Today’s Ask Your Government

Dear Teri,

Is the North Dakota interstate system a two-lane highway, or is the left lane considered the passing lane? I understand that slow moving traffic should drive on the right-hand lane. I sometimes like to drive in the left lane, but only if I am not interfering with the traffic flow or driving at least the speed limit. A few years back, I was taught at a driver’s ed class that the North Dakota interstate is a two-lane highway, and you may drive on either lane and pass in either lane.

Thanks

Guy Mischel

Dickinson

Thanks for writing! Sgt. Tom Iverson of the North Dakota Highway Patrol’s Southwest Region answered this question. Here’s what he said:

“The North Dakota interstate system is considered a four-lane highway. It is further broken down to describe each side as a two-lane one-way roadway. Section 39-10-08 subsection 2 of the North Dakota Century Code states that any vehicle proceeding less than the normal speed of traffic must be driven in the right hand lane thus to not interfere with traffic proceeding at the normal speed limit. 

“As long as you are not interfering with the traffic proceeding at the normal speed limit, it is permissible to drive and pass in either the left or right lane.”

 

Dear Teri,

There is so much concern about different issues in the media right now with immigration and the vote in the upcoming November election, concerns for who’s getting what votes. My question is that if all these immigrants are illegals and aren’t citizens, why are they allowed to vote?

Thank you.

Carol Ryum

Jamestown

Thanks for writing! I talked to Secretary of State Al Jaeger about this. Here’s what he said:

“The qualifications for voting in North Dakota are that the person must be a United States citizen, 18 years of age and have lived in the precinct at least 30 days prior to the election. 

“Although a voter is asked to provide identification prior to voting, there is no requirement under state law that they have to present a birth certificate or proof of citizenship. Regardless, it is unlawful for a noncitizen to vote and, if it is discovered that they have, he or she is subject to criminal prosecution.

“I recently attended the summer conference of the National Association of Secretaries of State where this topic was discussed extensively. It is a very complex issue, and all states are trying to address it.

“While it is important to have laws and procedures in place to ensure that only qualified United States citizens are allowed to vote, it is also important that these same safeguards do not inadvertently disenfranchise a qualified citizen from his or her right to vote.”

UPDATED: Dalrymple proposes “unprecedented investment” in infrastructure

BISMARCK—Gov. Jack Dalrymple unveiled a proposal Monday to spend $2.5 billion on state roads and infrastructure during the 2013-15 biennium, calling it an “unprecedented investment.”

The plan calls for additional money to assist the oil- and gas-producing counties in western North Dakota but also addresses needs in the central and eastern portions of the state, Dalrymple said.

The proposal means spending an additional $1 billion on roads and infrastructure next biennium compared to this biennium, he said. The money will come from a mix of federal and state funds, including tax revenue from the oil and gas industry.

“I think the investment represents a tremendous conviction that we need to help our communities. We need to help our economic development, and we need to work for the better quality of life in North Dakota that everybody expects,” Dalrymple said. “In order to do that, we need to invest in our infrastructure more than we ever have before in the coming two years.”

Senate Minority Leader Ryan Taylor of Towner, who is challenging Dalrymple in the governor’s race, said this kind of investment was needed a year ago.

“We need action not just in an election year but every year, and my dedication to leading on these issues will be there year in and year out,” Taylor said in a statement. “I’m happy to be in this race to force some action on the governor’s office and get North Dakotans the funds they need to have safe, reliable roadways across the state.”

Dalrymple said infrastructure has always been important to his administration. When he entered office in late 2010, he more than doubled the state’s commitment to infrastructure from $609 million to nearly $1.4 billion, he said. Now he plans to ask the Legislature to approve an additional billion.

“I want to make it clear that we will not ask the central parts of the state and the eastern part of the state to sacrifice anything because of the large new investments in western North Dakota,” Dalrymple said. “We will proceed to put together, in the traditional way, our statewide transportation budget and all areas will be entitled to the same kind of funding that they’re accustomed to.”

Under Dalrymple’s plan, there would also be a new $1 billion enhanced road and highway fund for one-time investments. These include extraordinary state highway maintenance projects, truck reliever routes, upgrading two-lane highways to four-lane, underpasses and special assistance to townships.

The majority of this money would be invested in western North Dakota, Dalrymple said.

“But there is funding throughout several of these other pieces that can wind up in other parts of the state as well,” he said.

