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—A North Dakota House committee voted against a bill to increase the state's minimum wage Tuesday, Jan. 31, rejecting arguments that such a bump was necessary to boost earnings.
BISMARCK—Arguments over local control and property tax relief clashed in a North Dakota legislative committee hearing Monday, Jan. 30. At issue was a bill, introduced by Republican lawmakers, to limit dollar increases in property tax levies to 3 percent annually, with some exceptions. Voters would need to approve larger increases. Rep. Jim Kasper, R-Fargo, argued local control ultimately rests with the taxpayers.
BISMARCK—North Dakota lawmakers were adamant Monday, Jan. 16, that they were not trying to deny the will of the people with a proposal to delay parts of the recently passed medical marijuana law. The bill, introduced by legislative leadership from both sides of the aisle, would delay certain provisions of the Compassionate Care Act to give the North Dakota Department of Health more time to set up rules governing medical marijuana, said Senate Majority Leader Rich Wardner, R-Dickinson. He pointed to financial and social costs if it's not properly regulated.
BISMARCK — With uncertainty looming over the fate of a major federal health care law, North Dakota lawmakers are weighing their options over the Medicaid expansion program that's set to expire later this year. Medicaid expansion is available to adults younger than 65 with household incomes of up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level. As of September, there were 19,358 North Dakotans enrolled in Medicaid expansion, a cornerstone of President Barack Obama's signature health care law, the Affordable Care Act.
GRAND FORKS, N.D.—Grand Forks City Council members signaled their support for a massive fertilizer plant that's in the works, but project planners acknowledge they face financial obstacles. The City Council has voted to extend a letter of intent with Northern Plains Nitrogen, which is planning to build a fertilizer plant on a 320-acre site in northwest Grand Forks, until June 30. The agreement includes provisions on water supply and wastewater discharge permitting.
A limited-edition beer that debuted at Rhombus Guys Brewing Co. this week features ingredients from the Red River Valley. The Grand Forks brewpub received a batch of malt from Vertical Malt, a startup based in Crookston that uses barley grown outside Fisher, Minn. Adam Wagner, who runs Vertical Malt with his father, Tim, said they hope to run test batches on a larger system by the end of November. That will allow them to produce about two tons of malt a week, which should be enough to satisfy a couple of local breweries.
Construction of a new straw pulp plant in north Grand Forks could start next year. Hua Sun, chief operating officer of North American Green Pulp, said his group is working on financing the project. He hopes to be operational after the 2017 harvest season. “Many, many factors can change the schedule,” Sun said.
The strong American dollar may be drawing some farmers across the northern border and into Canada for equipment. One U.S. dollar was worth $1.38 Canadian on Thursday morning, meaning American consumers can get more bang for their buck there. Those in the farm equipment industry said any cross-border commerce is the result of periodic ebbs and flows in the exchange rate and the Grand Forks region's proximity to the border.
The city of Grand Forks has spent more than $200,000 for consultants in the development of the Northern Plains Nitrogen fertilizer plant since 2014, a figure that city staff and some City Council members described as the cost of doing necessary due diligence on an "infrastructure-heavy" project that could be in the community for decades.
Weather conditions more than a thousand miles from Grand Forks are causing supply issues for a local supermarket chain. Hugo's has posted signs notifying customers of adverse weather in California, Florida and Mexico that may affect vegetable and berry supplies. Cammy Busta, the grocer's produce director, cited El Nino as a culprit.