KHRT ND News – 10/29/21

KHRT NEWS – FRIDAY – 102921 – 1200
 
BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) – The North Dakota Legislature’s budget writers agreed Thursday to spend nearly all of the $1.1 billion in federal coronavirus aid available to the state on initiatives ranging from infrastructure improvements and energy projects to workforce development and childcare programs. House and Senate appropriations committees finished work on the spending plan, after a marathon day Wednesday during which budget writers from both houses failed to reach a consensus on some items. The $1.1 billion in federal coronavirus funds the state received in June represents the single-largest deposit into the state treasury in history.
 
The spending suggestions will be forwarded in the form of legislation to the full Legislature, which will debate the bill when they meet Nov. 8 in either a reconvened or special session. GOP Senate Majority Leader Rich Wardner and his House majority counterpart, Chet Pollert, said they believed the spending suggestions were well-vetted and should pass both chambers with relatively little fuss.
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BISMARCK, ND – Today’s COVID-19 information from the North Dakota Department of Health lists a daily positive rate of 7.05%. There are 530 new positives and 616 new recoveries. Active cases drop by 60 to 3,643. Hospitalizations are down 8 to 153, with 15 of those still in ICU. There are five more deaths among those who were positive (1756), bringing the total for October to 130.
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FARGO, N.D. (AP) – The North Dakota Board of Higher Education said Thursday that university presidents and system leaders should have the flexibility to decide what to do about President Joe Biden’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate. The vaccine mandate covers people who work with federal contractors and their subcontractors, as well as support staff in areas such as billing. Campus leaders said the resolution was urgent in order to meet Biden’s Dec. 8 deadline, in part because of the time it takes for people to become fully vaccinated. Then there’s the money. University of North Dakota President Andrew Armacost said the Grand Forks college is at risk of losing from $11 to $20 million. The dean of UND’s medical school, Dr. Joshua Wynne, said the prospect of losing funds “is very real.”
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BISMARCK, ND – Every year the North Dakota Game and Fish Department receives questions from deer hunters who want to clarify rules and regulations. Some common questions and answers are listed on the departments website. They include questions about licensing, where to hunt, what is required to be worn, transporting game, and several other questions. Hunters are encouraged to visit the Game and Fish Department’s website, gf.nd.gov., or call 701-328-6300, from 8 a.m. – 5 p.m. weekdays. The deer gun season opens at Noon next Friday, Nov. 5, and runs through Nov. 21.
 
(Copyright 2021 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)
 
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KHRT NEWS – FRIDAY – 102921 – 0700
 
FARGO, N.D. (AP) – The North Dakota Board of Higher Education said Thursday that university presidents and system leaders should have the flexibility to decide what to do about President Joe Biden’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate. The board voted to support the idea after a 90-minute discussion that included pleas from presidents of the state’s two research institutions who said they could lose tens of millions of dollars in federal contracts if they didn’t comply with Biden’s requirements. A couple of board members wanted to table the resolution because they thought it was too broad.
 
The vaccine mandate covers people who work with federal contractors and their subcontractors, as well as support staff in areas such as billing, human resources and custodial services, according to board attorney Eric Olson, who issued an 11-page memorandum on the potential impact of the mandate. Biden’s order has convinced colleges across the country to announce vaccine requirements. Some have interpreted the directive as a campus-wide mandate, while Olson said the new rules apply to some student employees but not students in general.
 
Most people who participated in the virtual board meeting, including Olson, agreed there are a lot of unanswered questions about the federal mandate. However, campus leaders said the resolution was urgent in order to meet Biden’s Dec. 8 deadline, in part because of the time it takes for people to become fully vaccinated.
 
Then there’s the money. University of North Dakota President Andrew Armacost said the Grand Forks college is at risk of losing from $11 to $20 million. The dean of UND’s medical school, Dr. Joshua Wynne, said the prospect of losing funds “is very real.” Olson added that UND has already received an inquiry from a federal contractor.
 
