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052518-nws-legacy-fund

Dave Hunter, executive director of the North Dakota Retirement Investment Office, presents information on the state's Legacy Fund to members of the Legacy and Budget Stabilization Fund Advisory Board in May at the state Capitol in Bismarck. In the background, from left, is Rep. Jim Dotzenrod, D-Wyndmere, Tax Commissioner Ryan Rauschenberger and Eric Hardmeyer, president of the Bank of North Dakota. 

From marijuana, oil and soybeans to the recovery of Olivia Lone Bear's body from Lake Sakakawea and a three-member medical team killed while en route to help others, news in 2018 encompassed disaster, economics and, of course, a lot of politics.

The midterm election garnered high rates of participation from voters — the culmination of year-long debates and races that sometimes brought the state's residents to the point of exhaustion. The race for the U.S. Senate was particularly raucous — a reason for its high ranking in the Bismarck Tribune's top 10 local stories for 2018.

No. 1: When North Dakota Rep. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., announced he would be challenging Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., for her seat in the U.S. Senate in February, it ushered in nearly 10 months of high drama and emotional lows in political advertising. A national rift over the appointment of Kavanaugh as a justice of the U.S. Supreme Court also was politicized in North Dakota and likely cost Heitkamp more than a few votes when she stood against the investiture.

No. 2: Pilot Todd Lasky, paramedic Chris Iverson and nurse Bonnie Cook died en route to Williston for a neonatal patient in November. Their plane crashed in a remote pasture west of Harmon Lake in rural Morton County. A memorial service held Nov. 26 at the Bismarck Event Center drew hundreds from around the state to pay homage and honor the three souls.

No. 3: A tornado hit a Watford City RV park in July. More than two dozen residents were injured during the tornado and an estimated 200 were displaced. The storm destroyed 122 structures, including RVs, mobile homes and outbuildings, in the RV park that houses oilfield workers and families. The most devastating loss mourned by the community was that of a newborn baby who died from his injuries after his family’s RV flipped in the storm.

No. 4: While the process to make medical marijuana available to residents inched along throughout 2018, the effort to legalize recreational marijuana was thwarted by voters in November. Measure 3, if approved, would have legalized recreational marijuana for anyone older than 21, as well as expunge the criminal records of those with previous marijuana convictions.

No. 5: The search for Olivia Lone Bear, who went missing from New Town on Oct. 25, 2017, continued throughout the winter, spring and much of the summer, concluding when her body was found in a truck submerged in Lake Sakakawea in August. As a result of the case, the family of Olivia Lone Bear said the development of a comprehensive missing persons protocol for tribes was needed.

No. 6: Opponents of an initiated measure aimed at improving ethics in state government criticized the effort as a "witch hunt," while Measure 1's committee members say it would improve accountability. The ramifications of its passage will reach well into 2019 as the state Legislature will be required to enact its new requirements.

No. 7: North Dakota's economy was beset by increased oil production in which records were set for the number of barrels filled as well as the amount of natural gas flared. As the oil industry rebounded in 2018, farmers saw agricultural prices drop and a trade war with China left soybeans with no place to go.

No. 8: Bismarck saw a political shift as Steve Bakken was elected the new mayor of the city. Bakken's leadership will continue to be evaluated in the upcoming year.

No. 9: The proposed Davis Refinery to be located near Theodore Roosevelt National Park pits industry against environmentalism as many question whether the facility would encroach upon the state's valued traditions concerning conservation and preservation.

No. 10: Gov. Doug Burgum's proposed budget, delivered earlier this month, is shaping the debate on where the state's priorities should be over the next biennium. Especially contentious is the expenditure of Legacy Fund earnings — which will likely be hotly contested in the coming months.

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