5 things to know today: Severe storms, Budget reserves, Travel spending, DAPL documents, Looking back
A select rundown of stories found on InForum.
1. Possible tornado devastates town as wind damages communities across eastern South Dakota
The National Weather Service has sent teams to investigate storm damage from high winds here and to determine if a tornado was to blame for damage to the school, destruction of several homes, downed power lines and extensive tree damage.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said the damage was caused by a derecho — a widespread, long-lasting wind storm — that swept across the northern Great Plains and Upper Midwest, and showed satellite imagery of the storm raking the region.
The winds that caused severe damage in Castlewood — Gov. Kristi Noem’s hometown — were “more than likely a tornado,” but three survey teams are on the ground assessing damage here and in other towns in northeastern South Dakota, including Watertown, said Kari Sleegel, a weather service meteorologist in Aberdeen.
2. North Dakota’s huge budget reserves rank 2nd in the nation
North Dakota’s coffers are bulging, due largely to a rebound in oil prices and state officials’ conservative stewardship of the budget.
North Dakota’s financial reserves are so hefty, in fact, that they rank second-highest in the nation, according to an analysis by the Pew Trust.
Pew's comparison of relative financial reserves among the states used two measures of the size of each state’s rainy day fund, known formally as the budget stabilization fund.
North Dakota’s rainy day fund would be enough to run state government for 115.7 days, the Pew analysis found, using figures for the end of each state’s 2021 fiscal year. Wyoming ranked first, with enough rainy day money to last 300.8 days.
The 50-state median was 34.4 days. Minnesota’s rainy day reserves would last 42.7 days, South Dakota’s 41.7.
If total reserve balances are included, the states could pay their bills a bit longer: 289.3 days in North Dakota, behind Wyoming’s 300.8 days, both far beyond the 50-state median, 85.1 days. Minnesota’s reserves would last 59.7 days, South Dakota’s 58.3.
3. Sen. Holmberg spent more on travel than any North Dakota lawmaker in the past decade
A North Dakota legislator under scrutiny for exchanging text messages with a jailed child porn suspect spent more taxpayer money on travel over the last decade than any other state lawmaker, according to state records.
Sen. Ray Holmberg, a Republican from Grand Forks, accumulated $125,810 in travel expenses between 2013 and April 15, 2022, according to a North Dakota Legislature expense report obtained by The Forum. Holmberg went on about 70 out-of-state trips that included meetings in Canada, Puerto Rico, Europe and across the U.S.
North Dakota legislators all together spent roughly $2.1 million on travel during that time. That would equal about $9,200 on average for the 229 lawmakers who served in the North Dakota Legislature since 2013.
The Associated Press first reported the travel expenses, noting Holmberg spent almost 14 times the average amount that his colleagues did. Expense reports prior to 2013 were unavailable.
Holmberg has recently come under fire after The Forum reported he exchanged dozens of text messages in August with Nicholas James Morgan-Derosier , a 34-year-old Grand Forks man who faces federal prosecution on child pornography charges. Prosecutors also allege Morgan-Derosier took two children from their Twin Cities-area home to his Grand Forks residence with plans to sexually abuse them.
4. Energy Transfer files petition after ND Supreme Court ruled DAPL security documents are public
The Dakota Access Pipeline's parent company filed a petition for rehearing to the North Dakota Supreme Court after its decision that the documents between the pipeline operators and a private security firm are public record.
Energy Transfer on Thursday, May 12, filed a petition for rehearing, stating that the state's highest court "overlooked and/or misapprehended" certain facts of the case and the law.
The company argued that the contested documents aren't public because they do not meet the state's open record law's definition of "records," and weren't "received for use in connection with official or public business" — a stipulation that would make the documents public.
5. Bresciani looks back on 12 years as NDSU president: 'I wish I could do it again'
If given the chance, North Dakota State University President Dean Bresciani says he’d do it all over again “in a heartbeat.”
Bresciani's 12 years as president at the land-grant research university have included major successes and some controversies, among them was the State Board of Higher Education's decision last year to not renew his contract .
Bresciani's final day as president is Monday, May 16, and in the months to follow, he will transition into a tenured professor position at the school.
“It’s coming at me faster than I would have ever imagined. On that day that I hand over the keys, I think it's probably gonna hit me pretty hard,” Bresciani said.
The Forum sat down for an hour-long interview with the outgoing president in the Old Main building on campus on May 6.