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North Dakota

Hit-and-run driver kills 7-year-old Dunseith girl

N.D. Highway Patrol reports a 7-year-old girl from Dunseith died after being struck by a vehicle on U.S. Highway 281 at Dunseith Saturday.
The driver of a 2001 Oldsmobile Alero was going north on the highway when encountering a group of juvenile pedestrians crossing the road. One of the pedestrians was struck, the vehicle went into the ditch and then fled the area.
The pedestrian was taken to the health care facility in Belcourt and later flown to Trinity Hospital in Minot. The pedestrian died at Trinity Hospital, the patrol reported. The incident happened around 4:45 p.m.

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North Dakota

ND airports see surge in demand in March

During a month that marked one year since the COVID-19 pandemic started to severely impact air travel, North Dakota’s eight commercial service airports posted the highest level of passenger traffic since the pandemic began, according to the North Dakota Aeronautics Commission.
There were 72,504 airline passenger boardings in North Dakota in March, an increase of almost 22,000 passengers from February 2021. However, these passenger counts are still about 32% below the normal pre-pandemic levels seen in March of 2019.
The Minot airport recorded 9,822 passenger boardings in March, up from 8,218 boardings in March 2020 but down from 15,107 in March 2019. For the first quarter of 2021, there have been 22,342 passengers boardings in Minot, down from 34,057 in first quarter 2020 and 39,624 in first quarter 2019.
The commission reported the growth in passenger demand and optimism surrounding a recovery in the travel industry has prompted the airline industry to revive hiring plans as they continue to slowly add back flights and seat capacity to certain communities. The only non-stop destination route in North Dakota that was lost during the pandemic is expected to return as Delta Airlines announced its plan to add back the Williston-Minneapolis route in June.
“Optimism is building for the travel industry’s recovery as airport parking lots are noticeably filling with vehicles and activity levels and passenger counts continue to trend in a positive direction,” said Kyle Wanner, executive director of the aeronautics commission.

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North Dakota

North Dakota 21st in rate of virus cases in last 2 weeks

BISMARCK (AP) — North Dakota health officials confirmed 58 new cases of the coronavirus out of 1,686 tests that were processed since Saturday.
Nearly 106,000 people in the state have tested positive for COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic. That includes nearly 24,000 in Cass County, the state’s most populous region.
There were about 279 new cases per 100,000 people in North Dakota over the past two weeks, which ranks 21st in the country for new cases per capita, according to The COVID Tracking Project. One in every 764 people in North Dakota tested positive in the past week.
Of North Dakota’s neighboring states, Minnesota ranks 4th in the rate of new cases in the last two weeks, South Dakota ranks 19th and Montana ranks 34th, Johns Hopkins University researchers reported.
A total of 1,479 people in North Dakota have died due to complications from the virus. The death count is 12th highest per capita nationwide, researchers said.

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North Dakota

Gov. Burgum signs Ten Commandments school bill

BISMARCK(AP) — North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum signed a measure Friday aimed at shielding schools and teachers from lawsuits arising from posting the Ten Commandments in classrooms.
The Republican’s endorsement of the bill comes after attorneys and school officials warned the legislation is unconstitutional and would spur costly and unwinnable legal fights.
The bill received broad support in both Republican-led legislative chambers, with a 76-16 vote in the House and a 34-13 vote in the Senate. Hoping to fend off legal challenges, the House amended the bill with a requirement that the Ten Commandments be included in a display with other historical documents.
In a statement, Burgum said the bill “clarifies the existing authority in state law that allows a school to display a religious object or document of cultural, legal, or historical significance together with similar documents.”
“This law supports local control and gives school districts full control over whether to display any religious objects or documents,” his statement said.
The American Civil Liberties Union, which has been tracking the North Dakota legislation, has said that passage of the legislation would invite litigation. The organization said that not a single court has upheld the posting of the Ten Commandments in public schools, even if they are displayed with other material.
Proponents of the legislation said it is intended to promote moral behavior in schools, and that that the United States was founded on Ten Commandments’ principals.
Attorneys and education testified earlier that the bill likely violates the clause in the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution that prohibits the establishment of religion by the government.

