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Jodi Smith, commissioner of the state Department of Trust Lands, answers a question from a member of the Legislative Audit and Fiscal Review Committee, to her testimony on Wednesday at the state Capitol in Bismarck. 

This is Up and Down, where we give a brief thumbs up and thumbs down on the issues from the past week.

Up

Medora and the state lost a great ambassador with the death of Lyle Glass last week. Glass, 67, was known for his ghost rides at the Medora Musical when he descended on horseback from a steep butte. He also spent time greeting visitors in Medora and took part in a variety of events. Glass was an excellent wildlife photographer and an expert on the wild horses at Theodore Roosevelt National Park. This is an Up for everything he contributed. He’ll be missed.

Down

While taxable sales in the oil patch propped up the state, most counties saw a drop in sales during the first quarter. At $317.6 million, Bismarck’s taxable sales and purchases were down 7.16 percent compared to last year. Mandan’s were down 13.42 percent to $50.2 million. Including April and May, Bismarck has collected nearly $6.5 million for the year and Mandan has collected nearly $1.5 million, both totals slightly behind last year. Hopefully, the rest of the state can feed off the oil patch and rebound during the remainder of the year.

Up

In 2016 performance audits found deficiencies at the Department of Trust Lands. Last week the state auditor’s office told the Interim Legislative Audit and Fiscal Review Committee that the department has made progress in addressing the problems. Among other things, the department still needs to replace outdated computer systems. It’s encouraging that the department is trying to resolve the issues.

Down

The dispute over oil and gas ownership under Lake Sakakawea seems far from resolved. Questions are being raised over a study intended to resolve the disputes over ownership. One attorney suggested the table is being set for more litigation. The Department of Mineral Resources will make a recommendation to the Industrial Commission later this summer. It would be good if the commission could find a resolution that avoids lawsuits, but that looks doubtful at the moment.

Up

Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., and Rep. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., have agreed to a Senate debate on Oct. 18. That’s less than three weeks from the election. The debate will be broadcast across the state. The timing is good. For those who listen to the debate it should be fresh on their minds when they go to polls or vote early. The Senate race is receiving national attention and the debate merits a big audience. If all goes well the debate should give the candidates an opportunity to outline their views on key issues.

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