BISMARCK — A Bismarck Republican lawmaker is the primary sponsor of 27 bills this session, the most among North Dakota’s 141 legislators, according to figures provided by nonpartisan staffers Thursday, Jan. 31. Rep. George Keiser is chairman of the House Industry, Business and Labor Committee and has served in the Legislature since 1993. This session, he has pushed bills on insurance fees, pharmacy mail order delivery services and autonomous vehicle data, among other proposals.
BISMARCK — North Dakota House lawmakers agreed to expand the state’s gambling options to include historic horse races Friday, Feb. 1. The 48-43 vote came after proponents pleaded with fellow legislators to provide the state’s horse racing industry with another revenue source, warning it faced a dire future without the legislation. House Bill 1443 now moves to the Senate. The House narrowly killed a similar bill two years ago.