Dalrymple also proposes revising the oil and gas tax formula that provides money to the oil counties. Under his plan, more money would flow directly to the counties, growing from the now expected $270 million for the 2013-15 biennium to $400 million.

Dalrymple wants to keep the oil and gas impact fund at its current level of $135 million. This money is used to provide grants to cities, townships, emergency services and other political subdivisions in oil-impacted counties.

The plan also includes $145 million for county and township road reconstruction, and a special $100 million distribution to non-oil producing counties.

Dalrymple, a former chairman of House Appropriations, said he believes his proposal can pass the Legislature. There will still be money left over to provide “substantial” tax relief and take care of regular program needs, such as education and human services, he said.

“Sometimes people ask me how this is all possible. How can we possibility take care of all of these investments and have room for tax relief at the same time?” Dalrymple said. “I say it’s because our economy is doing so well, and we do have a great deal of revenue coming in because the economy in North Dakota is the best in the nation.”

Baesler, Potter advance in DPI race

BISMARCK — Kirsten Baesler and Tracy Potter have secured the two spots on the November ballot in the superintendent of public instruction race.

Baesler of Mandan received 41,256 votes, or 37.3 percent, in the nonpartisan race, according to complete but unofficial results.

Potter of Bismarck received 35,891 votes, or 32.4 percent. Max Laird of Bismarck finished third with 33,289 votes, or 30.1 percent.

The race was close throughout Tuesday night. On Wednesday, Baesler told supporters she was excited to continue working hard and spreading her message across the state.

“It was humbling for me to see the extent of interest in education throughout this initial phase of our campaign,” she wrote on her campaign Facebook page.

Potter said he was pleased with the results and thinks his campaign is positioned well for the fall.

“Now I’m looking forward to a fun campaign. It’s going to be great,” he said.

Laird did not immediately return a message seeking comment.

For the first time since 1980, current Superintendent Wayne Sanstead was not on the ballot after deciding earlier this year to retire.

Baesler won Republican support for the nonpartisan office during the party’s convention, while Laird received Democratic support. Potter said he wanted to honor the spirit of the nonpartisan office and did not seek support from the Democratic Party.

The state superintendent serves a four-year term and has an annual salary of $102,868. The salary increases to $105,954 on July 1.

Measure 3 fundraising nears $1 million

BISMARCK— Planned Parenthood is the biggest backer of a campaign against Measure 3, contributing to a financial advantage of more than half a million dollars over the measure’s supporters.

Nearly $1 million in campaign contributions has gone into the debate over whether North Dakota’s Constitution needs a religious liberty restoration amendment, according to campaign finance reports frequently updated to reflect additional money on both sides.

As of Tuesday, North Dakotans Against Measure Three received nearly $700,000 worth of contributions. Planned Parenthood contributed about $650,000 worth of support. Reports indicate $380,400 was through in-kind donations.

The Planned Parenthood contributions come from across the country, but about $610,400 worth is from Planned Parenthood Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota based in St. Paul.

In comparison, the Religious Liberty Restoration Amendment Committee raised $103,200 this year to support the measure. The Catholic Diocese of Fargo gave $20,666, while the Catholic Diocese of Bismarck and North Dakota Catholic Conference each gave $10,666.

A $20,000 contribution came from Colorado-based Citizen Link, described on its website as “a family advocacy organization that inspires men and women to live out biblical citizenship that transforms culture.”

Most of the financing to support Measure 3 comes from within the state, said Tom Freier of the North Dakota Family Alliance, which gave $10,000 in May.

“No matter how many hundreds of thousands of dollars out-of-state organizations like Planned Parenthood would attempt to interject, I’m very hopeful North Dakotans will not be bought,” Freier said.

Tom Fiebiger, a Fargo-based civil rights attorney and chairman of North Dakotans Against Measure Three, said it isn’t accurate to say out-of-state money is trying to buy the election.

“I think that’s sort of a simplistic way to make a complicated issue simple and to say, ‘So, you should vote for it because of that,’ ” Fiebiger said. “I think it just shows how much is at stake and that’s why there’s this investment.”

Planned Parenthood Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota is a North Dakota organization and one of many concerned about the measure, spokeswoman Jen Aulwes said. In-kind contributions include staff time from Planned Parenthood affiliates concerned about the precedent Measure 3 sets, she said.

“We’re particularly concerned that it could affect any number of laws, including laws meant to protect civil rights, laws against discrimination and abuse, health care laws,” she said.

