Excerpts from recent North Dakota editorials

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BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — The Daily News, Wahpeton, Jan. 19, 2015

NDSU, short for North Dakota's team

The North Dakota State University Bison football team has captured a four-peat title from the FCS, that of national champions. But more importantly, they captured the admiration and loyalty from an entire state of proud North Dakotans.

So many conversations this week have started with, "Did you watch the Bison win on Saturday?"

Those who didn't, well, spoiler alert, they won. The game proved that North Dakota athletes can compete on a big stage. This year's football team has been compared to blue-collar workers. They worked hard, played as a team and got the job done. All we can say now is, what happens next year?

The football program for NDSU was built on a solid foundation. For three hours last Saturday, citizens around the state watched the green and gold in terror/confidence/assurance as they had 90 seconds to win or lose. The team did what they've done all season. They played football.

The game could have gone either way. The announcers were ready to name Illinois State as the new champions, but the story line didn't write itself that way. The Bison dug deep and showed another way to win a national championship.

This isn't the same team as the previous three national titleholders. But in the end, that is OK, too. The team of 2014-15 may not garner as many national headlines throughout the rest of the country, but for us North Dakotans, NDSU now stands for North Dakota's team.


The Bismarck Tribune, Bismarck, Jan. 22, 2015

Bills to change Industrial Commission flawed

The members of the North Dakota Industrial Commission may feel they don't have any friends left in the state.

They have been dealing with numerous hot button issues over the last few years. Last year saw them involved in several controversies. Two of the biggest were flaring and rail safety.

Commissioners drew criticism from the oil industry and railroads and from critics of the oil industry and railroads when dealing with the issues.

The governor, attorney general and agriculture commissioner, all Republicans, serve on the Industrial Commission. State law puts the three officeholders on the commission.

The commission always has handled major issues, but the oil boom has added to the workload and the importance of their decisions.

Now a legislator is questioning how the commission makes its decisions and the makeup of the commission.

Rep. Keith Kempenich, R-Bowman, has introduced two bills. House Bill 1187 would make orders enacted by the three-member commission after June 30, 2014, that weren't approved through the administrative rule process void effective Jan. 1, 2016.

House Bill 1179 would add the chairman of the Public Service Commission and state tax commissioner to the Industrial Commission.

Kempenich says legislative input was needed when the commission acted on flaring and rail safety. "The problem is there's no due process in what they did," Kempenich told the Tribune's Nick Smith. "They're creeping into legislative territory. It's pretty much the executive branch is in control."

If HB1187 passes, both orders could go through the administrative rules process. If they weren't approved by Jan. 1, 2016, they'd be void. The bill gets the legislative branch involved in the decisions.

Kempenich wants to add the PSC chairman and tax commissioner to the Industrial Commission to provide more expertise on fiscal impacts and regulation of pipeline infrastructure.

The governor's office isn't thrilled by either bill, arguing there's no need to change the makeup or level of authority of the commission.

We agree.

The Tribune hasn't agreed with all of the commission's decisions, but the commission has worked to get information and feedback from all sides. With the controversial issues they are dealing with, it's almost impossible to satisfy everyone.

Adding more steps to the process will only take more time to reach a decision. The commission should be allowed to do what the law asks them to do.

If HB1187 passes it could prompt the U.S. Department of Transportation to require expensive oil stabilization at the state's 22 rail facilities that ship oil by train, according to Lynn Helms, Department of Mineral Resources director.

A fiscal note prepared by Legislative Council with Helms' help, estimates the impact at $93 million in lost tax revenue related to oil stabilization.

Both of the bills by Kempenich should be rejected.

Also, Sen. Bill Bowman of Bowman, has introduced Senate Concurrent Resolution 4009 that calls for a study of the Industrial Commission makeup. He said other states have commissions that consist of industry experts.

If legislators believe the Industrial Commission has flaws, it makes more sense to review the commission and see if changes are needed. There should be no rush to change the commission that has worked well for the state.


Minot Daily News, Minot, Jan. 13, 2015

Diseases still merit headlines

Remember Ebola? For a few weeks last year, the disease was the big story in the news. It has become an afterthought for many Americans, however.

U.S. Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del., probably reinforced that attitude after returning from a trip to Liberia, one of the West African hot spots for Ebola. The epidemic has been reduced to "a few embers," Coons said. U.S. efforts to fight the disease, including the 2,400 American troops sent to Liberia, should be reevaluated, the lawmaker said.

It is time to take another look at U.S. reaction to the Ebola outbreak — but not, as Coons seemed to be implying, to conclude the disease has been beaten.

As of Monday, the outbreak that began last summer had killed 8,153 people in West Africa, according to the World Health Organization. And, WHO officials added, Ebola is still an enormous threat.

It and other "exotic" diseases are exceedingly dangerous — and will only grow more so as travel throughout the world increases.

While U.S. officials may want to cut back on the emergency reaction to the initial Ebola outbreak, they need to take the long view that we and other developed countries need to do more to battle exotic diseases. Ebola may be last year's headline — but it and related killers could well be headlines in the future, too.


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