Kalk issues cap and trade statement

North Dakota Public Service Commissioner Brian Kalk sent out the below news release late last night. Do you agree with what he has to say? What are your thoughts on cap and trade?

From Kalk:

"As President Ronald Reagan would say, ‘There they go again.’

The Associated Press reported on June 29 that President Obama is
working with several Senators to "quietly draft" a version of cap and
trade deemed "utility-only."

They have been trying for 18 months to force a bill to destroy our fossil
fuel industry. The people of the United States and North Dakota are
against such a bill. This has not stopped the president and his allies.

The worst oil spill in history is wrecking havoc on our country. In true
Chicago style, instead of focusing on stopping the leak and cleaning up
the mess, it is being used to push another version of cap and trade.

This new version of the old bill is aimed directly at North Dakota.

A "utility-only" version of cap and trade means increased costs for refineries and power plants resulting in at least a 25-40 percent increase in utility costs and thousands of lost jobs for our state.

The "utility-only" version is actually worse for our state than the original cap and trade bill. It will disproportionally affect North Dakota consumers and devastate our economy. If signed into law, North Dakota will no longer have the lowest retail electricity rates in the country, our rich oil and gas reserves will not be fully developed, and North Dakota’s economy will be forever harmed.

We are doing it right in North Dakota!

In addition to our strong fossil fuel industries, wind, biofuels and other renewable energy sources continue to increase in our state. North Dakota’s balanced approach to energy development should be modeled by Washington, not punished.

It is time for Senators Conrad and Dorgan to demand the president deliver a realistic policy that leads us towards genuine energy independence, not one that will wipe out our state’s economy."

The multimedia begins

As of Thursday, I now have my TV equipment. The blonde gal in the suit who needs another five hands…that’s me. Doing TV and newspaper at the same time. When I get a system down, it’s going to be great … and hopefully a great service to the people in the state.

This month, I’m working on some things for August. But this fall, you’ll begin to see more of what my position will involve. I’m excited to say that my Ask Your Government column will start this weekend. In the future, it will be done as a video column when possible, as well. Keep questions coming!

PS: The RSS feed on this blog now works. Thanks, Doug Leier. : ) 

The writer of this notebook hopes to start a new feature this summer that connects the public with their North Dakota government. You write in with your question for any state government official or agency, and we’ll do our best to find an answer.
Each week, we’ll publish a sampling of what we found. To submit a question, e-mail politics@wday.com (Subject: Ask your government).
You may also write to Teri Finneman c/o Forum Communications, Press Room, State Capitol, Bismarck, N.D. 58505.
Please include your name, town and a phone number to reach you for verification.

Health care website launched

   News release today from the White House:

Last week, we launched a first-of-its-kind website that makes it easier to find health care coverage and clearly explains how new rules like the Patient’s Bill of Rights in the Affordable Care Act will benefit you, your family, or your business.


While technology has made it easier to search for plane tickets or to find the right apartment, shopping for private health insurance plans has remained difficult for too long. HealthCare.gov takes some of the mystery out of shopping for health insurance.

Just answer a few easy questions, and HealthCare.gov will provide all the coverage options that are right for you, including public and private health insurance tailored to your age, location, and health needs. The site also helps Americans make informed decisions about health care coverage by offering easy to understand information about new benefits and protections for individuals, families and employers.

The site is easy to use and comprehensive, and it’s only going to get better. Throughout the site, there are places to ask questions and give feedback, and the team at the Department of Health and Human Services will be responding to common questions and updating content based on your feedback. In October, the site will include information on the price of health insurance plans and we’ll be adding other new features like tools to help you stay healthy and a database of hospital quality ratings.

The launch of HealthCare.gov is just one of many steps we have taken to strengthen the health care system for all Americans since President Obama signed the Affordable Care Act into law. Here are a few others:

Parents can now rest a little easier knowing that insurance companies will be prohibited from denying children coverage because of a preexisting condition or putting a cap on the amount of benefits that will be paid in lifetime;
Young adults up to age 26 without insurance will be able to get on their parent’s plan;
Seniors hitting a gap in Medicare prescription drug coverage known as the “donut hole” are getting $250 checks; and
Small businesses are now eligible for tax credits to help them afford coverage for employees.
But there is much more to be done. Be sure to check out HealthCare.gov regularly to stay current about benefits available to you and informed about what’s ahead.


