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5 things to know today: Omicron variant, Party split, Energy funding, Law rewrites, Veteran homelessness

A select rundown of stories found on InForum.

Dave Zibolski
Fargo Chief of Police Dave Zibolski. Chris Flynn / The Forum

1. North Dakota confirm first case of omicron variant

The state of North Dakota on Monday, Dec. 20, confirmed its first cases of the highly mutated omicron variant of the coronavirus.

Four cases have been identified: two in Ward County and one each in Burleigh and Cass County, according to the state Department of Health.

None of the four individuals are hospitalized and they are all adults under 50 years of age, health officials said. Two had traveled together to a different state, while two had not traveled.

Read more from The Forum's Michelle Griffith

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2. Walkout at North Dakota GOP meeting underscores party split

PHOTO: NDGOP Headquarters
The sign for the North Dakota Republican Party headquarters sits along East Boulevard Avenue near the state Capitol in Bismarck.
Jeremy Turley / Forum News Service file photo

Eight North Dakota GOP leaders walked out of a party meeting in Bismarck over the weekend in protest over decisions made by party leaders, in yet another sign of a growing Republican fracture.

Republican leaders on the party's State Committee were convened at the GOP headquarters on Saturday, Dec. 18, to discuss plans for next year's political convention and to vote on new bylaws.

Read more from The Forum's Adam Willis

3. Environmental group calls out conflicts of interest on North Dakota energy board as $160M funding approved

PHOTO: Coal Creek Station
Negotiations continue in the search for a new owner for Coal Creek Station, North Dakota's largest coal-fired power plant. The effort faces a looming summer deadline for completion.
Contributed / Great River Energy

An environmental group is calling out a new arm of the North Dakota government for allegedly mismanaging its conflicts of interest when it convened last week to recommend more than $160 million in state funds for fossil fuel-sector grants and loans.

The Dakota Resource Council, a conservationist group, raised concerns about the handling of conflicts of interest on the Clean Sustainable Energy Authority in a letter sent to the state Ethics Commission and Gov. Doug Burgum on Monday, Dec. 20, in which the organization asked for more stringent rules regulating such conflicts in the future.

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4. Minnesota stakeholders say liquor law rewrites are on tap in 2022

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Minnesota liquor retailers and craft beverage officials said they're hopeful that 2022 will be the year for extensive liquor law re-writes at the Capitol.

And that means Minnesotans could see more take-home options for sale at craft breweries, distilleries and cideries or additional options made available in local liquor stores starting next year if lawmakers sign off.

The push for changes comes after years of gridlock between stakeholders in the distribution system and after craft breweries launched public pressure campaigns to convince lawmakers to lift caps on the barrels of beer they can produce each year while still offering to-go sale options in their taproom.

Read more from Forum News Service's Dana Ferguson

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5. North Dakota 'on the verge' of ending veteran homelessness

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A Veterans Community Resource and Referral Center is now open at 721 1st Ave. N., in Fargo. The CRRC is designed to meet the housing, health care and other needs of homeless veterans in North Dakota and Northwest Minnesota. There are just over 30 CRRC's in the U.S., including one in Minneapolis, said Director Diana Hall, pictured Friday, Sept. 11. The Fargo center is the first in the Upper Great Plains, she said. (Helmut Schmidt / The Forum)

A decade ago more than 300 veterans were homeless, every night, across North Dakota.

Now, the Fargo Veterans Affairs Health Care System, through the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness, is close to declaring an end to veteran homelessness in North Dakota, said Diana Hall, who manages the veterans housing and employment programs for the Fargo VA Health Care System.

“We’re right on the verge of being able to declare functional zero homelessness for veterans. We’re not quite there yet. We have a couple more veterans that we have to get housed, but we’re close,” Hall said, adding that she hopes the declaration can be made in 2022.

Read more from The Forum's C.S. Hagen

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