KHRT ND News – 11/12/21

KHRT NEWS – FRIDAY – 111221 – 1200
 
BISMARCK, N.D. – Gov. Doug Burgum signed House Bill 1504 on Thursday, the legislative redistricting bill that was overwhelmingly approved by the state Legislature. The North Dakota Constitution requires the Legislative Assembly to redistrict itself after each federal decennial census.
 
“We appreciate the Legislature and the interim redistricting committee for their fairness, diligence and transparency as they conducted this important process, which is key to ensuring a representative democracy,” Burgum said. “This historic process marked the first time since 1910 that North Dakota had grown by more than 100,000 residents in a decade and the first time since 1930 that our state had a new record high population, having experienced the fourth-highest population growth rate in the nation this past decade. North Dakota’s population growth bodes well for the future of our workforce and reflects the many families who have decided to put down roots in our great state.”
 
Redistricting was among the main purposes for the Legislature’s current special session, which was called by Burgum via executive order and convened on Monday. The adopted redistricting plan ensures that each of the 47 redrawn districts will hold approximately 16,500 residents, compared with about 14,500 residents in the past decade. House Bill 1504 was approved 73-18 on Tuesday and 40-7 in the Senate on Wednesday.
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BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) – Gov. Doug Burgum’s push to use some of the state treasury’s surpluses to offset income taxes appears almost certain to win legislative approval, despite initial opposition from leaders in his own party. Representatives in the GOP-controlled House unanimously approved a bill Thursday that would provide a $350 income tax credit for each North Dakota resident filing a return for 2021 and 2022.
 
The second-term governor in September recommended using a portion of the state’s hefty and better-than-forecast ending fund balance of $1.1 billion in the last two-year budget cycle to provide tax relief to residents, at $500 per filer. The plan was part of Burgum’s recommendations to legislators on how to spend some $1 billion in federal aid North Dakota received this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Wardner and House Majority Leader Chet Pollert said as the special session convened Monday they didn’t like the idea of tapping treasury surpluses for income tax relief. Bismarck Republican Rep. Pat Heinert then introduced the bill in the House, which got the needed two-thirds majority to be considered.
 
Pollert said the vote to introduce the legislation signaled strong support for passage in his chamber. “When you see a train coming at you, you step out the way,” Pollert said. Wardner said he expects the bill to pass his chamber on Friday, and he likely will endorse it. “People change their minds,” Wardner said.
 
Burgum last month began asking supporters to sign a petition endorsing his plan for income tax relief. Legislative leaders considered it an end run on the Legislature and could and not recall a governor using such a tactic to garner support for an initiative. During his State of the State address at the special session’s opening Monday, Burgum renewed his call for the legislature to provide income tax relief. “We can afford to do it. We should want to do it. And the hardworking taxpayers of North Dakota certainly deserve it.” Burgum said.
 
Some lawmakers said that the move to support the governor’s plan came down to politics – and optics. “I think we would be shooting ourselves in the foot if we don’t send some money back to citizens,” Jamestown GOP Sen. Terry Wanzek said.
 
Legislative budget writers estimated the loss of tax revenue at $211 million for the two years the legislation is in place. North Dakota’s Legislature has defeated several attempts over the years to eliminate state income tax. The Legislature has raised income taxes in lean times, including during the 1980s when oil and crop prices nose-dived and left lawmakers scrambling for revenue.
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BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) – A storm system that is bringing snow to North Dakota late this week could help improve long-term drought conditions that persist in the state. Forecasters are expecting 2 to 4 inches of snow in the eastern half of the state with up to 6 inches in the northeastern corner of North Dakota. Wind gusts of up to 60 mph were expected along with the snow, potentially making travel difficult, according to forecasters.
 
Drought conditions that brought hardships for ranchers and farmers this summer has made marked improvement. In eastern North Dakota in recent weeks much of the region no longer listed in any of the four drought categories, the Bismarck Tribune reported. Much of the central and west regions remain in severe or extreme drought, but even those areas have improved dramatically from last summer. There is no change in this week’s U.S. Drought Monitor map, which is updated every Thursday.
 
