Carbon monoxide poisoning likely caused Grand Forks death

GRAND FORKS, N.D. (AP) — Grand Forks police say carbon monoxide poisoning is suspected of causing the death of a man who was sleeping in his pickup truck.
Authorities said Tuesday 36-year-old Bradley Beiswenger had no permanent address and was found dead in the enclosed cargo area of his truck last Friday in Grand Forks.
Officials say Beiswenger was using a propane heater to stay warm in the truck. Police say an official cause of death has not been determined, but that carbon monoxide was a likely factor.
There were no signs of foul play.

ND couple killed by fallen tree in San Diego

GRAND FORKS (AP) — A North Dakota couple died while vacationing in San Diego when a 75-foot-tall pine tree crashed onto their rental house as they slept, relatives and police said.
Troy and Jessica Nelson ran a promotional products and apparel company, Trojan Promotions, in Grand Forks.
They were spending the weekend at the house after attending a trade show during the week, according to the man’s sister Tammy Reynolds. They were sleeping upstairs when the tree toppled in gusty winds around 6 a.m. Monday.
Reynolds said her sister-in-law’s brother, Ryan Langerud, was on the first floor of the house and survived.
“It’s such a freaky accident,” Reynolds told The San Diego Union-Tribune. “I guess we’re all so numb from it, and for both of them to go.”
Reynolds said Langerud told her he found himself in the basement with items on top of him and initially was confused as to what had happened. She said Langerud told her it sounded like an airplane had crashed into the house.
Trojan Promotions senior production manager Krisi Lund said Tuesday the future of the company is up in the air as its employees grieve the deaths of the Nelsons.
“We carry on day by day. The future of the company hasn’t been decided. We’re committed to our clients. We are going to take care of our clients the best we can the way Troy and Jessica would want us to,” Lund told The Associated Press. “They were generous beyond belief in every aspect of their lives.”
San Diego Police Lt. Christian Sharp said the fallen tree caused a gas leak in the house and clipped some power lines.

Gov. Burgum bringing in VIPs to lobby for Roosevelt library

BISMARCK (AP) — North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum is bringing out-of-state VIPs to lobby lawmakers on his proposal to commit public money to a presidential library for Theodore Roosevelt in the western badlands.
The first-term Republican governor Tuesday night will host Theodore Roosevelt V, the 26th president’s great-great-grandson, and former Walmart chairman Rob Walton and his wife, Melani, a graduate of Dickinson State University. Burgum also invited lawmakers to a reception at the governor’s residence on the state Capitol grounds.
Burgum has proposed dedicating $50 million of interest money from North Dakota’s voter-approved savings account for oil and gas taxes for the library. The state money would be matched by $100 million in private fundraising, under the proposal.
The governor said the library in Medora would elevate North Dakota’s reputation around the globe. But lawmakers are generally lukewarm on the proposal, saying the state has more pressing needs.
“It’s a great idea and opportunity for the state but we’re coming off of five years of budget cuts,” Democratic House Minority Leader Josh Boschee of Fargo said. “My constituents have made it very clear to me that there are other priorities.”
Republican House Majority Leader Chet Pollert of Carrington, and his Senate counterpart, Rich Wardner of Dickinson, said they’ve heard much the same.
“It’s not completely off the table but there are other needs that must be considered in this budget,” Pollert said.
Burgum spokesman Mike Nowatzki said Tuesday’s reception was not open to the public “but no one would be turned away” if they show up.
Nowatzki said the governor, a wealthy former software executive, was paying for food and other items out of his own pocket for the event. The state was not paying for the visitors’ travel or other costs, he added.
Rob Walton is the eldest son of Walmart founder Sam Walton. Melani Walton serves on the proposed library’s board.
Nowatzki said neither the Waltons nor Roosevelt’s family has pledged money toward the project.
Before he was president, Roosevelt, who was from New York, spent more than three years in western North Dakota in the 1880s. He owned a cabin there and grazed cattle on nearby land.

