1. North Dakota lawmakers kill affordable insulin bill

Twelve-year-old Nina Kritzberger was preparing to share with North Dakota lawmakers her experience of going to school, playing sports and doing everything kids her age do while living with Type I diabetes.

However, because the North Dakota Senate killed a bill to make insulin more affordable in a 26-21 vote on Monday, Feb. 22, Nina Kritzberger will no longer have that chance.

During an extensive discussion about Senate Bill 2183, senators weighed the pros and cons behind making insulin more affordable for diabetic North Dakotans who need the medication to survive. Ultimately, lawmakers decided the cons and prices insurance companies would need to pay to make insulin more affordable outweighed the benefits.

Read more from The Forum News Service's Michelle Griffith

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2. North Dakota House advances bill banning mask mandates by governments, businesses and schools

The North Dakota flag is seen under a face mask. (Forum News Service photo illustration)
The North Dakota flag is seen under a face mask. (Forum News Service photo illustration)

The North Dakota House of Representatives narrowly approved a bill that would prohibit state and local officials, schools and businesses from mandating face masks.

The lower chamber voted 50-44 on Monday, Feb. 22, to advance House Bill 1323 to the Senate.

The pushback on compulsory mask-wearing comes three months after the administration of Republican Gov. Doug Burgum imposed a statewide face covering mandate amid the nation's most severe COVID-19 outbreak. Burgum had previously expressed skepticism of mask requirements but changed his tune as the virus strained the state's hospital capacity. A handful of cities and counties, including Fargo, Grand Forks and Bismarck, independently required mask use in public prior to the state mandate, which expired in January.

Read more from Forum News Service's Jeremy Turley

3. Fargo commissioners aim to make voting at home a permanent option

Cass County employee Jodi Miller operates a new letter-opening machine to open the envelopes of mail-in ballots Saturday, Oct. 31, in the Courthouse Annex, Fargo.
Michael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor
Cass County employee Jodi Miller operates a new letter-opening machine to open the envelopes of mail-in ballots Saturday, Oct. 31, in the Courthouse Annex, Fargo. Michael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor

Fargo city commissioners voted unanimously on Monday night, Feb. 22, to begin work with the county to continue to allow at-home or mail-in voting in the city and county in upcoming elections.

Commissioner Arlette Preston said the state legislature passed a law in 2017 to allow at-home voting, and 33 of 50 counties in the state have the option for ballot applications to be mailed to all voters in every election. If they return the application, a ballot is then sent before Election Day.

It's similar to what was previously called absentee voting, under which people could vote early if they weren't able to make it to polls on Election Day.

Read more from The Forum's Barry Amundson

4. North Dakota House propels bill to rev up gas tax

Emma Detloff fills her gas tank Feb. 1. at Casey's General Store on University Drive South in Fargo. Michael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor
Emma Detloff fills her gas tank Feb. 1. at Casey's General Store on University Drive South in Fargo. Michael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor

The North Dakota House of Representatives has advanced legislation that would raise the gas tax paid by drivers in the state for the first time in more than 15 years.

The lower chamber voted 62-32 on Monday, Feb. 22, to approve House Bill 1464, which would boost the motor fuel tax by three cents per gallon. The proposal, which underwent several amendments, will now go across the hall to the Senate for consideration. Similar efforts to raise the gas tax failed to pass in 2019.

Since 2005, drivers have shelled out 23 cents in tax per gallon of gas or diesel — more than a nickel under the national average. Supporters of a gas tax increase say the revenue brought in by the outdated fee isn't able to cover looming infrastructure costs.

Read more from Forum News Service's Jeremy Turley

5. Larger-than-expected turnout forces food giveaway event to start early in Fargo

Volunteers direct traffic and hand out baskets of food at the Fargo-Moorhead Labor Temple in Fargo on Monday, Feb. 22. Because of a long line of vehicles waiting for food, organizers began giving away the 30-pound baskets an hour before the scheduled start of the event. David Samson / The Forum
Volunteers direct traffic and hand out baskets of food at the Fargo-Moorhead Labor Temple in Fargo on Monday, Feb. 22. Because of a long line of vehicles waiting for food, organizers began giving away the 30-pound baskets an hour before the scheduled start of the event. David Samson / The Forum

When Jason Ehlert set up the food drive at the Fargo-Moorhead Labor Temple, he didn’t expect the need to be as great as it was.

People showed up at 8 a.m. Monday, Feb. 22, for a 30-pound box of fresh fruit, vegetables, meat and milk, hours before the noon event was to start. As a line of cars threatened traffic flow on First Avenue North, Ehlert and the volunteers on hand opened the gates early to begin handing out free food.

“We had so many cars lined up so we had to start at 11,” said Ehlert, president of the Red River Valley Building Trades Unions. “And it’s just been all over the place. There is a great need. I am shocked.”

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