1. North Dakota Senate OKs bill that would let schools post Ten Commandments

North Dakota senators voted by a wide margin Wednesday, Feb. 3, to pass a bill that would authorize public schools to display the Ten Commandments in classrooms.

Lawmakers supported Senate Bill 2308, by a vote of 34 to 13, in spite of opposition from several members who said that displaying the Ten Commandments in North Dakota schools would all but guarantee a federal lawsuit.

In a warning to his colleagues, Sen. Ray Holmberg, R-Grand Forks, said that if he could make an amendment to the bill, he would tack on the words "if you dare" after the bill's permission to post the religious text.

Read more from Forum News Service's Adam Willis

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2. North Dakota lawmakers look to buoy coal with relief bills

The Coal Creek Station power plant is seen Wednesday, May 13, near Underwood, N.D. Great River Energy has announced the plant is slated to close in 2022. Michael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor
The Coal Creek Station power plant is seen Wednesday, May 13, near Underwood, N.D. Great River Energy has announced the plant is slated to close in 2022. Michael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor

With North Dakota coal staring down an uncertain future, lawmakers are making financial relief for the troubled fossil fuel industry a top priority this legislative session.

North Dakota's declining coal industry employs around 13,000 people in the state's central coal-producing counties, and its struggles to compete with more affordable natural gas and federally subsidized renewables like wind and solar have made it a flashpoint of political debates over the state's energy future.

The ticking clock on the lifespan of Coal Creek Station, the Underwood, N.D., power plant slated for closure next year, and the arrival of the new, climate-focused Biden administration have made coal policy an even more urgent priority for lawmakers.

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3. Former senators pushing for local lawyer to be North Dakota's US attorney

Mac Schneider. Forum News Service file photo
Mac Schneider. Forum News Service file photo

A group of former Democratic senators have sent a letter to President Joe Biden urging that he appoint lawyer Mac Schneider as U.S. attorney for the district of North Dakota.

Heidi Heitkamp, Byron Dorgan and Kent Conrad, who all represented North Dakota in the U.S. Senate, drafted a letter dated Tuesday, Feb. 2, saying Schneider, a personal injury attorney in Fargo, is highly qualified to serve as the state's next U.S. attorney.

"Now more than ever our country needs honest, steady and fair leaders in our Department of Justice and Mac is exactly the kind of leader this moment in our country requires," the senators wrote.

Read more from Forum News Service's Michelle Griffith and Hannah Shirley

4. North Dakota lawmakers at odds over paid family leave

Freeimages.com / Miguel Ugalde
Freeimages.com / Miguel Ugalde

With another legislative session comes another discussion about paid family medical leave, and lawmakers on both sides of the aisle are proposing legislation to either implement or prohibit paid family leave in North Dakota.

On Wednesday, Feb. 3, lawmakers held their first hearing for House Bill 1441, which would establish a statewide, opt-in paid family leave program.

The program would create a fund for eligible employees to be paid during time taken off for scenarios such as serious medical or mental health conditions for themselves or family members, the care of a child during the first year after their birth, adoption, or beginning date of foster care and time off for the employee or their family members who are victims of sexual abuse, domestic violence or sex trafficking.

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5. North Dakota agency moving its 'sacred' adoption files for safekeeping

The last filing cabinet filled with adoption records from Lutheran Social Services of North Dakota is loaded into a van to be moved from LSS care to The Village on Wednesday, Feb. 3. C.S. Hagen / The Forum
The last filing cabinet filled with adoption records from Lutheran Social Services of North Dakota is loaded into a van to be moved from LSS care to The Village on Wednesday, Feb. 3. C.S. Hagen / The Forum

Jim Holmes was put up for adoption twice.

Once when he was 6 months old, but his birth mother changed her mind. The second time was less than two months later, and his new parents brought him to Walhalla, N.D.

Holmes' history may have remained a mystery if not for a caseworker at The Village Family Service Center who helped him find medical records, leading to more information on his birth family in 2003. One by one, the pieces of his life’s puzzle fell in place. He learned his birth parents had died, but that he still had many living siblings in the Fargo area who wanted to meet him.

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