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5 things to know today: Coronavirus numbers, Police accountability, DAPL cost, Preparing schools, Board salaries

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A North Dakota National Guard member collects a specimen from people directed to report for COVID-19 testing at the Fargodome, Saturday, April 25, Fargo. The testing was closed to the general public, but included essential workers, people with symptoms of COVID-19 and those who have had close contact with confirmed cases of the disease. Michael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor

1. Burgum challenger accuses North Dakota of skewing coronavirus infection rate

Gov. Doug Burgum's Democratic challenger Shelley Lenz says North Dakota is skewing the rate of positive coronavirus cases by using a method that emphasizes negative test results — resulting in a much lower reported infection rate.

North Dakota's positive rate among those tested for coronavirus infection over 14 days averaged 5.7% Tuesday, July 21, and has ranged from 4.8% on July 10 to 8.7% on July 14 , according to Johns Hopkins University.

Those infection rates are higher than those reported by the North Dakota Department of Health, which reported a daily positivity rate of 2.2% for test results released on Tuesday, and figures resulting in a cumulative positive rate of 3.77%.

In recent weeks, North Dakota's positive rate has consistently fallen in the 3% range, while the Johns Hopkins method has consistently been higher.

Read more from The Forum's Patrick Springer

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2. Minnesota lawmakers advance police accountability measures 8 weeks after Floyd's death

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Members of the Minnesota House of Representatives on Monday, July 20, 2020, considered and ultimately approved a resolution deeming racism a public health crisis. Lawmakers raised their hands to call for a roll call vote on the resolution. Dana Ferguson / Forum News Service

Minnesota lawmakers in the wee hours Tuesday, July 21, approved some of the most extensive re-writes to the state's criminal justice laws in recent history eight weeks after George Floyd was killed at the hands of Minneapolis police.

The Minnesota House of Representatives by a 102-29 vote late Monday, July 20, and the Senate on a 60-7 vote early Tuesday, advanced a series of changes to the state's policing laws, including the creation of a new unit to investigate police deadly force incidents, banning police chokeholds and warrior training creating a new system of arbitration to weigh police deadly force encounters.

The approvals clear a path to Gov. Tim Walz's desk for his signature and Walz on Tuesday said he would sign the measures into law.

Read more

3. Legal dispute over cost of DAPL protest cleanup continues 3 years later

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Law enforcement stands off with #NoDAPL protesters on Sunday, Nov. 20, 2016, at the Backwater Bridge along Highway 1806. Photo via Morton County

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A federal judge in Bismarck heard arguments today from the state of North Dakota and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in a long-running dispute over the financial damages caused by protestors during construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline.

The hearing, which addressed a motion by the federal government to dismiss the case, was the first major development since North Dakota filed a suit against the federal government a year ago.

The case, overseen by Judge Daniel M. Traynor of the U.S. District Court for the District of North Dakota, is a rehashing of a years-old dispute between the state of North Dakota and the federal government over the handling of the DAPL protests.

Read more from Forum News Service's Adam Willis

4. ND's K-12 superintendent wants to shift education to fill in gaps intensified by distance, hybrid learning

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iStock / Special to The Forum

North Dakota State Superintendent Kirsten Baesler doesn’t want to just reopen schools for in-person instruction this fall. Baesler wants to reimagine education, she said at the Governor’s Summit on Innovative Education Tuesday, July 21.

Khan Academy founder Sal Khan visited North Dakota virtually to lend Baesler a hand in transforming education. He spoke at the fourth annual summit, which took place in a virtual format and had more than 1,300 registrants.

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Khan Academy’s videos aren’t just free math lessons to help students struggling with a homework assignment. It's a mastery learning platform, which Baesler is looking to emulate, that can help students fill in learning gaps, which can plague them well beyond that grade level if glazed over.

Read more from The Forum's Carissa Wigginton

5. Cass County board debates salaries for next year

The Cass County Courthouse in October 2016.
The Cass County Courthouse in Fargo . Forum file photo

As far as salaries go for the 440 Cass County employees next year, one thing is for certain.

They won't get a cost of living increase as the U.S. Department of Labor is estimating in the Midwest a consumer price index decrease of .7%.

The county commissioners on Tuesday afternoon, July 21, voted unanimously to forego those pay increases for 2021.

However, after reviewing a consultant's comprehensive salary survey completed this summer, the commissioners are considering boosting pay for those who are lagging behind others in similar public and private jobs in the region and also continuing to give employees step increases that are in the 3.5% range per worker.

The step increases are given to workers on their hiring anniversaries only after a favorable review from supervisors.

Read more from The Forum's Barry Amundson

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