Nancy-Ann DeParle
Director, White House Office of Health Reform

P.S. Tomorrow, Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius will be answering your questions about HealthCare.gov and the Affordable Care Act at 12 noon EDT. You can submit your questions head of time at: http://www.youtube.com/whitehouse

July 4 campaigning

This week, I spoke with a number of politicians getting ready to hit the July 4 parade circuit. John Hoeven, Tracy Potter, Wayne Stenehjem, Corey Mock, Al Jaeger, Rick Berg and Earl Pomeroy are among those out there parading. Did you run into any politicians out and about this weekend? Whom would you give the Best in Show prize to? 

In other related Mandan parade news, the world’s longest chicken dance in Mandan was deemed by organizers to be a success. They’re hoping to get in the Guinness Book of World Records. No immediate word if any of the above politicians were involved in that……………

Official statement of Gary Emineth resigning

As the AP reported last night, North Dakota Republican chairman Gary Emineth is stepping down. Here is his official statement. Whom do you think the Republicans should get to be their next leader?

I have decided to step down as North Dakota Republican Party Chairman.

I have been blessed to serve in this capacity for the past 3 years. As a volunteer the time requirements are significant, and I have come to a place where I feel I cannot give the time I believe is required to serve in this capacity.

The party is poised to have a landslide election this fall, however it won’t happen if complacency sets in and North Dakotans don’t stand up and say, "It’s time to take back Washington."

Carma Hansen will serve as the interim state chairman until the next state committee meeting, scheduled later this month. At that time an election will be held to finish my unexpired term. If any of you are interested in this position please get involved, there is no time like the present.

Please stay in touch and thanks for your support.

Byrd and Langer connection

Sen. Robert Byrd, D-W.Va., is lying in repose on the Senate floor today.

The last senator to do so was Republican William Langer of North Dakota, who died in November 1959.

The following story ran in Roll Call today:

Lying in Repose Has Storied History

July 1, 2010
By Alison McSherry
Roll Call Staff



Today, the late Sen. Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.) will enter the Senate chamber one last time. In doing so, he will join a long tradition of Members who have lain in repose on the Senate floor before traveling to their final resting place.

While the practice of lying in state in the Capitol Rotunda is more widely known, lying in repose on the Senate floor is actually more common. In total, 45 people have lain in repose on the Senate floor, according to the Senate Historical Office, compared with 31 who have lain in the Rotunda.

The first to lie in repose in the Senate chamber was Founding Father George Clinton in April 1812. While Clinton never served in Congress, he was the first governor of New York and vice president under both Thomas Jefferson and James Madison. He is the only person who lay in repose in the chamber but did not serve in the Senate.

The practice was fairly common in the 19th century and even into the early years of the 20th century. While it was a way of honoring the dead, it was also extremely practical.

“Members very often had funerals in the Capitol and were buried in local ceremonies,” Associate Senate Historian Betty Koed explains. “It was hard to transport bodies in those days. They didn’t have refrigeration for one thing, so up until the mid-20th century the transportation issues were really key.”

The last Senator to lie in repose in the chamber was Republican William Langer of North Dakota, who died in November 1959. Members who elect to lie in the chamber rather than the Rotunda often do so because they feel a special connection to the legislative body, according to the Senate Historical Office.

“Usually these ceremonies are done according to the wishes of the family,” Koed says.

Typically the casket is placed in the well of the Senate, directly in front of the presiding officer’s desk. In many cases, the casket is surrounded by flowers. Byrd’s casket will be brought into the chamber by an honor guard and placed on the catafalque first used during Abraham Lincoln’s funeral proceedings in 1865. Members and those who usually have floor privileges will be able to enter the chamber to pay their respects, while others may view the casket from the gallery.

