This is Up and Down, where we give a brief thumbs up and thumbs down on the issues from the past week.
Congress has a reputation of being slow to act. Recently North Dakota tribes asked for help with investigations of missing and murdered Native American women. North Dakota’s senators were quick to act and last week the U.S. Senate Committee on Indian Affairs heard testimony on the three bills. Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., has a bill, Savanna’s Act, that would have the Department of Justice prioritize investigations. Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., chairman of the committee, offered a bill, the Securing Urgent Resources Vital to Indian Victim Empowerment Act. Hoeven said the act would require 5 percent from the Crime Victims Fund go to assist tribal victim assistance programs. He also took testimony on another bill he introduced to reauthorize and enhance programs related to public safety in Indian Country. The senators reacted quickly and hopefully they can push the three bills through Congress in a timely fashion.
There was more disappointing news on North Dakota’s financial front last week. Slumping energy and agricultural prices will likely contribute to a third consecutive year of lower average gross income for residents. The reported gross income of North Dakotans fell 7.6 percent in 2016 and the drought will no doubt hurt 2017 figures. Tax Commissioner Ryan Rauschenberger expects to see the figures level off a little bit.
The University of Mary has partnered with the North Dakota Penitentiary to provide an exercise clinic. It’s not just to get inmates in shape, but to work with them to manage chronic pain, athletic injuries and other ailments. The clinic provides an opportunity for students to work with the inmates and get experience for their future careers. The inmates feel better and it improves their lives behind bars. It’s a win for all involved.
A new study shows motorists are going too fast, texting while driving and parking in drop-off zones at Bismarck and Mandan schools. Drivers should never be careless, but they should be especially careful in school zones. Students move fast and drivers need to be alert. The study recommends the implementation of 20-mph school speed zone signs at all of the Bismarck-Mandan schools, installing additional bike racks where needed, assigning additional crossing guards at certain crosswalks and continued education for both students and drivers. It will be expensive, as it would cost Bismarck approximately $1.14 million to outfit every school in the district with school speed zone signs. There are some possible funding sources available. The safety of students, however, should come first.
It’s good to be noticed. President Donald Trump visited Bismarck-Mandan to deliver a speech on his tax proposal. On Friday, Vice President Mike Pence visited the Minot Air Force Base. He delivered a speech and met with members of the base. Both visits demonstrated that North Dakota plays an important role in the nation. We hope they visit again.