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.

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?

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.

Today’s Ask Your Government

Dear readers,

One of my co-workers at The Dickinson Press sent me the following question:

I’ve had a question ever since I moved to Dickinson.

Growing up in Stephen, Minn., (about 60 miles from Grand Forks) we did A LOT of shopping in Grand Forks and Fargo. Minnesota doesn’t have tax on clothing, but we paid the tax on it in Grand Forks, just like everyone else.

When I moved to Dickinson last year, I found out the state of North Dakota gives a sales tax break to Montana residents shopping in North Dakota if they spend more than $50 because Montana has no sales tax. Why does North Dakota give breaks to Montanans and not Minnesotans?

Katherine Grandstrand

Thanks for the question! I contacted Tax Commissioner Cory Fong. Here’s what he said:

“North Dakota tax policy, including sales tax exemptions, (is) established by the North Dakota Legislature. The exemption for Montana residents goes way back into the history of our sales tax laws.

“Although the exemption is commonly referred to as the “Montana exemption,” it is actually not specific to Montana. The sales tax law provides an exemption “to a person from an adjoining state which does not impose or levy a retail sales tax.” It just happens that Montana is the only adjoining state that doesn’t impose a tax on retail sales.

“To qualify for exemption, a Montana resident must come to North Dakota for the purpose of making a purchase, the purchase must be for $50 or more and the product must be taken outside of North Dakota for use.

“There has been legislation over the years to repeal the exemption. But so far, the Legislature has decided to continue the exemption policy. Those that support the exemption believe it encourages Montana residents to do business in our state, which in turn supports our local businesses and helps our economy.

“Without the exemption, Montana retailers would have a 5 percent price advantage over North Dakota retailers, which may discourage shopping here by Montana residents.

“Although Minnesota does not impose sales tax on clothing, it does impose a sales tax of 6.875 percent on most other retail sales. So, for most products, Minnesota does not have a price advantage over North Dakota because of tax policy.

“Unlike with the Montana exemption, the Legislature has decided not to offer Minnesota residents an exemption on the clothing they purchase in North Dakota. There has been legislation introduced in the past two legislative sessions to exempt the sale of clothing in North Dakota, which would make us comparable to Minnesota. However, the North Dakota Legislature did not pass the clothing exemption bills into law.

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,

My question is: Is there a way to have a different number on one’s Medicare card? My concern: After years of locking up my Social Security number, I was amazed to find it is now my Medicare number. Millions of elderly people with tons of caregivers with that information at their fingertips. Does not seem prudent. Any alternatives?

I realized this is a federal issue, but perhaps you can help.

Thank you,

Darlene Peterson

West Fargo

Thanks for writing! The North Dakota Insurance Department took this question. Here’s what Dave Zimmerman, director of the consumer assistance division, said:

“Unfortunately, she is right – this is purely a federal issue. So much of the logistical processes associated with Medicare involve the Social Security Administration. They evaluate your income (based on your Social Security number) to determine such things as premium costs for Medicare Part A, B and D, as well as utilize the same information to determine if a person qualifies for Extra Help paying for their prescriptions.

“So much of this process is connected to that Social Security number. That is why CMS (Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services) places so many resources into training beneficiaries to be very cautious with whom they share the card’s information.

“CMS recommends that beneficiaries should not carry the card with them unless they know they are going to a new health care provider for the first time. Otherwise, the cards should be secured in a safe place.”

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,

Please publish details of fracking, especially chemicals used. Dr. Winn Parker (Parkers Pathways) on republicbroadcasting.org states it takes 5 million gallons of water for one fracking! The upper layer of stratum is disturbed before reaching the desired depth. Water is more necessary than oil ($). Thank you.

Ardis Johnson 

Jamestown

Thanks for writing! I talked to Department of Mineral Resources Director Lynn Helms, who said 5 million gallons of water is the high end. The average is 4 million gallons for each well, he said.

Forum Communications has put together a five-part series about water, which includes taking a look at water supply in the state. The series began this weekend and runs every weekend through Feb. 25.

As for your fracking question, it is now voluntary for North Dakota companies to report details about fracking, Helms said. However, that will soon change.

The state Industrial Commission approved rule changes this past week that will make it mandatory for companies to submit fracking reports. April 1 is the earliest the rules will take effect, Helms said.

The information will be available at fracfocus.org, which already has some North Dakota information voluntarily submitted by companies. The rule will require data to appear on the website within 60 days of pumping, Helms said.

Here’s how to find that information:

After going to fracfocus.org, click on the map that has “Find a Well” on it. (Or, just click here.) From there, select North Dakota from the drop-down box. You can select a county, well and operator, if you want.

After you click search, you’ll see North Dakota light up on the map below. Click on the map until you see bright green light bulb shapes. You can click on each of those bulbs and get the option to open a PDF report with specific information.

Whether or not you’ll understand the reports, however, is another matter.

“If you’re not a chemist or a chemical engineer, the data that’s there you’ll struggle with a little bit because it’s chemical names,” Helms said.

Still, the reports are as easy to understand as they can be, he said, and there’s enough there that people can copy and paste information into a search engine to find out more about ingredients.