Nick Hacker and fellow board member Danita Bye voted against the resolution. Hacker said “with the goalposts so far apart and so much uncertainty” he believed it was a good idea to await further developments, including legal action by North Dakota Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem, whose spokeswoman had no comment Thursday. “I think it could have been written in a much more narrower scope with more of a minimalist approach than a broad blanket approach that this resolution takes,” Hacker said.
 
Wynne said the resolution was “intentionally ambiguous” to allow presidents flexibility “to be as surgical as need be, depending upon their circumstances.” He said it doesn’t “command them” to do anything.
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BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) – The North Dakota Legislature’s budget writers agreed Thursday to spend nearly all of the $1.1 billion in federal coronavirus aid available to the state on initiatives ranging from infrastructure improvements and energy projects to workforce development and childcare programs. House and Senate appropriations committees finished work on the spending plan, after a marathon day Wednesday during which budget writers from both houses failed to reach a consensus on some items, including the Senate’s proposals for a $25 million upgrade for an administrative building at Minot State University and a $30 million addition to a revolving loan fund for hospitals.
 
House negotiators conceded to the university building upgrade but held firm on opposing the revolving loan fund for hospitals. The fund, which was established earlier with $50 million, already has been depleted. The biggest ticket item approved by both committees – and pushed by Republican Gov. Doug Burgum – was $150 million for natural gas infrastructure in the state’s oil patch.
 
The $1.1 billion in federal coronavirus funds the state received in June represents the single-largest deposit into the state treasury in history. Lawmakers and others submitted a wish list that totaled $9.2 billion for the recent round of money. The appropriations committees narrowed the requests after several meetings in the past month. In all, only $54 million of the $1.1 billion wasn’t tapped for spending.
Previous appropriations totaling $1.25 billion in federal coronavirus aid last year already has been spent or earmarked for spending.
 
North Dakota Republicans control both chambers of the Legislature and budget writers said they put priorities ahead of wishful spending, and initiatives that won’t require a commitment of funds from taxpayers in the future. The Legislature could have waited until the end of 2026 to spend the federal aid but many lawmakers – and Burgum – pushed to spend the money quickly to address pressing needs and to avoid inflation and rising construction costs for infrastructure projects.
 
The spending suggestions will be forwarded in the form of legislation to the full Legislature, which will debate the bill when they meet Nov. 8 in either a reconvened or special session. GOP Senate Majority Leader Rich Wardner and his House majority counterpart, Chet Pollert, said they believed the spending suggestions were well-vetted and should pass both chambers with relatively little fuss.
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BISMARCK, N.D. (PNS) – The North Dakota Department of Health said, pending final federal approval, COVID-19 vaccinations for kids ages five to 11 could be available in less than two weeks. Local pediatricians hope parents come to them with questions, and most believe the extra protection will be helpful. State officials say providers will be training their staff if the vaccine clears final hurdles in the coming days, with Nov. 8 a likely starting point.
 
Joan Connell, a pediatrician at the University of North Dakota Center For Family Medicine, said signing children up for their shot likely prevents major disruptions to their daily life. “That keep them from school, that keep them from their athletic events, and certainly that put them at risk for hospitalization,” Connell outlined. She added it prevents the spread of the virus in schools, while protecting vulnerable populations at home and in the community.
 
Several months after vaccinations first became available, North Dakota began seeing lagging rates for other age groups. A Kaiser Family Foundation survey found only one-third of parents for kids in this age group would schedule an appointment right away.
 
For parents worried about side effects, such as heart inflammation, the medical community said those cases are rare and mild, while a COVID infection could pose long-term health issues. Connell pointed out vaccines for all age groups have undergone rigorous testing.
“The COVID vaccine has been administered in millions of people and is a very safe vaccine,” Connell advised.
 
The state has ordered 18,000 pediatric Pfizer COVID doses from the federal government. It will be sent out to providers based on their estimated population for this age group, and vaccine coverage rates in their adolescent population.
 
(Copyright 2021 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)
 

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