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North Dakota

Luick chosen North Dakota Senate’s president pro tempore

BISMARCK (AP) — Fairmount Republican Larry Luick was chosen Wednesday as the North Dakota Senate’s new president pro tempore.
The job involves presiding over Senate sessions when the lieutenant governor is absent.
Luick replaces Minot Sen. Randy Burckhard. Luick will have the job until the next regular session of the Legislature begins in January 2023.
The GOP has the majority in the North Dakota Senate, and Luick defeated Fargo Democrat Tim Mathern to win the job.
Democrats hold only seven of the 47 seats in the Senate.
Luick is a 62-year-old farmer and excavation contractor. He was first elected to the Senate in 2010 and represents District 25, which includes Wahpeton and part of Richland County in the state’s southeastern corner.
Luick is chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee, and also serves on the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Luick was re-elected to his most recent four-year term in 2018.

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North Dakota

Man sentenced to 5 years in prison for crash that killed 2

BISMARCK (AP) — A Cannon Ball man has been sentenced to five years in federal prison for driving drunk and causing a crash that killed two people on the Standing Rock Reservation.
Matthew Wood, 37, pleaded guilty last December to two counts of involuntary manslaughter in the deaths of 83-year-old Arlene Hodgkiss and 57-year-old William Left Hand in 2019.
A third person, Jody Black Moon, suffered serious injuries, the Bismarck Tribune reported.
U.S. District Judge Daniel Traynor also ordered Wood Monday to pay more than $640,000 in restitution and spend three years on supervised release.

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North Dakota

Group wants changes to North Dakota’s initiative process

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — A group submitted a proposed ballot measure Tuesday that aims to raise the approval threshold for changing the North Dakota Constitution through the state’s citizen-initiative process.
The citizen-led Protect North Dakota’s Constitution wants to change voter approval of constitutional amendments from a simple majority to 60%. The petition, submitted to Secretary of State Al Jaeger following a press conference at the state Capitol, also seeks to limit ballot measures to a single issue.
Retired Maj. Gen. Michael Haugen, a previous adjutant general of the North Dakota National Guard and former member of the state Board of Higher Education, is co-chairman of the group.
Haugen, who lives in Fargo, said constitutional amendments have been put before voters in every election cycle for more than a decade, Often, he said, they have contained “confusing language that addresses multiple issues” and are routinely backed by out-of-state interests.
Citizen initiatives allow residents to bypass lawmakers and get proposed state laws and constitutional amendments on ballots if they gather enough signatures from voters. North Dakota is among about two dozen states with some form of an initiative proc
Co-chair Jeffrey Zarling of Williston said group believes the effort will “improve transparency of future measures and will ensure initiatives added to the constitution will be well-conceived and overwhelmingly supported by North Dakotans.”
Supporters will need to get signatures from about 31,000 North Dakota voters over the next year to put the measure on the November 2022 ballot.
Backers said they expect to spend up to $1 million on the effort, which includes paying people to gather the signatures.
North Dakota lawmakers have long been critical of the citizen-initiative process. The Legislature began studying it in 2017, a move spurred largely by voters’ surprise approval of medicinal marijuana and another successful ballot measure funded almost solely by California billionaire that amended the ultra-conservative state’s constitution.
North Dakota’s Republican-led Legislature in 2019 referred its own constitutional amendment to the ballot that asked whether the Legislature should have the power to review and approve citizen-initiated constitutional amendments.
Voters in November soundly defeated the measure that critics said amounted to giving legislators veto power over citizen initiatives.