“It’s something that the environmental groups and the citizens have really pushed for,” he said of putting reports on fracfocus.org. “This really is about the principle of transparency in this process. This is really not because we suspect that, you know, improper substances have been used.”

The Industrial Commission – which includes the governor – has said the typical North Dakota Bakken frac contains 0.088 percent petroleum distillates.

FracFocus is managed by the Ground Water Protection Council and Interstate Oil and Gas Compact Commission. It includes information on hydraulic fracturing, chemicals used and groundwater protection.

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.

Oil Patch testimony to legislators

BISMARCK–As I reported in today’s papers, legislators spent Thursday listening to hours of testimony from western North Dakota officials regarding the challenges and the need for more money due to oil impacts.

What made it into the paper was only a fraction of the testimony presented due to space reasons.

For those interested, I thought I would share copies of testimony and handouts that I received electronically for you to read more about what legislators were told.

Here they are, in no particular order:

 Dunn County

Williston

 Dickinson Public Schools

Killdeer Public Schools

 McKenzie County Public Schools

Mountrail County

Watford City

Williams County (lots of photos in this one)

Williston Public Schools

 

Legislators hear needs, frustrations from Oil Patch

BISMARCK – There is an “incredible amount” of anger and frustration in Williams County over how the oil boom has affected the way of life for local residents, a county commissioner said Thursday.

Officials from the oil and gas counties appeared one after another to talk to the North Dakota Legislature’s interim energy committee about the challenges they face and how much money they need to address oil impacts.

Housing, crime, lack of employees, strained budgets, stressed emergency services, traffic, day care shortages and the need for more schools were among the topics brought up.

Williams County Commissioner Dan Kalil received applause from the audience after his testimony about the toll the boom has taken on Williston. The area is short on patience, jail space, groceries and fuel; and long on sewage, garbage, anger and frustration, he said.

“Our quality of life is gone. It is absolutely gone,” he said. “My community is gone, and I’m heartbroken. I never wanted to live anyplace but Williston, North Dakota, and now I don’t know what I’m going to do.”

Kalil said his goal as a local official was to leave his county better than he found it, but now he doesn’t know if that’s possible. All of the challenges are a symptom of what the problem is: too much too fast, Kalil said.

“This level of activity has only led to unwarranted greed and unbelievable pressure on everyone,” he said. “We cannot sustain this. Somebody has to be brave enough to stand up and say, ‘Too much, too fast.’ ”

The state has “a moral obligation” as a stakeholder to do everything it can to help, he said.

“We cannot destroy North Dakota to fill the coffers of Bismarck. We cannot do this,” Kalil said, referring to the oil and gas tax revenue the state receives. “We went from oil exploration to oil exploitation.”

The sentiment in Williams County is that the third- and fourth-generation culture is being traded for a transient work force and “the mug shots of two undesirable people from Colorado,” he said. He was referring to the men heading to the Oil Patch who are now suspected of kidnapping a Montana teacher who is presumed dead.

Legislators also heard about the strain on volunteer ambulance departments overwhelmed with calls.

Volunteers are stressed and hard to find due to the increased time commitments, lack of funding, and need for more training and equipment, said Cody Friesz, administrator of the North Dakota EMS Association.

The calls ambulance personnel respond to are also more gruesome than they used to be, which stresses volunteers, said Donna Scott, a Dunn County commissioner.

School officials from throughout western North Dakota discussed their climbing enrollments, the need for more school buildings and the need for more impact funding from the state.

The distributions to schools in the oil counties are not answering the rapid-growth issues, said Gary Wilz, superintendent of Killdeer Public Schools.

Housing is in such demand, said Shawn Kessel, Dickinson’s city administrator, that his uncle, who owns a four-bedroom home in Dickinson, sleeps in one bedroom and rents out the other three at $800 a month each.

City sanitation truck drivers have been recruited while on their garbage routes because oil companies prize employees who are licensed to drive commercial trucks, Kessel said.

Although the census counted Dickinson’s population at about 18,000, Kessel believes the city is serving about 22,000 people. North Dakota State University has estimated the city’s population will grow to 35,000 people within four years, Kessel said.

“We’re going to have to basically pick up the city of Mandan and drop it into the city of Dickinson, and do it in four to five years,” he said. “That means adding all the roads, all the fire, all the police, and everything else.”

Brad Bekkedahl, a Williston city commissioner, said although his city’s population is growing rapidly, almost 1,000 longtime residents have left in the last two years, fed up with the city’s newly acquired crowding and traffic problems.

“Those are the people that built our churches, went to our PTAs. They built our community. It’s tough to lose those people,” Bekkedahl said. “We’re getting more back in, but we’re losing our core.”

Energy Committee Chairman Sen. Rich Wardner, R-Dickinson, said Thursday’s testimony indicated that legislators need to look at revising the gross production tax formula and send more money to political subdivisions. Legislators also need to look at more money for roads, he said.

There’s no question help is needed to address the impacts, Wardner said. While there are those who want to spend the state’s oil revenue on assorted causes, the state needs to take care of the oil counties, he said.

“We may have a lot of money, but we have a lot of needs,” he said. “They’re the ones that are taking the hit for the whole state.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.