“In the Dakotas, where long-term drought is still ongoing, livestock water quality and (mule deer) fawn production were both reported to be suffering as a result of the drought,” wrote National Drought Mitigation Center Climatologist Curtis Riganti.
 
Harvest is mostly wrapped up in North Dakota, though about one-fifth of the corn crop and one-third of the sunflowers remain in the field as the snow moves in. Two-thirds of the winter wheat crop, which is planted in the fall and harvested the following year, is in fair to good condition. Riganti said the Climate Prediction Center’s 6-10-day outlook favors above-normal precipitation in the Upper Midwest.
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FARGO, ND – AAA forecasts a strong rebound in holiday travelers this Thanksgiving. The Auto Club Group predicts 53.4 million Americans will travel for the Thanksgiving holiday, up 13 percent from 2020. This brings travel volumes within 5 percent of pre-pandemic levels for the 2019 holiday.
 
The West North Central census region, which includes North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota and four other states, will see the greatest share of its population traveling. Nearly 1 in every 5 people (19.6%) from the region are expected to travel during the holiday period. Nationally, 16.2 percent of the population is expected to travel.
 
“It’s beginning to look more like a normal holiday travel season, compared to what we saw last year,” said Debbie Haas, Vice President of Travel for AAA – The Auto Club Group. “Now that U.S. borders are open, vaccinations are readily available, and new health and safety guidelines are in place, travel is once again high on the list for Americans who are ready to reunite with their loved ones for the holidays.”
 
With 6.4 million more Americans traveling this Thanksgiving — the highest single-year increase since 2005 — people should prepare for the roads and airports to be noticeably more crowded than last year’s holiday. AAA predicts road travel to increase 8 percent. Yet the most notable improvement this year’s holiday is domestic air travel, which has almost completely recovered from its dramatic drop-off during the pandemic and is up 80 percent from last year.
 
“The re-opening of the U.S. borders to international travelers means airports will be even busier than we’ve recently seen, so travelers must plan for longer lines and extra time for TSA checks,” Haas continued. “With flight delays and cancellations becoming a problem recently, air travelers are encouraged to consider travel insurance. If your flight is cancelled, there are various policies that would help offset unexpected expenses like a hotel, transportation and food. You may also receive compensation for lost luggage, or if your flight is delayed for as little as three hours.”
 
Travel Expenses
 
Even with air travel seeing a boost this year, AAA finds the average lowest airfare is 27.3 percent less than last year coming in at $132. Tuesday and Wednesday are still the most expensive and heaviest travel days, while Monday and Thursday are generally the lightest and least expensive. Those wanting to book last minute travel will find the best fares about two weeks before Thanksgiving, but keep in mind availability may be limited.
 
Mid-range hotel rates have increased about 39 percent, with average nightly rates ranging between $137 and $172 for AAA Approved Hotels.
 
Daily car rental rates have increased 4 percent compared to last Thanksgiving at $98. Over the summer, consumers experienced high costs and limited availability of rental cars in some markets due to the semi-conductor chip shortage impacting automakers. As the number of travelers continues to grow, it’s important to reserve rental cars as early as possible. Consult AAA.com/Travel for options and special benefits.
 
Gas prices surged in October and are likely to remain elevated through the holiday season. The average price for gasoline in North Dakota is currently $3.20 per gallon. Thanksgiving gas prices haven’t been that high since 2013. The state average was $1.99 per gallon during last year’s holiday (November 26), and $2.52 on Thanksgiving Day in 2019 (November 28).
 
“After a rough travel year in 2020, it appears higher gas prices are not deterring people from returning to the road for Thanksgiving,” said Gene LaDoucer, North Dakota director of public affairs for AAA – The Auto Club Group. “As it appears these high gas prices will hang around through the holidays, it’s likely travelers will budget more for gasoline and less for things like shopping, lodging and dining out.”
 