Proposed study promises relief from brain injuries and expensive treatments

On a chilly January evening in Fargo, Hannah Anderson went out to dinner. She was able to concentrate on the menu, order her own meal and keep up with the table’s conversation throughout the night.
This may not sound like much of an achievement for a seemingly average young woman. But Hannah hadn’t had a night out like this in 11 years.
“I felt like my brain injury almost didn’t exist,” said Anderson, the survivor of a nearly fatal car accident in 2007. She said she had to relearn to walk, talk and breathe on her own, and she has since suffered from poor short-term memory, frequent headaches and fatigue.
Anderson and other survivors of traumatic brain injuries told their stories to the North Dakota House Human Services Committee Jan. 16 to support the use of hyperbaric oxygenation treatment for such injuries. A bill before the committee would create a Medicaid-funded pilot project treating brain injury patients with hyperbaric oxygenation, a process that places patients in a pressurized chamber, increasing the amount of oxygen in the blood and better dispersing that oxygen to damaged cells. The estimated cost of the project is $335,000.
Dr. Daphne Denham, the general surgeon who runs the Healing with Hyperbarics clinic in Fargo, said the process can even re-energize cells that were injured years ago. If the bill were to pass, Denham would oversee the study from her nonprofit clinic, which was funded through a loan from North Dakota hotel magnate Gary Tharaldson.
The Medical Services Division of the Department of Human Services in North Dakota opposes the bill. Tammy Zachmeier, utilization review administrator for the division, said one of their largest concerns is that they “do not as of yet have specific approval from the centers of Medicare and Medicaid” and federal funds possibly could not be used for the project.
Zachmeier also said that the true fiscal impact of the bill should be estimated at $4.9 million to potentially cover all brain injuries in the state.
“If we are legislated to cover this injury, it’s always been Medicaid’s history that we would cover all individuals whether they were in this study or not because we’re not going to say only the first 30 of you who come forward are going to be allowed to have this treatment paid for,” Zachmeier said.
According to the Undersea and Hyperbaric Medical Society, the FDA approves hyperbaric treatment for 14 conditions, such as carbon monoxide poisoning or diabetic abscesses, but not traumatic brain injuries. Denham said she is confident the study would prove that the treatment works with TBI. She also is confident it would be a financial benefit to Medicaid and the state to treat brain injuries in this manner.
“We are looking at patients who are far enough out from their injury that data would suggest that they have optimized their recovery, and this is as good as it’s going to get,” Denham said.
In many cases, this treatment does not have to be repeated after its initial run, Denham said. Patients who have not been able to work and were receiving Medicaid assistance to manage their symptoms could once again become contributors to the economy, she said.
Lisa Anderson, Hannah’s mother, also testified on the benefits of hyperbaric treatment. Anderson said her insurance company estimated that it paid over $500,000 for Hannah’s treatments over 11 years.
“We could have saved hundreds of thousands of dollars if we could have known about this or had it available sooner,” Anderson said.
Roughly 1,200 people live with severe brain injuries in North Dakota, Denham testified, costing Medicaid over $9 million in 2017 and 2018. She said the study could have wide-reaching impact, providing data to Medicaid, Medicare and insurance companies for reexamining their coverage decisions on the treatment. That could be “invaluable for the entirety of the United States,” she said.
Some of those testifying for the study said it could lead to improved treatments for other conditions not yet approved by the FDA, such as post-traumatic stress disorder.
James Nelson, first vice commander of North Dakota AMVETS, said this bill has become the organization’s “major push” this legislative session because of the potential to treat older head injuries and PTSD. Nelson said he has seen a lot of early interest on the topic, but he couldn’t predict how much legislative support the bill will get in its current form.
“A lot of legislators are veterans or know veterans, so I’m going to see an extreme amount of interest in it,” Nelson said. “But I’ve come to experience that interest does not always equate to dollars. There’s a lot of hands in the pot and they all want something.”

