5 things to know today: Not approved, Veto override, More storms, Derailment cleanup, Tax debate

A select rundown of stories found on InForum.

approval voting
Fargo residents campaigning for the approval voting ballot measure in 2018.
Submitted photo / Andrea Denault

1. North Dakota lawmakers ban approval voting system used in Fargo

Fargo's current voting process in municipal elections will likely become null and void after the North Dakota Senate overwhelmingly passed a bill that seeks to ban approval voting across the state.

Senate lawmakers on Thursday, March 30, passed House Bill 1273 , which would prohibit rank-choice voting and approval voting systems throughout the state of North Dakota, including Fargo where the last two elections have utilized approval voting.

The vote passed 33-13, and with the House's 74-19 vote on Feb. 15, clears the two-thirds majority threshold needed to override a potential veto from Gov. Doug Burgum.


An amendment to the bill to grandfather Fargo's approval voting system failed in the House.

Defenders of approval voting, which became law in Fargo behind a 2018 ballot measure, said it was another example of government overreach.

Mayor Tim Mahoney said he was very disappointed by the bill's passing, which he defined as a substantial loss for the "longstanding respect for Home Rule authority and local control."

The issue should be left to local voters, Mahoney said.


"Approval voting was enacted in Fargo by the people, not the elected officials. In fact, over 30,000 Fargo voters (64% of those casting ballots) supported approval voting after a successful initiated measure campaign. Today's actions silence those Fargo voters," Mahoney said.

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

2. North Dakota Senate overrides veto on bill targeting transgender students’ pronouns; House yet to vote

North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum delivers a budget address to lawmakers on Dec. 7, 2022, in the state House of Representatives.
Jeremy Turley / Forum News Service

The North Dakota Senate has voted to override Gov. Doug Burgum's veto of a bill that would restrict how the state's public schools treat transgender students.

Burgum, a Republican, announced his veto of Senate Bill 2231 on Thursday morning, March 30, citing the unnecessary burden it would place on teachers and school boards. The Senate's 37-9 vote to override the veto came about 10 hours later.

To become law, the bill would now need at least a two-thirds majority vote in the House of Representatives. A House vote on the bill last week came in three votes shy of the two-thirds threshold. Assistant House Majority Leader Glenn Bosch, R-Bismarck, said Thursday night he did not know if or when the House may vote to override the veto.


The bill sponsored by Sen. Larry Luick, R-Fairmount, at the request of the North Dakota Catholic Conference, would bar school districts and their governing boards from creating policies to accommodate transgender students unless parents give explicit permission.

Denounced by LGBTQ advocates, the legislation says public school teachers cannot be required to use a student’s pronoun if it doesn’t align with their sex at birth. A teacher would be allowed to use a transgender student’s preferred pronoun but only if the child’s parents and a school administrator give their blessing.

Schools would be prohibited from providing classroom instruction that recognizes the concept that gender identity can differ from sex at birth.

Read more from Forum News Service's Jeremy Turley

3. Winter storm next week could dump heavy precipitation, with increased chances for higher Red River flood

Snowpack is seen looking east along Highway 81 at one of the Red River control structures locates just south of 124 Avenue.
David Samson/The Forum

The potential for a winter storm that could hit the Fargo-Moorhead area next week means that the probability of the Red River reaching higher levels in the spring flood likely would increase.

That’s the message from the National Weather Service, which issued its latest update on the looming spring flood on Thursday, March 30.


Forecasters are watching a developing system that could deliver heavy precipitation to the Red River Valley, where snow continues to pile up and the thaw has yet to begin in earnest as cold temperatures linger.

“It has that potential,” said Mindy Beerends, the meteorologist in charge at the weather service in Grand Forks. “We are anticipating the potential for heavy precipitation with that storm system,” which could hit Fargo-Moorhead on Tuesday and Wednesday.

The range of probabilities for various flood stages the weather service issued on March 23 has not changed, but the possibility of seeing higher levels will increase if heavy precipitation falls, Beerends said.

At the low probability end of the range — which also corresponds to the highest flood levels — the Red River at Fargo has a 5% chance of cresting at 38.6 feet, and a 10% chance of 37.8 feet and a 50% chance of 34.2 feet.


Read more from Forum News Service's Patrick Springer

4. Walz, BNSF Railway promise safe, transparent cleanup after Raymond derailment

Minnesota train derailment
A train hauling ethanol derailed Thursday morning in Raymond, Minnesota, igniting several rail cars and forcing nearby residents to evacuate, officials said.

RAYMOND, Minn. — Gov. Tim Walz and company officials with BNSF Railway promised residents of Raymond on Thursday that everything will be done to assure a safe and transparent cleanup following the overnight derailment of 22 rail cars containing ethanol, which caught fire, and corn syrup.

“The safety of the community is our utmost priority,” Matt Garland, vice president of transportation for BNSF, told evacuated Raymond residents and members of the media at the Unity Christian Reformed Church in Prinsburg on Thursday morning.

“We apologize for this and take full accountability for it,” Katie Farmer, CEO of the Fort Worth, Texas-based company, told the gathering. “We are working very hard to get you all back in your homes as quickly as possible.”

Read more from Forum News Service's Tom Cherveny

5. Tax cut debate intensifies among North Dakota lawmakers as Senate advances hybrid proposal

North Dakota Sen. Jordan Kannianen, R-Stanley, speaks on the Senate floor on Thursday, March 30, 2023.
North Dakota Sen. Jordan Kannianen, R-Stanley, speaks on the Senate floor on Thursday, March 30, 2023.
Alyssa Goelzer/The Forum

As North Dakota's Republican legislative leaders prepare to sort out their differences on tax relief proposals, a package that mixes income and property tax cuts is starting to take form.

The state Senate has shown a greater affinity this year for proposed property tax reductions, while the House of Representatives and Gov. Doug Burgum have favored plans to slash income tax.


Last month, the House approved House Bill 1158, which featured robust income tax reductions, including a flat tax of 1.99% for income earned beyond the lowest tax brackets.

Heavy edits made recently by the Senate turned the legislation into a mix of proposed property and income tax reductions. The chamber voted 43-3 on Thursday, March 30, to advance the amended bill, volleying it back to House.

The $564 million in proposed tax relief included in the bill is close to evenly split between income and property tax cuts over the next two-year budget cycle. State leaders say higher-than-projected tax revenues give lawmakers the leeway to approve a sweeping tax break.

Read more from Forum News Service's Jeremy Turley

Our newsroom occasionally reports stories under a byline of "staff." Often, the "staff" byline is used when rewriting basic news briefs that originate from official sources, such as a city press release about a road closure, and which require little or no reporting. At times, this byline is used when a news story includes numerous authors or when the story is formed by aggregating previously reported news from various sources. If outside sources are used, it is noted within the story.
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