Jack Dura / Bismarck Tribune
BISMARCK — On tip-toe, Chief Justice Gerald VandeWalle reached to a high shelf in his office to a picture frame that had tipped over. He retrieved it and made a lighthearted comment about the photo it contained taken not too long ago of him and his first-grade teacher. He returned it to the shelf, and then noted another, this one of him and retired U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor. In a legal career spanning 60 years, there's a lot to talk about.
BISMARCK—Counting people for a census is like wringing a wet sponge, according to the North Dakota Census Office manager. "We can get a lot of water out of the sponge, but the challenge is to get every last drop, every last individual counted," Kevin Iverson said. Counting all state residents, from students to snowbirds, directly feeds into the allocation of federal funding, Iverson said. One missed resident equates to $19,100 in decennial costs, according to a recent analysis.
BISMARCK—In its unanimous opinion issued Tuesday, the North Dakota Supreme Court upheld evidence that convicted two people involved in a protest of the Dakota Access Pipeline in 2016. Surrogate Judge Thomas Merrick convicted Mary Redway and Alex Simon in October 2017 of misdemeanors related to the protest march in a pasture in southern Morton County. Redway and Simon were sentenced to four and 12 days in jail, respectively, as the first defendants convicted from the protests to serve incarceration for convictions.
More than 250 employees of 13 North Dakota state agencies have applied for buyouts in the second year of the state's "voluntary separation incentive program." Becky Sicble, interim division director for the Human Resource Management Services Division of the state Office of Management and Budget, said 13 of 17 participating state agencies received 269 applications before the Friday deadline. Four additional agencies still have an open window for applications, one as late as Sept. 10 for the 45-day consideration period to complete.
BISMARCK—Tim Klose is already laying plans for next year's garden at the North Dakota State Penitentiary. "We're planning for an even bigger harvest next year," the 60-year-old inmate said while walking around rows of cabbage and carrots, rhubarb and radishes, all within a fenced area of the prison in Bismarck. This year's garden was made possible through grant dollars from the Bush Foundation allocated by the Consensus Council. Harvesting began in early July with radishes, then moved into carrots and tomatoes, Klose said. They harvest something about once a week.
BISMARCK—Information technology serving North Dakota state agencies totals more than 800 "legacy" IT systems and 160 websites, according to Gov. Doug Burgum. The former software executive who ran on a platform of innovation in government says users shouldn't have to go to different state websites for separate functions. In the age of Amazon and Apple, the state should have a similar "single sign-on" experience, he said.
BISMARCK—North Dakota Democrats and Republicans continue to sound off on the state's entry into a federal lawsuit to overturn the Affordable Care Act, as the health care debate also permeates North Dakota's Senate race. State Insurance Commissioner Jon Godfread, Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem, Lt. Gov. Brent Sanford, state Sen. Kelly Armstrong and Rep. Kevin Cramer gathered Wednesday to "help set the record straight" on the dispute over health care.
BISMARCK—What is perhaps the last high-profile criminal case from the Dakota Access Pipeline protests is all but over. Attorney and North Dakota's 2016 Democratic-NPL U.S. House nominee Chase Iron Eyes has accepted a plea agreement with Morton County prosecutors Bryan Grosinger and Chase Lingle. Iron Eyes was charged last year with felony inciting a riot and misdemeanor criminal trespass related to protest activities on Feb. 1, 2017, in erecting a camp on pipeline land in southern Morton County.
BISMARCK—Police in Bismarck responded around 2:30 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 18, to a call about a squirrel struck by a dart. Bismarck Police Sgt. Tim Sass said officers responded after the caller described the squirrel as "acting weird" when it was running along a fence, and then it fell to the ground. The caller told police the squirrel had been struck by a large dart. The squirrel died as a result.
BISMARCK — Whoever wins election for North Dakota's secretary of state will likely see a new era of technology for the office. Perhaps the major point of the race has been improving technology of Republican incumbent Al Jaeger's office, for which he's faced criticism, even from within his own party. Both he and Democratic challenger Josh Boschee, a state lawmaker from Fargo, say they have a proposal or work underway to improve technological processes.