A new class of veterans takes the stage at Legislature

ND Newspaper Association

Matt Eidson fits many definitions. He’s a young Democratic legislator, newly elected to represent Grand Forks in the North Dakota House of Representatives. He’s a graduate of the University of North Dakota, an English major, and a current graduate student. He’s a former journalist and editor of the student paper.
He’s also – and this is what might surprise some – a veteran of the Marine Corps who served from 2008 to 2015 in Iraq, Afghanistan, Japan and South Korea.
Eidson, 31, who said that he and other Marines tend to become “apolitical” while in the service, said he started being more attentive to politics during the 2016 presidential election. In his relatively new home in North Dakota, he wondered if he could be a participant in the democratic process.
“I always told myself I can’t,” Eidson said. “Like, I have tattoos, I’m not from North Dakota, this, this, this, and this and it really just came down to it and it was like, well I think that’s maybe not the case. I think I can actually do something if I wanted to.”
In his first session, Eidson said his main legislative interests are bills that affect the two populations he counts himself as a part of: veterans and students. In serving these two populations, Eidson said communication and understanding of experiences different from one’s own is key.
“I’m just interested in kind of working that balance between civilian and veteran because there’s a lot of miscommunication between those two,” Eidson said. “It’s just, you know, they’re two different groups of people so sometimes there’s miscommunication.”
One instance of this, Eidson said, is a bill he is pushing this session that would expand the definition of “disabled veteran.”
“It’s easy on the civilian side to think, ‘Oh, disabled veteran. Obviously they’re fully disabled,’ and they think ‘missing leg’ or ‘can’t walk’ or ‘trouble breathing,’” Eidson said. However, the disability rating given to some conditions such as PTSD could be less than 100 percent, and Eidson said that still is “a disability they need help with.”
Other veteran legislators have spoken to the fact that veterans’ issues such as PTSD can be complicated and the government’s understanding of them has changed over time.
Rep. Matthew Ruby, R-Minot, who has served in the National Guard for nine years, said he believes older veterans in the legislature and elsewhere have “a little bit of a coming-to-Jesus moment” when it comes to veterans’ mental health issues.
“Those generations are realizing what issues they face that don’t really have a name,” Ruby said. “It used to be called shell shock and stuff like that, and now it’s got a name and it’s diagnosable.”
Sen. Richard Marcellais, D-Belcourt, said he “feel(s) there’s a tension between each generation of veterans.” As a Vietnam veteran, he said the fact that his generation “was never welcomed home” can be a contributing factor to their world view. As a result, some newer notions of treatment for veterans’ issues may not be as appealing as it would be for younger generations.
“I don’t know if the approval of medical marijuana would help because I know a lot of the Vietnam veterans smoked marijuana when they were over in Vietnam,” Marcellais said.
Eidson said he has had good experiences with the Veterans Affairs hospitals in North Dakota. Marcellais said he goes to VA hospitals primarily for check-ups so they have his data in case a lawsuit concerning the use of Agent Orange is ever successful. Recently, he said, he was surprised to see a death certificate from a VA hospital that listed Agent Orange as a contributing factor in the death of a veteran.
One of the biggest potential misunderstandings between older and younger generations of veterans, Eidson said, is how to view issues like veteran-specific tax exemptions and incentive programs. Two bills this session propose to eliminate income tax and property tax for veterans.
“The older generation, from what I understand – haven’t witnessed it yet – a lot of the things that we would consider great incentives, they consider handouts and that it’s beneath a veteran, and to them it might be,” Eidson said. “Maybe to a lot of the veteran community it is. But it’s not to every veteran.”
Eidson said he believes these viewpoints are not borne out of “malice,” but out of miscommunication.
“That’s generally where I push back a little bit … if they say ‘Oh, they don’t need that,’” Eidson said. “Well, you don’t need that. That person you don’t know might need that. And I’ve seen that person you don’t know. I’ve gone to school with that person you don’t know, so it’s just about having the conversation.”

