1. 'Crippling' scarcity of COVID-19 vaccine hampers rollout in North Dakota, Minnesota
The rollout of vaccines to protect against the highly contagious coronavirus is hampered by limited supplies of vaccine, with North Dakota receiving fewer than 10,000 doses per week.
In North Dakota, 8% of the population has received one dose of the vaccine and 2.1% of the population has received the required two doses as of Tuesday, Jan. 26, according to the North Dakota Department of Health.
The rates are slightly higher in Cass County, which holds about a quarter of the state’s population, with first doses given to 8.8% and second doses to 3.3%.
2. Federal court delivers blow to Dakota Access as Biden presidency leaves pipeline's fate in question
A federal appeals court upheld a ruling Tuesday, Jan. 26, requiring an additional environmental review of the Dakota Access Pipeline, a decision that could escalate pressure on the embattled project to shut down even as the court stopped short of mandating this step itself.
A panel of three judges for the U.S. District Court of Appeals from the District of Columbia Circuit unanimously agreed with a previous ruling that DAPL's operations at its Missouri River crossing near the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation are illegal, requiring the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to proceed with an extensive review of potential environmental hazards at that location.
3. Minnesota health officials urge caution after discovery of COVID-19 mutation first found in Brazil
Minnesota health officials on Tuesday, Jan. 26, advised residents to be cautious about traveling and to keep following public health recommendations now that the COVID-19 mutation first identified in Brazil has been discovered in the state.
Continuing to practice social distancing and wearing face masks, the officials said, could help limit the spread of the new and more transmissible strain. It could also help to prevent another mutation from occurring, according to Minnesota Department of Health Epidemiologist Dr. Ruth Lynfield.
"The virus continues to evolve, as all viruses do when they replicate in people. So that is another reason why it is extremely important to limit COVID-19 transmission," Lynfield told reporters on a call with the media Tuesday. "The fewer people who are infected with this virus, the fewer the opportunities it has to evolve."
4. Bill would tap North Dakota's Legacy Fund to erase residential property taxes
A group of far-right North Dakota lawmakers wants to spend earnings from the state's oil tax savings account to eliminate residential property taxes. Supporters of the proposal say it would cycle money back into the local economy, but party leadership on both sides of the aisle have dismissed the legislation and put forth other plans to use the funds.
House Bill 1446 would dedicate earnings from the voter-approved Legacy Fund toward property tax credits for North Dakota homeowners and then reimburse counties for the lost income.
The earnings from the $7.9 billion fund likely wouldn't cover every homeowner's full property tax bill right away, but Rep. Jeff Magrum said his plan would eventually spell the end of the tax as the Legacy Fund swells with oil revenue. In the meantime, the lawmaker's plan would provide a significant discount to each eligible applicant.
5. Sunday morning beer run? North Dakota lawmakers look to loosen restrictions on booze sales
North Dakotans who go hunting for a case of cold ones early on Sunday morning are out of luck. The remnants of the state's once-strict blue laws prohibit the sale of alcohol before 11 a.m., but a bill that would change the rule has just picked up momentum.
Senate Bill 2220 would let bars, restaurants, liquor shops and other vendors sell alcohol starting at 8 a.m. on Sundays, aligning it with every other day of the week. The proposal received a "do pass" recommendation from the Senate Industry, Business and Labor Committee via a 4-2 vote on Tuesday, Jan. 26. The bill will now go to a vote of the full Senate.
Sen. Scott Meyer, a self-styled "free market believer," said his bill would allow drinking establishments and liquor stores to meet the demands of night shift workers, fishers and other early risers. The Grand Forks Republican added that bars and restaurants in his district have been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic and giving the struggling businesses an opportunity to open three hours earlier could help them make up ground.