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.

Today’s Ask Your Government

Dear Teri,

I have been noticing farmers removing shelter belts from their land. Last summer, I witnessed the removal of an entire grove full of magnificent old (and still healthy) trees.

I could be mistaken, but it looked to me as if the farmer was willing to sacrifice this area for the sake of a few more acres of farmland (i.e. profits). 

Back in the ‘30s and ‘40s when the shelter belts were first planted, was the planting optional or was it required by federal or state government? I was under the impression that it was a program designed to keep the soil from blowing away and was therefore a benefit to society in general and not just for the benefit of any particular farmer.

Do farmers need permission from someone to remove shelter belts and old-growth groves?

What will happen if all the farmers decide to remove the trees? Could we have another dust bowl?

As a side issue, I wonder, with all the laws about air pollution, how come farmers (and I do love farmers) are permitted to burn the ditches creating plumes of smoke that can be seen for 20 miles? Just curious about that, too. 

Sally Hoffman

Grand Forks

Thanks for writing! I sent your questions to the Natural Resources Conservation Service. State conservationist Mary Podoll, state forester Craig Stange and state resource conservationist Todd Schwagler contributed to the answer:

“All of the conservation work completed by the soil conservation districts and Natural Resources Conservation Service is voluntary. In the 1940s, there were no legal requirements to address erosion. Voluntary conservation programs have been extremely successful over the past 80 years.

“Windbreaks are extremely valuable to preventing wind erosion. Research over the past 100 years also shows that crop yields can be boosted 12 to 15 percent by a well-maintained windbreak. 

“Landowners do not need permission to remove shelterbelts. Private property rights are a significant identifier of a democratic nation. There are some taxpayer, or societal, requirements to addressing erosion and wetland protection in a farmer’s ability to receive USDA payments that became law in 1985. An agriculture producer who participates in USDA programs meets minimum requirements to protect soil from erosion and wetlands from being drained.

“Yes, part of me is sad to see the removal of windbreaks, too.  But for every windbreak that I see removed, I also see new ones being planted.  Soil conservation districts continue to promote and assist landowners in planting new trees every year. USDA- Natural Resources Conservation Service continues to provide technical and financial assistance for new windbreaks. 

“Last year, North Dakota producers participated in Natural Resources Conservation Service voluntary programs at record levels. 

“Could we have another Dust Bowl? I’ve been working in the field of conservation for a long time in addition to growing up with parents who experienced the Depression, but this is still just an opinion: Yes, I do believe that conditions could occur allowing wind erosion to again be a concern. Weather conditions, the pressure we place on our soils and other natural resources for production/energy/infrastructure, and our optimistic human nature could create areas that wind erosion is a problem.

“We might take a little step back in the arena of conservation, but we never go back to where we were.

“In the Dust Bowl era, windbreak planting was encouraged. Federal agencies such as Soil Conservation Service provided planting stock and sometime planting crews. At the peak, nearly 3 million acres of North Dakota cropland were protected from wind erosion by field windbreaks.

“Today, in addition to windbreak conservation practices, there are many other agronomic practices to control wind erosion, including no-till, conservation cropping rotations and crop residue management.

“There are several agronomic practices that Natural Resources Conservation Service recommends to avoid the need for burning ditches and wetlands. However, burning is not all bad.  North Dakota soils and plant communities formed under frequent wildfire. Proper native vegetation management includes prescribed burning.

“Additionally, seed producers often use burning as a way to reduce the need for pesticides or aggressive tillage that exposes soil to erosive forces. A well-planned prescribed burn often results in much healthier plants … Prescribed burning has also been used to control invasive species.

“Thank you so much for your interest!”

Do you have a question for a North Dakota state government official or agency? Send us your question, and we’ll do our best to find an answer.

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, ND 58505.

Please include your name, town and a phone number to reach you for verification.

Deadline nears for school bullying policies

BISMARCK – Schools across the state are taking an approach often used by students: waiting until the last minute to turn in their homework.

The state Department of Public Instruction has received only 74 bullying policies of the 235 required to be turned in by July 1.

The Legislature officially gave the assignment on March 17, 2011, after the Senate gave final approval to a law requiring school districts to have bullying policies. Both public and private schools fall under the law.

The state Department of Public Instruction does not have authority to sanction school districts if they don’t turn in policies, said Valerie Fischer, director of safe and healthy schools. However, the department will publicize any that don’t, she said.

“We believe, between the School Boards Association and the department, we have provided resources and training so there really is no reason why it shouldn’t be done,” she said.

Bill sponsor Rep. RaeAnn Kelsch, R-Mandan, thinks districts likely got busy at the end of the school year and put off officially turning in their policies. She thinks schools will be on board by July 1 even though there isn’t punishment for not complying.