North Dakota’s GOP-led Legislature mulls abortion bills

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — North Dakota’s Republican-led Legislature reopened the abortion debate Monday following a six-year pause despite critics saying the state is setting itself up for another round of expensive legal fights over legislation they describe as misleading and unconstitutional.
In back-to-back, standing-room-only hearings, a House committee took testimony on legislation that would ban a commonly used second-trimester abortion procedure. Another bill would require abortion providers to inform women undergoing drug-induced abortions that if they changed their minds, they could still have a live birth — a claim critics argue isn’t supported by medical evidence.
Similar fights are expected in several states over abortion rights this year. But in North Dakota, home to only one abortion clinic, the legislation marks a return to the debate for the oil-rich state, which had the money to defend some of the nation’s strictest abortion laws in 2013 when other conservative states didn’t. One of those laws sought to ban abortions when a fetal heartbeat could be detected, but it was later ruled unconstitutional.
Republican Rep. Daniel Johnston, sponsor of the so-called abortion “reversal” bill, told the committee the measure does not hamper access to abortion services and ensures that abortion providers make “all information available” on the procedure. He said: “Women have a right to know that they can choose to change their mind.”
“There is no credible, medically accepted evidence that a medication abortion can be reversed,” said Tammi Kromenaker, director of the state’s lone abortion clinic, the Red River Women’s Clinic in Fargo. “A vote for (the bill) is a vote to lie to North Dakota woman.”
Kromenaker has said up to 40 percent of the 1,150 abortions the clinic performs each year are medicine abortions, which are done by using a combination of two drugs. Similar legislation has been approved in Idaho , Utah, South Dakota and Arkansas.
The second North Dakota measure considered Monday would ban the dilation and evacuation method of abortion, which opponents call “human dismemberment abortion.” The bill would make it a felony to perform such a procedure, punishable by up to five years in prison and a $10,000 fine.
Abortion-rights groups argue that banning the procedure is unconstitutional because it interferes with private medical decisions.
Republican Rep. Luke Simons called the abortion method “barbaric” and got graphic in describing the procedure, which can involve a doctor using instruments like clamps, scissors and forceps.
Laws banning the procedure are on the books in Mississippi and West Virginia, while Ohio’s new law will take effect in March, said Elizabeth Nash, state issues manager at the New York-based Guttmacher Institute, an abortion rights research organization.
Similar laws are on hold because of legal challenges in Alabama, Arkansas, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Oklahoma and Texas, Nash said.
Last month, the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which includes North Dakota, heard oral arguments over a judge’s decision to block Arkansas from enforcing its law. Kromenaker said her clinic’s lawyers would wait for a decision in that case before deciding on possible legal challenges to North Dakota’s legislation.
The House Human Services Committee took no action on the measures Monday. The committee will make recommendations on the bills before they move to the full House.
Only two abortion-restricting measures have gone into effect in North Dakota since 2011. One requires a doctor who performs abortions to be a physician with hospital-admitting privileges, and doctors at the Fargo clinic obtained such privileges at a local hospital.
The other law prohibits women from having an abortion if they’re seeking the procedure because the fetus has a genetic defect, such as Down syndrome; Kromenaker’s clinic said it didn’t challenge the measure because such procedures are never performed.