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North Dakota

Matriarch in fight against Dakota Access Pipeline has died

BISMARCK (AP) — LaDonna Allard, a woman considered a matriarch in the fight against the Dakota Access pipeline, has died at age 64.
An online obituary says Allard died April 10 in Fort Yates where she lived.
Allard founded the first Dakota Access pipeline protest camp in March 2016. It grew in size over the next few months and inspired others to set up camps where the Cannonball and Missouri rivers meet.
Thousands of people from around the world soon arrived to stand with the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe in its fight against the pipeline.
Allard stepped up against the pipeline because one of her sons is buried on a hill near the route of the line, which crosses under the Missouri River just upstream of the Standing Rock Reservation.
In the days since her death, numerous friends and supporters have honored her on social media.
“A true matriarch has passed — bless you Ladonna Brave Bull Allard,” the Lakota People’s Law Project said on Facebook. “You will be remembered for all you have done to serve humanity: Sacred Stone, your mentoring of the young, your strength and vision. Prayers up…#NoDAPL forever.”

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North Dakota

Several contentious measures await Gov. Burgum’s review

BISMARCK (AP) — Gov. Doug Burgum will be faced with some politically tricky legislation once North Dakota lawmakers finish their work on several unsettled measures and budget bills as the Legislature enters its final weeks.
Conference committees rule at the state Capitol this week, as legislators work to reconcile differing versions of bills endorsed in both chambers.
Some of the more contentious issues still in play include bills that appeal to North Dakota’s ultra-conservative base, such as a measure to allow the Ten Commandments to be posted in schools and legislation that would prevent the Republican governor from mandating face coverings. And then there’s the proposed record spending, something Burgum had promised to reign in since taking office but hasn’t.
Other legislation that will put Burgum to a political test is a bill that could prevent a publicly funded school or entity from knowingly allowing a person under 18 to play on a team that is exclusively for the opposite sex. Another would sanction North Dakota State University for funneling federal grant money to Planned Parenthood, which is nation’s largest single provider of reproductive health services, including abortion.
Some lawmakers say Burgum, a North Dakota State graduate and former Bison football cheerleader, is getting much pressure from university officials and alum to veto the bill.
Prior to taking office, Burgum had been critical of the Legislature’s stance on social issues. After taking office, Burgum walked a fine line on abortion in the highly conservative state until 2017, when he signed two anti-abortion bills that were hailed as a victory by anti-abortion advocates.
His perceived liberal leanings on some social issues likely appealed to many Democrats, who crossed party lines to cast votes for him in the past.
Bismarck Democratic Sen. Erin Oban said there is no mistaking his political leanings now on social issues.
“We have yet to see him show that political courage,” said Oban, one of only seven Democrats in the Senate.
Burgum spokesman Mike Nowatzki said this session, which is expected to finish late this month, isn’t any different than ones in the past.
“There are always controversial bills at the end of the session,” he said.
Nowatzki said the governor generally does not comment on bills until he’s acted on them. Burgum did say last week that he would sign a landmark $680 million bonding bill aimed at infrastructure improvements.
Burgum succeeded in being elected governor in 2016 by running as an outsider, bucking what he called the “good old boy” party establishment.
North Dakota hasn’t had a Democratic governor in almost 30 years. GOP Rep. Rick Becker, a former gubernatorial candidate who ran against Burgum, said the wealthy former software executive has shown no contrast in his policy and spending decisions that the Republican governors who preceded him.
“Generally, people know what his politics are,” said Becker, who heads the Bastiat Caucus, a far-right group that supports limited government. “They are not the same as when he was campaigning,”
Becker and others point to Burgum’s pledge to rein in “runaway spending,” though Burgum has proposed two of the three largest budgets in state history and did not contest the Legislature’s record $14.7 billion budget for the 2019-21 budget cycle that ends June 30. The Legislature’s newly proposed two-year budget is a record $15.6 billion, and Burgum has not signaled opposition to it.

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North Dakota

Motorcyclist killed in crash near Mandan

BISMARCK (AP) — A motorcyclist has been killed after colliding with a car near Mandan, North Dakota on Friday.
A man driving a Ford Taurus was turning left and crossing the motorcycle’s lane of traffic on the Memorial Highway, where the collision occurred. The motorcyclist, Theodore Heidrich, was transported to a Bismarck Hospital, where he was pronounced dead. The driver of the Ford Taurus, Ronald Newman, was not injured.
The North Dakota Highway Patrol is investigating the crash.