“There’s a number of policies where we say you have to do something and there’s really no punishment if they don’t do it,” she said. “I think that the schools are seeing this is something that they need to have in place.”

The public school districts in Hillsboro, West Fargo, Fargo, Wahpeton, Valley City, Jamestown, Dickinson and South Heart are among those that have submitted policies to the state.

Central Cass Schools in Casselton is one district that hasn’t turned in a policy yet. Superintendent Mark Weston said the policy is done.

“Ours is just a matter of getting it to the department,” he said.

About 20 people participated in creating the district’s bullying policy, which is similar to a template provided by the North Dakota School Boards Association, Weston said.

Grand Forks Assistant Superintendent Jody Thompson also said his district will meet the July 1 deadline. A final review of the district’s policy is set for June 18.

The state law says school districts needed to involve parents, school employees, volunteers, students, law enforcement, domestic violence sexual assault organizations and community representatives when developing a bullying policy.

The policy must include a definition of bullying, procedures for reporting and documenting bullying or retaliation, and disciplinary measures. There must also be strategies to protect victims.

Schools need to make sure the policy is explained to students. Districts also would need to provide information about bullying prevention to staff and school volunteers.

The law requires each school district to provide bullying prevention programs to all K-12 students. The law also addresses immunity for liability for school districts.

North Dakota School Boards Association Executive Director Jon Martinson thinks school districts will meet the deadline to turn in policies.

“I think that school districts want to do the right thing,” he said. “They will do the right thing.”

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.”

Today’s Ask Your Government

Dear Teri,

I believe you printed an article on where handicap placards should be placed. It said that we could now place in full view on the driver’s side of the dash instead of hanging. I did this and got a ticket from our police for improper placement. I tried to find out on the North Dakota government site but could find nothing. Can you help me with this? Thank you. 

Mary Gebro

Wahpeton

Thanks for writing! I haven’t written anything about this issue before, so I’m not sure what article you saw. But Lt. Jody Skogen with the North Dakota Highway Patrol tells me that handicap placards must be hung from the rearview mirror while parked and removed while the vehicle is in motion.

The rule can be found at www.dot.nd.gov/divisions/mv/docs/faq-placards-and-parking.pdf.

Here is the full text relating to your question:

“How do I display my parking placard?

“Parking placards must be hung from the rearview mirror of the motor vehicle whenever the vehicle is occupying a space reserved for the mobility impaired and is being used by a mobility-impaired person or another person for the purposes of transporting the mobility-impaired person. No part of the placard may be obscured. The permit must be removed when the vehicle is in operation.”

 

Dear readers,

A West Fargo reader sent me the following question:

How do I find out if there is oil drilling on a section where I have a minority mineral interest? I have the township and section information. Also how do I know what papers to sign? I have heard if you own a minority interest they do not have to notify you.

This is a sensitive matter for me. 

Thanks for writing! I contacted Alison Ritter with the North Dakota Department of Mineral Resources. Here’s what she said:

“If people are curious about their mineral information, they can always track drilling on our website. (NOTE: This can be found at www.dmr.nd.gov/oilgas.)

“There are a number of different ways to do so. First, they can enter the section, township and range on our GIS map server and see what drilling may be taking place near their land.

“They can also track drilling rigs under “active drilling rig list” (on the website). That list gives a section, township and range as to where the rig is located. Lastly, if mineral owners are unsure if their land has been permitted, they can always follow the daily activity list (on the website) to see what permits have been issued.

“As far as what papers to sign, the Oil and Gas Division does not handle leasing information in our office. We always advise mineral owners to contact a lawyer with experience in oil and gas related issues with any questions.”

Do you have a question for a North Dakota state government official or agency? Send us your question, and we’ll do our best to find an answer.

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, ND 58505.

Please include your name, town and a phone number to reach you for verification.

You don’t want this … or do you?

BISMARCK–Several North Dakota political commercials aiming to influence your vote are now flooding into your nightly TV viewing.

The measure commercials are all telling you what you don’t want: You don’t want property taxes abolished. You don’t want the religious liberty restoration amendment. You don’t want the University of North Dakota to keep its Fighting Sioux nickname.

But what do you want, and are these commercials influencing your vote?

Here they are below with ballot explanations of the measures.

Measure 2: This initiated constitutional measure would … (eliminate) property taxes, poll taxes and acreage taxes, effective Jan. 1, 2012. The measure would require the Legislative Assembly to replace lost revenue to cities, counties, townships, school districts, and other political subdivisions with allocations of various state-level taxes and other revenues, without restrictions on how these revenues may be spent by the
political subdivisions.

 

Measure 3: This initiated constitutional measure would add a new section to Article I of the North Dakota Constitution stating, “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.”