AAA Tips, Resources
 
Whether you plan to do so by car or plane, it’s important to know how to navigate the new travel landscape to avoid unnecessary stress and challenges on the way to your Thanksgiving destination.
 
Be Proactive. Book flights, car rentals, accommodations and other activities as early as possible. Prices are not going down and are still somewhat impacted by the limited capacity of flights and staffing challenges faced by many industries. Consider working with a travel advisor who can make any last-minute changes to travel plans, explore travel insurance options and help plan a trip that meets your needs and comfort level this holiday season.
 
Be Patient. The roads and airports will be busy so plan ahead. Arrive at the airport early so you’ll have plenty of time to get through longer TSA lines and other travel checkpoints. For domestic travel, AAA suggests 2 hours ahead of departure time and 3 hours for international. Consider booking a flight during non-peak travel periods to cut down on wait times.
 
Be Prepared for the Road. For the 48.3 million Americans hitting the road, make sure you and your vehicle are ready for the trip ahead. AAA expects to respond to over 400,000 calls for help over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend. The most common calls are for dead batteries, flat tires, and lockouts. Before any long trip, AAA suggests getting an inspection to check key components like the battery, fuel system, tires, brakes and fluid levels. However, if your vehicle has been sitting idle these systems are particularly vulnerable to deteriorating especially without proper care or maintenance.
 
Be Protected-Both You and Your Trip. If you plan to travel during the holidays, it’s essential to do so safely and understand how to protect yourself, your loved ones and your investment while traveling.
 
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently released its recommendations for holiday gatherings and related travel, saying that the best way to minimize COVID-19 risk is to get vaccinated if you’re eligible. AAA urges anyone considering gathering or traveling for Thanksgiving to consult CDC guidance before finalizing holiday plans.
 
As travel restrictions remain in flux, it’s essential to know requirements and recommendations based on your vaccination status, where you’re traveling from and where you’re traveling to. AAA’s COVID-19 Travel Restrictions Map and TripTik.AAA.com are also helpful resources travelers may use for free to understand closures, recommendations and requirements when traveling in the U.S.
 
AAA highly recommends travel insurance to cover unexpected delays or trip interruptions. It is best to consult the expertise of a travel advisor who can guide you on the coverage options available for your specific trip, including if your destination requires visitors to carry travel insurance.
 
When booking a place to stay, look for accommodations that prioritize cleanliness and have implemented additional housekeeping standards since the start of the pandemic. Earlier this year, as part of its Diamond designation, AAA enhanced its housekeeping evaluation to include objective, scientific validation of the cleanliness of common surfaces throughout hotels. Hotels that meet these new standards are now recognized as Inspected Clean.
 
Safe travel smart travel-everything from airports to restaurants to attractions will be busier this Thanksgiving, which means more people congregating. Masks are still required for everyone on planes, buses, trains, and other forms of public transportation traveling into, within, or out of the United States and in U.S. transportation hubs such as airports and stations. The CDC also recommends everyone wear a mask indoors in public if they are in an area of substantial or high transmission.
 
Domestic and international travel -as of November 8, the U.S. opened its borders to fully vaccinated international travelers. The CDC has updated its guidance to reflect these changes. When traveling within the U.S., fully vaccinated travelers do not need a negative viral test or to self-quarantine. For international travel, refer to the CDC for specific guidelines.
 
AAA notes that the actual number of holiday travelers could fluctuate as we approach Thanksgiving. If there is an increase in reported COVID-19 cases, some people may decide to stay home, while others may note the progress in vaccinations and make last-minute decisions to travel. AAA recommends working with a travel advisor who can help you plan a vacation that meets your needs and comfort level this holiday season. To get started and to learn more, visit AAA.com/Travel.
 
 
(Copyright 2021 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)
 

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