Political notebook: Next PSC meeting available online
The North Dakota Public Service Commission's telecommunications conference Tuesday in Bismarck will be broadcast live on the Internet. Public Service Commissioner Tony Clark said a live audio link will be available on the PSC's Web site - www.psc...
The North Dakota Public Service Commission's telecommunications conference Tuesday in Bismarck will be broadcast live on the Internet.
Public Service Commissioner Tony Clark said a live audio link will be available on the PSC's Web site - www.psc.state.nd.us - that day for anyone who can't make it to Bismarck for the meeting.
The all-day conference's topics include improving wireless communication in rural and small urban areas, and the importance of wireless technology to economic development. One session discusses how wireless "is much more than the traditional cell phone. Today's wireless technologies encompass broadband, computer chips, voice, video and data."
Minutes after he was announced as Minnesota's government reform czar, Dan McElroy signaled he will be tough.
McElroy, leaving as
Gov. Tim Pawlenty's chief of staff, said he plans to change the old saying: "If it ain't broke, don't fix it." The new maxim will be: "If something isn't broken, it's probably obsolete."
Pawlenty has tried since he took office in 2003 to reduce the size of state government. But last week he said he wasn't happy with how slow his government reform is progressing. He said that is why McElroy, a former legislator, is taking over the new job.
In the past, all of Pawlenty's commissioners have looked for ways to trim the bureaucracy. Now McElroy will be the point man, taking over much of a mostly unused $700,000 budget from the state planning office that was folded into another department.
"We're serious about it; we are focused," Pawlenty said, hinting that voters will see changes before next year's election.
One small issue McElroy will examine is how to get a better deal buying computer software. The state has 21,000 licenses for Microsoft programs. If they were bought in bulk, the governor said the cost would fall dramatically.
Missing in action
When North Dakota Legislators miss an interim committee meeting, they often don't give a reason when they call in to the Legislative Council office to say they'll be absent. It could be any number of reasons, including conflicting appointments, said Jay Buringrud of the council staff.
On Thursday, 41 percent of the members of the Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee were missing: Rep. Mike Brandenburg, R-Edgeley; Rep. Tom Brusegaard, R-Gilby; Rep. Rod Froelich, D-Selfridge; Rep. Lyle Hanson, D-Jamestown; Rep. Keith Kempenich, R-Bowman; Rep. Jon Nelson, R-Wolford; Rep. Gene Nicholas, R-Cando; Rep. Dorvan Solberg, D-Ray, and Sen. Joel Heitkamp, D-Hankinson.
Legislators are not paid for days they miss meetings.
Several are farmers and could have been harvesting. North Dakota's legislators are part time, and most have a job in addition to their legislative service. Nevertheless, missing meetings can pay a political price. Last year, Sen. Nick Hacker, R-Grand Forks, knocked off incumbent Democrat Mike Polovitz in a campaign that included criticism of Polovitz's spotty interim committee performance.
Feds to pay
President Bush signed an order last week that should allow Minnesota to be reimbursed for expenses it incurred setting up a hurricane evacuation center at the National Guard's Camp Ripley that never was used.
The money also can be used to help hundreds of evacuees who came to Minnesota, mostly the Twin Cities, on their own.
Little pay: Round 2
North Dakota lawmakers who raised a fuss in August about the $53,000 severance pay the governor gave former Corrections Director Elaine Little want to talk about it again.
Rep. Frank Wald, chairman of the Budget Committee on Government Services, and Rep. Jeff Delzer, a member of the committee, questioned whether the governor has the authority.
Why, yes, he does - twice over, said Gov. John Hoeven's chief of staff, Bill Goetz, after the Aug. 30 meeting. State law gives the governor the exclusive power to appoint members of his cabinet and set their compensation. And, Goetz said, the 2003 Legislature approved such payouts to state workers who want to retire early.
Wald's committee meets again Wednesday in Fargo and Thursday in Jamestown. The Thursday agenda includes presentations from the Department of Corrections on several topics, including prison inmate population and "authority used to provide an early retirement payment to the former director."
Federal grants will allow the Mahnomen Health Center to buy an ambulance and the village of White Earth to build a community center.
The two northwestern Minnesota communities' grants come from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The health center will get $74,500, while White Earth is to receive $253,000.
The Minnesota Senate majority leader's chief of staff resigned to take a private sector job.
Christine Almeida is the new senior director of state government affairs for Express Scripts, a pharmacy benefit management company. Almeida ran Senate Majority Leader Dean Johnson's office for two years.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture is providing $17,138 to farmer Curtis Ballard to help build a wind turbine in Becker County, Minn.
Ballard's turbine is to provide electricity to Wild Rice Electric.
Readers can reach Forum Capitol reporters Janell Cole at (701) 224-0830 or Don Davis
at (651) 290-0707