 

Measure 4: This referendum measure concerns Senate Bill 2370 as passed by the Legislative Assembly in the November 2011 special session. Senate Bill 2370 repealed section 15-10-46 of the North Dakota Century Code, which required the University of North Dakota to use the Fighting Sioux nickname and logo.
YES – means you approve Senate Bill 2370, the effect of which would allow the University of North Dakota to discontinue the Fighting Sioux nickname and logo.
NO – means you reject Senate Bill 2370, and would require the University of North Dakota to use the Fighting Sioux nickname and logo.

 

Dalrymple campaign launches TV ad


BISMARCK–You’ve seen the ads for Rick Berg and Heidi Heitkamp. Next up: Jack Dalrymple.

In a 60-second campaign ad for governor, Dalrymple highlights that North Dakota is at a unique time in its history, with the fastest-growing incomes in the country, low unemployment and budget reserves.

The ad says strong leadership made this happen and touts Dalrymple’s work as lieutenant governor to help “craft smart budgets” that prepared North Dakota for a changing economy.

Dalrymple also has led the state through natural disasters, provided tax relief to residents and created a vision for the future in his two years as governor, the ad says.

Dalrymple took over the job in December 2010 when former Gov. John Hoeven was elected to the U.S. Senate.

“All we have to do is take the opportunity that we have, the resources that we have, roll up our sleeves, go to work and create the future that we want for North Dakota,” Dalrymple says in a close-up while wearing a suit.

Dalrymple is said to have “the right experience” and be the “right leader” at the “right time.”

“North Dakota has an incredibly bright future. This is our moment,” he says in the ad. “We have all of the things in place that allow us to absolutely create our future.”

Throughout the ad, Dalrymple is shown with Lt. Gov. Drew Wrigley and first lady Betsy Dalrymple, walking inside and outside the Capitol. There are also images to show him on the front lines of natural disasters and the customary political shot with a baby.

What do you think?

Financial impact of Measure 2 debated

BISMARCK – About $812 million in property taxes for 2012 would be eliminated if North Dakota voters approve Measure 2 in June, a state research analyst said Monday.

Kathy Strombeck of the state Tax Commissioner’s Office gave legislators an estimate of the fiscal impact if voters decide to repeal property taxes effective Jan. 1, 2012.

The estimate assumes the effective date of the measure would be interpreted to initially repeal 2012 property taxes that would be due and payable in 2013, Strombeck said. It is assumed 2011 property taxes – due and payable in 2012 – would not be repealed, she said.

After Strombeck’s report, supporters and opponents of the measure debated its fiscal impact during a meeting of the Legislature’s Property Tax Measure Review Committee.

The public is being improperly informed about effects of the measure, said Bob Hale of Empower the Taxpayer, which supports Measure 2. There wasn’t information compiled for legislators about the economic impact of keeping $800 million a year in the private economy, he said.

“This allows those businesses to have that money to invest and that investment results in local sales, state sales, income tax and other tax revenues that more than make up for (the property) taxes abated,” Hale said. “That portion of the equation has not been addressed.”

He said the legislative committee also hasn’t fulfilled its responsibility to study what laws are needed to implement Measure 2.

Rep. Dan Ruby, R-Minot, said legislators should start to discuss a formula for funding local governments. Doing so would remove some of the opposition and fear of the unknown, he said.

Rep. David Drovdal, R-Arnegard, said the committee will address legal changes if the measure passes, but it was decided not to spend taxpayer money on creating legislation unless it’s needed.

Susan Beehler, a Mandan resident, also didn’t think legislators were looking fully at the fiscal impact and called it a disservice to taxpayers.

Instead of “whining about messes that this (measure) would create,” legislators need to “put on your big boy and your big girl pants and get on with it,” she said.

“If this is what we want, then it needs to be done,” Beehler said.

Property taxes are an “ineffective, inefficient way” to tax for local services, she said.

Drovdal said legislators do want to give people the right to vote and pointed to the Legislature’s support of allowing another measure – the Fighting Sioux nickname – go to a public vote.

McLean County State’s Attorney Ladd Erickson thought the fiscal impact didn’t reflect major cost items and said Measure 2 supporters are exaggerating the proposal’s benefits.

Sponsors are “constantly” saying legislators will pay local governments’ costs, he said.

“The public is being led to believe that this is a free ride,” including if anybody wants a new jail or school, Erickson said.

Drovdal said the Legislature would determine what proper funding is – including decisions on new buildings – not local governments. Erickson said the measure destroys local control.

By changing government from a diverse system to a centralized system, costs are going to “dramatically increase,” Erickson said. He also criticized claims that 12,000 government jobs could be cut and that money could make up the majority of revenue lost from eliminating property taxes.

“Problem is, we don’t have 12,000 state employees,” he said.