Roosevelt library foundation, DSU haggle over land lease

BISMARCK (AP) — The foundation working to develop a Theodore Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum in the western North Dakota Badlands is negotiating with Dickinson State University to resolve issues arising from the termination of a campus land lease. Here’s a look at the discord over a parcel less than half a square mile in size and the months-long attempt to resolve the dispute.
Dickinson State’s Theodore Roosevelt Center since 2011 has been digitizing Roosevelt’s papers by the tens of thousands, and it also has hosted an annual Theodore Roosevelt Symposium for a decade. North Dakota lawmakers in 2013 took those efforts a step further, approving $12 million to help build a library for the nation’s 26th president at the university, which is in western North Dakota where Roosevelt ranched and hunted before moving on to the White House. The nonprofit foundation pursuing the project negotiated a 99-year, dollar-a-year lease in 2016 for a 27-acre site that at the time housed the school’s rodeo grounds. DSU currently uses a county rodeo facility outside town.
The foundation’s board voted in 2018 to split the project, with a library at the university and a museum about a half hour’s drive away at Theodore Roosevelt National Park. Two months later, the board voted to put the entire project at the park, a move aimed at making the project more palatable to private donors. The foundation that month notified the state Board of Higher Education, which oversees North Dakota’s public colleges and universities, of its decision to end the DSU land lease. Board attorney Murray Sagsveen in a June 2018 memo to the Higher Education board said there was “NO major donor enthusiasm” for a library project at DSU and it was “painfully clear” that such a project would never materialize, even with state support. Officials are now hoping to package $50 million in state money proposed by Gov. Doug Burgum with private donations to fund a $200 million project.
The Higher Education board asked the library foundation to pay the $91,350 cost of removing cottonwood logs that had been moved to the site to build a replica of Roosevelt’s Elkhorn Ranch cabin, mowing the site and rebuilding the university rodeo facilities once located there.
Assistant Attorney General Nick Vaughn in a July 16, 2018, email to Sagsveen threatened a lawsuit “if the parties cannot reach an agreement.” The foundation still balked at paying any money, disputing that the lease terms required restoration of the land to its former condition.
Last summer, the foundation removed the logs and mowed the grass but refused to pay for rebuilding the rodeo grounds, setting off meetings involving Higher Education, university and foundation officials. They culminated with the Board of Higher Education voting in September to terminate the lease with no money changing hands.
University President Thomas Mitzel said in an interview Friday that battling the foundation in court over the money “would be long and protracted and would help nobody,” so the university decided to instead raise money privately to rebuild the rodeo grounds. It hopes to begin construction this spring.
The university and foundation are now negotiating to resolve other issues.
The most recent proposal by DSU indicates a desire to continue involving the Theodore Roosevelt Center and its document digitization work in plans for the presidential library — something foundation CEO Mike Eggl also has said is a priority for the project.
The proposal calls for the foundation to directly and indirectly support the digitization work financially, along with other work at the center including scholarly research and education programs. It also calls for a joint marketing and outreach plan to develop “national and international audiences.”
Mitzel said in an interview that the Theodore Roosevelt Center will make the presidential library stronger, and vice versa.
“It’s an area where the whole is much better than the separate parts alone,” he said. “My hope is we can forge a good partnership as we go forward.”
The proposal also calls for the foundation to develop its own logo, rather than use a previously developed stylized “Roosevelt” script that is similar to the center’s. The foundation had been planning to register its logo with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. DSU President Thomas Mitzel said in a Jan. 10 email to Eggl that the artwork is proprietary and that the foundation’s continued use without a licensing agreement is “non-negotiable.”
Sagsveen told The Associated Press that “the foundation is not seeking to fight” over the issue and likely will develop its own logo.
Mitzel said he hopes to have an agreement wrapped up in coming months.
“The sooner we can get this accomplished, the better for everybody,” he said.

Legislature: Abortion, school board felons, abandoned babies

BISMARCK (AP) — North Dakota lawmakers are set to consider bills that range from abortion restrictions to felons on school boards to abandoned babies. They’re in session Monday despite the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday.
Among the top issues in play:
The abortion debate is resurfacing at the North Dakota Capitol.
The House will hear testimony on two new abortion bills Monday, six years after passing some of the nation’s strictest laws on the procedure, some of which never took effect or were blocked in court.
One bill would require abortion providers to inform women undergoing drug-induced abortions that it’s possible they could still have a live birth if they change their mind.
Abortion-rights groups claim there is no medically accepted evidence that a drug-induced abortion can be interrupted.
A second bill would ban an abortion procedure commonly used in the second trimester that opponents describe as “human dismemberment abortion.”
Abortion-rights groups say banning the dilation and evacuation method of abortion — commonly called “D&E” — is unconstitutional because it interferes with private medical decisions.
The Senate is considering legislation that would bar felons from serving on school boards in North Dakota.
The bill is being sponsored by Republican Nichole Poolman, a school teacher from Bismarck, and Richard Marcellais, a Democrat from Belcourt and a member of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa.
Poolman says the legislation came at the request of the state Indian Affairs Commission.
Director Scott Davis says the bill applies to all schools but tribal leaders are increasingly concerned about school board candidates who have a criminal past.
Davis says none of the state’s five tribes allow a convicted felon to serve on a tribal council. But he says they can on local school boards.
He points to a woman convicted of embezzling from a school district on the Fort Berthold Reservation who was elected to its school board in November.
Melissa Starr received 35 write-in votes to win a seat on the Twin Buttes board in a special election. Starr pleaded guilty in 2007 to embezzlement and theft and was sentenced to 1½ years in prison. She was one of seven Twin Buttes School Board members and district employees indicted on charges of conspiring to defraud the school district of more than $665,000.
The fraud involved false travel vouchers, payroll advances and bonuses. Records from the U.S. Attorney’s Office show Starr has paid about $20,500 toward restitution and still owes approximately $288,000.
It’s illegal to abandon a baby under the age of 1 in North Dakota unless it happens at a hospital. A parent of the infant or a person given consent by the parent may leave an unharmed infant at a hospital without fear of prosecution.
A bipartisan House bill would expand the locations where a parent unable to care for a baby can leave the child, such as a police station or a county social services office.
Health officials have pushed changes to the current law because many rural communities don’t have hospitals and they worry about infants literally being left out in the cold.
The House Human Services Committee is expected to act on the legislation this week.