Planned Parenthood was approached by a number of organizations and individuals to get involved since it has experience with ballot measures in other states, she said.

“All of the individuals and organizations who have spoken out on behalf of the ‘No on Measure 3’ campaign are North Dakotans who are simply concerned about the dangers that Measure 3 poses,” Aulwes said. “All of them are folks who understand the importance of religious liberty and understand that it’s already protected by the U.S. Constitution.”

Planned Parenthood and its allies apparently feel Measure 3 stands in the way of its agenda in North Dakota, said Christopher Dodson, executive director of the North Dakota Catholic Conference.

“I think it’s unfortunate Planned Parenthood and its affiliates around the country are sinking money into North Dakota to try to stop religious freedom for North Dakotans,” he said.

North Dakotans will vote on the measure on June 12.

What is Measure 3?

See the measure below and read today’s story in The Forum.

Measure 3 would amend the North Dakota Constitution by adding this wording:

“Government may not burden a person’s or religious organization’s religious liberty. The right to act or refuse to act in a manner motivated by a sincerely held religious belief may not be burdened unless the government proves it has a compelling governmental interest in infringing the specific act or refusal to act and has used the least restrictive means to further that interest. A burden includes indirect burdens such as withholding benefits, assessing penalties, or an exclusion from programs or access to facilities.”

North Dakota still ranks No. 9 in top governor races

BISMARCK–Despite no one having officially announced a run for governor, North Dakota continues to rank No. 9 in Politico’s Top 10 governor races.

Coping with flooding across the state has put thoughts of Election Day 2012 on the backburner here. But certainly the anticipation of who will all throw their names in the hat is enough to make the Top 10 list.

As the Politico story points out, Republican Gov. Jack Dalrymple has definitely put on the miles in recent months, giving people across the state  an opportunity to see his style of leadership throughout the flood fights.

Not even a year into his new job, John Hoeven’s former No. 2 man is making the governorship his own and has earned praise from Republicans and Democrats.

But a strong surge from the state’s conservatives who want to rein in state spending could add some spice to the race, as well as the question everyone is waiting to have answered: Will Democrat Heidi Heitkamp run?

What do you think of Dalrymple’s leadership this far? Do you want to see Heitkamp enter the race?

Gulleson delays U.S. Senate race decision; today’s flood updates

BISMARCK–Former state Rep. Pam Gulleson, D-Rutland, said today that she will not make an announcement about whether she will seek the seat of retiring Sen. Kent Conrad, D-N.D., until after flooding issues in the state subside.

“North Dakotans have turned their full attention to helping the families affected by the devastating floods in Minot and Bismarck and the surrounding communities,” she said in a statement.

“My family and I are committed to joining our neighbors and others from across the state to do all we can to help with the recovery.  While I am giving strong consideration to a run for the U.S. Senate, North Dakota families come first. A decision will come only after significant progress has been made on recovery efforts.”

Read more about Gulleson and state Democrats’  call for her to seek the nomination here.

In other flood news today,the Federal Emergency Management Agency approved Morton, Renville and McHenry counties for individual assistance. They join Ward and Burleigh counties. State officials are still pressing for additional counties to be added, including those near Devils Lake.

Velva’s flood evacuation order will be lifted at 8 a.m. Thursday, a news release from the city said.

“The governor and City Commission believe because of the drastic drop in the river and that 100 percent of the river is now within the original levee system, it is safe for residents to move back to their homes,” spokeswoman Maria Effertz Hanson said in a statement.

Also late Wednesday, the governor’s office announced another $1 million donation to flood relief efforts.

CHS Inc. will donate $1 million to help North Dakota communities recover from devastating floods, a news release said. The supplier of agriculture and energy products also is donating $50,000 to CHS employees whose homes have been damaged by flooding in the Minot area. In addition, the CHS Foundation, an independent private foundation supported by CHS, is contributing $50,000 to the American Red Cross to aid the state’s flood relief efforts, the release said.

On Tuesday, Hess Corp. announced a $1 million donation to flood efforts as well.

In case you missed it, here was my story in the paper today discussing how the state will move forward with flood recovery efforts.

FEMA Deputy Administrator Rich Serino said more than 5,000 residents of Ward County have filed for individual assistance, according to a news release from Rep. Rick Berg, R-N.D.  In addition, more than $1.4 million has  been distributed between Ward and Burleigh counties, the release said.