The state has 11,235 full-time equivalent positions, according to the Office of Management and Budget. Even if every state employee was fired, there’s still a shortage in funding the measure, Erickson said.

Sen. Dwight Cook, R-Mandan, said if Measure 2 passes, there would need to be a special session called to address local governments’ budgets. He said that cost would need to be added to the fiscal impact. The Legislative Council says a special session would cost an estimated $50,000 a day.

Drovdal said 28,000 people pushed the proposal forward. Legislators need to be aware of that and see what they can to do to continue to address tax concerns, he said.

Today’s Ask Your Government

Dear readers,

A Fargo reader sent me the following question:

I read and enjoy your column very much. I have a question for you.

I was recently (almost) let go at my job. If I hadn’t quit, I believe that I could have been fired.

I have reason to believe that I haven’t gotten a new job because of what some people at work have said about me. (No concrete proof, though I have never had a problem getting a job before.)

I have offered excellent references – from my boss and co-workers – but still have not gotten a job.

Is it possible to find out what exactly is legal in terms of what is allowed to be said about a co-worker or former employee in North Dakota?

For obvious reasons, I do not want you to use my name.

Thanks for writing! I asked Labor Commissioner Tony Weiler about this. Here’s what he said:

“I think you will find the following North Dakota Century Code section responsive to the question. It reads as follows:

“34-02-18. Immunity for providing employment reference.

1. An employer, or an employer’s agent, who truthfully discloses date of employment, pay level, job description and duties, and wage history about a current or former employee to a prospective employer of the employee is immune from civil liability for the disclosure and the consequences of the disclosure of that information.

2. An employer, or an employer’s agent, who discloses information about a current or former employee’s job performance to a prospective employer of the employee is presumed to be acting in good faith. Unless lack of good faith is shown, the employer or employer’s agent is immune from civil liability for the disclosure and the consequences of providing that information. The presumption of good faith may be rebutted by a preponderance of the evidence that the information disclosed was:

a. Knowingly false;

b. Disclosed with reckless disregard for the truth;

c. Deliberately misleading; or

d. Rendered with malicious purpose.

3. The immunity provided by subsection 2 does not apply if the information provided is in violation of a nondisclosure agreement or was otherwise confidential according to applicable law.

“Also, there is caselaw interpreting this section and that can be found at Forster v. West Dakota Vet Clinic, 2004 ND 207.”

Do you have a question for a North Dakota state government official or agency? Send us your question, and we’ll do our best to find an answer.

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, ND 58505.

Please include your name, town and a phone number to reach you for verification.

Today’s Ask Your Government

Dear Teri,

Just wondering if anyone in North Dakota government is looking at building/contracting a recovery plant for used fracking liquids? I truly believe that this plant would get our state out in front on the issue, as well as being able to exert some control over the process. Biological markers could be introduced pre-fracking and then confirmed when the liquids were returned to the recovery site.

Donald Barcome Jr.

Grand Forks

Thanks for writing! I contacted a few people about your question. I started with Department of Mineral Resources Assistant Director Bruce Hicks. He said they aren’t in the business of recovering and recycling fluids, but they are interested in it. He referred me to the Health Department to see if they could tell me anything more.

Health Department spokeswoman Stacy Eberl sent the question to Dave Glatt, Environmental Health Section chief.

“Some vendors have informally contacted us regarding the possibility, but there are not concrete plans for a plant like this at this time,” she told me after talking to Glatt.

I also contacted the Energy & Environmental Research Center in Grand Forks. Spokesman Derek Walters said the EERC is aware of several private-sector entities evaluating potential facilities but cannot comment specifically.

The EERC has published studies in partnership with the North Dakota Industrial Commission regarding current practices for hydraulic fracturing, which focused on the challenge mentioned, he said.

One is called Bakken Water Opportunities Assessment – Phase 1. “The Energy & Environmental Research Center Northern Great Plains Water Consortium identified a potential opportunity to economically treat and reuse water that is used in hydraulic fracturing operations in the Bakken oil formation in North Dakota,” according to the description on the EERC website.

You can find more information about this at www.undeerc.org/bakken. Click on current research studies.

Dear Teri,

If someone gets a violation for excessive weight while driving a commercial motor vehicle, would they get points assessed against their license along with the fine or just the fine?

Sonia Felix

Killdeer

Thanks for writing! I asked the Highway Patrol about this. Capt. Eldon Mehrer told me there are no points assessed for overweight penalties.

“The overload fees are a civil penalty and are incremental based on the number of pounds over legal weights,” he said.

Do you have a question for a North Dakota state government official or agency? Send us your question, and we’ll do our best to find an answer.

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, ND 58505.

Please include your name, town and a phone number to reach you for verification.