Governor Burgum to work with Minnesota, South Dakota governors

BISMARCK (AP) — North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum is working to develop relationships with the new governors who recently took office in neighboring South Dakota and Minnesota.
Burgum wants to collaborate with Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz, who took office this month, on the $2.75 billion Fargo-Moorhead area flood division project, the Bismarck Tribune reported. Burgum had worked with Walz’s predecessor, former Gov. Mark Dayton, on a task force to study the infrastructure project’s engineering.
Also, Burgum and Republican South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem plan to work together with the two tribal nations that straddle their states, the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and the Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate. Burgum said he, Noem and Indian affairs officials have considered planning join visits to the reservations after North Dakota’s 2019 legislative session.
“I think that would be something we’d love to try to put together and work with them,” Burgum said.
Noem was sworn in Jan. 5.
Burgum will also welcome more new governors when he becomes chair of the Western Governors Association in June, said Jim Ogsbury, the association’s executive director. Eleven newly elected governors are part of the association, which is a bipartisan group of governors from 20 states in the western region of the country.
“I think we’re going to lean on him quite a bit to help welcome people like Gov. Noem,” Ogsbury said.
North Dakota will host the association’s annual summer meeting next year, he said.
“I think they have found that they have so much to gain from working together across state lines and learning from each other,” Ogsbury said.

ND begins issuing medical marijuana cards

BISMARCK (AP) — North Dakota began issuing medical marijuana cards this week to patients and caregivers after nearly two years of work developing and implementing a distribution system for the drug approved by voters in 2016.
Medical marijuana could become available in eastern North Dakota within a few weeks, with dispensaries operating statewide by early fall.
That’s welcome news for people like Sheri Paulson, an eastern North Dakota farmer who suffers from multiple sclerosis.
“It’s definitely a start in the right direction,” Paulson said, though she is not yet one of the patients receiving their state card.
The Health Department has been working on the system since lawmakers crafted a law in early 2017 allowing the use of medical marijuana for 17 medical conditions, along with terminal illnesses. Officials last year selected companies to implement a monitoring system and to perform laboratory testing, registered manufacturing facilities in Bismarck and Fargo, and in late October began accepting applications from potential patients and designated caregivers.
Both patients and caregivers must pay a $50 annual fee and meet certain requirements, including doctor or registered nurse certification for patients and a criminal background check for caregivers.
The Health Department this week issued 70 medical marijuana cards, most of them for patients, said Jason Wahl, director of the agency’s Medical Marijuana Division. No applications had yet been rejected, he said Friday.
“We have moved the program closer to being fully implemented,” Wahl said.
Patients with state cards can’t grow their own medical marijuana or obtain it just anywhere — they must go to a state-approved dispensary.
The state last year named companies to open dispensaries in Fargo, Bismarck, Grand Forks and Williston. It expects to begin taking applications later this month for dispensaries in Devils Lake, Dickinson, Jamestown and Minot.