Rick Berg likely to announce Senate intentions next week

UPDATED: BISMARCK—A Republican source close to Rep. Rick Berg, R-N.D., said he will likely announce as early as next week his intentions for the seat being vacated by Sen. Kent Conrad, D-N.D.

Politico also reported that multiple Republicans have said Berg will announce his Senate candidacy next week.

Republican state legislators have encouraged Berg to make the move, and some already have their eye on filling his House seat.

Berg has said that he’s “seriously considering” running for the Senate.

Berg, a former state lawmaker from Fargo, is in his first term representing the state in Congress after defeating former Rep. Earl Pomeroy last fall.

Berg now serves on the House Ways and Means Committee, which is charged with writing tax legislation and bills affecting Social Security, Medicare and other entitlement programs.

Berg would be the second Republican to enter the race. Public Service Commissioner Brian Kalk is also running for the seat.

No matter who enters the race, it will be up to state Republicans to decide who gets the endorsement next spring, said North Dakota Republican Party Chairman Stan Stein.

Today, Democrats publicly asked former Rep. Pam Gulleson, D-Rutland, to run for the seat being vacated by Conrad. Find that story here.

N.D. Dems call on Pam Gulleson to run for U.S. Senate

UPDATED BISMARCK–North Dakota Democrats are encouraging a former state legislator and staffer of Sen. Byron Dorgan to enter the 2012 U.S. Senate race.

A letter signed by Democratic members of the North Dakota House of Representatives encourages former Rep. Pam Gulleson, D-Rutland, to enter the race.

Gulleson, who worked for Dorgan from 2002 to 2010 as state director and chief of staff, said Wednesday that it was an honor for her peers to make the request.

“I’m giving it full consideration. I have not made a decision at this point,” she said. “It’s one that I hope to make sooner rather than later.”

Gulleson said her work as a state legislator, farmer and Dorgan staffer has given her a good overview of the issues.

“I’ve been in every community in North Dakota in one capacity or the other,” she said. “I’ve spent a lot of time working on, I think, some of the really critical issues facing the state, including energy development, renewable energy and water issues.”

Gulleson grew up on a dairy farm near Oakes, N.D. She graduated from North Dakota State University and spent years working as a licensed nutritionist. She served in the state Legislature from 1992 to 2008.

She and her husband, Bill, have three sons who are involved in the family farming business.

Dorgan said Wednesday that he would “certainly want to campaign for her” if Gulleson entered the race.

“She’s an extraordinary talent, I think,” he said. “I think she would make a great senator for North Dakota. I hope she does run.”

Dorgan said Gulleson is likeable, a quick study and tenacious about making sure things get done and get done right.

“She’d be a tremendous asset for our state if she decides to run for the Senate,” he said. “She knows North Dakota like the back of her hand because she’s traveled every bit of it working in my state office.”

Conrad said he also supports Gulleson.

“Pam Gulleson would be an outstanding candidate and exceptional United States senator,” he said in a statement. “She would be a strong voice for North Dakota in the United States Senate.”

Rep. Shirley Meyer, D-Dickinson, said it would be “history making, precedent setting and long overdue” for a woman to represent North Dakota in the U.S. Senate.

The only woman to represent the state in the Senate was Jocelyn Burdick, who was appointed to fill a vacancy caused by her husband’s death. She served for a few months in 1992.

“She’s extremely honest and exceptionally smart, an extremely hard worker,” Meyer said of Gulleson. “If she commits to something, she commits 100 percent.”

Republican candidate Public Service Commissioner Brian Kalk said Gulleson would be “a very credible candidate.”

“But my focus is 100 percent on the Republican nomination, period,” he said.

Republican legislators have also encouraged former state representative and now U.S. Rep. Rick Berg, R-N.D., to run for the Senate seat being vacated by Sen. Kent Conrad, D-N.D. 

A Republican source close to Berg said he will likely announce his intentions as early as next week.

Joe Aronson, executive director of the North Dakota Democratic-NPL Party, said he wasn’t sure when further Democratic announcements for state races would occur.

“We’re just very excited folks are inching closer to making an announcement and getting into these races,” he said. “It wouldn’t surprise me to see people get in sooner rather than later. Obviously they’re big decisions.”

Two more bills signed into law

BISMARCK–Gov. Jack Dalrymple has signed a few more bills into law.

Senate Bill 2071: relating to calling up retired former members of the North Dakota National Guard to state active duty in times of disasters or emergencies

Senate Bill 2120: relating to the adoption of the Uniform Military and Overseas Voters Act; relating to absentee voting