While a joint resolution is required to lie in the Rotunda, arrangements to lie in the chamber go through the Sergeant-at-Arms, who works with Senate leadership to make preparations.

“Typically, to use the Rotunda for anything it requires a joint resolution between the House and Senate because it’s sort of the middle ground,” Koed says.

Similar memorial practices occur in the House. In total, 31 funerals have taken place in the chamber, the most recent in 1940 when Speaker William Bankhead (D-Ala.) died, according to the Office of the Clerk of the House.

For many years, there was a specific protocol regarding the death of a Member. The news was immediately announced on the House floor and followed by a resolution regarding the funeral. A second resolution was passed that required Members of the body to wear black armbands for 30 days. The House would then host the funeral.

But as Congress grew, so did the cost of hosting funerals. In 1883, the House agreed to set a spending limit of $1,000 per funeral.

The Capitol isn’t the only place where people can lie in repose. Justice Thurgood Marshall lay in repose in the Supreme Court, while Secretary of Commerce Ron Brown, who died in a 1996 plane crash in Croatia, lay in the Department of Commerce.

“As far as I know, it can be done in any official government building although it is most common in Capitol buildings,” Koed says.

Pomeroy votes yes on Wall Street bill

The House has passed the Wall Street bill. What do you think of the bill?

A statement from Rep. Earl Pomeroy, D-N.D.:

“Tonight’s vote is a big step forward for the American people. For years, Wall Street has engaged in risky behavior that threatened the health of our economy and the well-being of millions of American families. The result was a financial crisis that drove our economy into the ditch. We’ve all seen the damage that can be done when we have big banks on Wall Street playing casino games and stacking the deck. This bill will crack down on that irresponsible behavior and put some common-sense rules in place to protect consumers. Never again will the American taxpayer have to bail out large financial firms — if they fail, they will be gone. This bill that does the right thing for North Dakotans and I look forward to watching the president sign it into law.”

New federal laws for student debt

A news release from the office of Rep. Earl Pomeroy, D-N.D.:

A new law that takes effect tomorrow will strengthen assistance for higher education, allowing more North Dakotans to pursue a college degree. The changes were approved by Congress earlier this year in the Student Aid and Fiscal Responsibility Act.

Even as the importance of higher education in the work force rises, college has become less affordable nationwide as tuition and fees outgrow income. In North Dakota, 70 percent of students leave college with some debt – the sixth-highest proportion in the nation. Of those students, the average debt load is $20,625.

Beginning July 1, new federal laws take effect that will make it easier for students to repay their debt:

Interest rates will be lowered. The fixed rate for new Subsidized Stafford loans drops from 5.6 percent to 4.5 percent for undergraduates, and federal Grad PLUS and Parent PLUS loans will have rates of 7.9 percent, less than many had previously.

Repayment won’t break the bank. After July 1, needed fixes will be made to the Income-Based Repayment program, which caps monthly student loan payments based on household income. Individuals who make their payments regularly and faithfully will have any remaining balance forgiven after 25 years.

More assistance will be available. The new law will expand the Pell Grant program to another 1,900 North Dakota students, and increase the maximum annual scholarship from $5,350 to $5,550 immediately. It will eventually rise to $5,975 by 2017.

Community colleges will get a boost. The new law will provide at least $10 million in additional support for North Dakota community colleges over four years.

Conrad statement on Petraeus confirmation

Sen. Kent Conrad, D-N.D., released a statement after the Senate confirmed Gen. David Petraeus as the top American commander in Afghanistan.

"General Petraeus is well respected as a strong and accomplished military leader. He is the right man to take command of the war effort in Afghanistan."

"The Senate’s swift confirmation of Gen. Petraeus is an acknowledgement of the importance of the situation in Afghanistan and the need to act with urgency and resolve. I am confident that Gen. Petraeus will lead our troops with great skill and a renewed focus on this critical mission."

Political season heats up

With the June primary out of the way, the political season is officially heating up. News releases just kept coming in today regarding the U.S. Senate, U.S. House, state attorney general and state secretary of state races. Everybody’s trying to make some news before the holiday weekend.

Which race will you be following the most in the upcoming months?