New legislative district for area will cover spread from Kenmare to Killdeer
Posted 11/01/11 (Tue)
Special session of state legislature starts Monday
By Caroline Downs
When the North Dakota state legislature convenes on November 7th in a special session called by the Governor, District 6 Representative Glen Froseth intends to state the case for moving the Gooseneck of Ward County into District 2.
By doing so, he will be at odds with the interim Legislative Redistricting Committee, which currently has assigned the Gooseneck and the majority of rural Ward County to District 4 with rural Mountrail County, including the Fort Berthold Reservation, and the northern portion of Dunn County, near Killdeer and Manning.
“The Gooseneck area has more in common with the people of Burke, Divide and Williams counties,” Froseth said as he listed school activity co-ops, pastors and schedules shared among churches, and trade among businesses in the area. “Also, our residents have agriculture, wind energy, and oil and potash interests all in common with District 2.”
He doesn’t argue the fact that redistricting is necessary. In fact, the special session was scheduled for that very purpose, as required by state law. “A special session is always called to deal with redistricting after each national census, every 10 years,” he said.
In 2000, the districts were redrawn to represent about 13,500 residents, plus or minus five percent. In 2010, the number of residents for each district increased to approximately 14,300.
Currently, District 6 encompasses Renville and Bottineau counties and the northern portion of rural Ward County.
The interim Legislative Redistricting Committee wants to maintain 47 legislative districts, but population increases in Bismarck and Fargo required new districts for those voters. In the committee’s proposal, the revised District 6 will include all of Renville, Bottineau and McHenry counties. McHenry County was formerly part of District 7, but District 7 will now be the new district to accommodate voters in Bismarck.
In a similar fashion, the current District 16 in the northeastern quadrant of the state will be divided among neighboring districts, with the new District 16 located in the Fargo area. “This makes the rural districts that much bigger,” Froseth said.
The proposed district boundaries will be reviewed during a joint House and Senate hearing next week, with testimony taken at that time. “I’m going to request the Gooseneck be moved to District 2,” said Froseth. “The interim Redistricting Committee said that would be too many people to move into District 2 and District 4 could be shorted, but we know the common needs with the residents of Burke and Divide counties. We’ve been each other’s customer base for years.”
As in other districts, the change would force incumbent legislators to run against each other. In the new District 4, Froseth, a Republican, would have to be listed on the ballot in 2012 with his House colleagues Kenton Onstad of Parshall and Tom Conklin of Douglas, both Democrats. Current District 4 Senator John Warner of Ryder, Democrat, would not face an incumbent opponent.
“With three incumbent representatives, one of us is going to be eliminated,” said Froseth. “I think the northern part of Ward County just got pushed out of the picture with this redistricting proposal, but I suppose a lot of areas feel that way.”
All legislators currently serving even-numbered districts would represent their districts until December 1, 2012, which means Froseth will continue doing interim committee work until that time. The new district boundaries will be in effect for the 2012 primary elections.
Froseth, who has served in the House since 1993, has not yet decided about running for re-election in 2012. “I would like to meet with the district’s Republican committee first and see how they feel about the situation,” he said.
Flooding, health insurance and Fighting Sioux logo on agenda
The agenda for the special legislative session includes three additional items. Lawmakers will reconsider use of the University of North Dakota Fighting Sioux nickname and logo, after voting to retain them during the regular 2011 legislative session.
A second topic deals with a health insurance exchange system for the state, as related to the new federal health care law.
“States must establish their own insurance exchange system by 2012,” said Froseth. “If they don’t, the federal government will establish the system and bill the states. The interim committee working on this estimated the cost to establish the system at $85 million, and that’s cheaper than if the federal government comes in and does it. It’s very complicated.”
A health insurance exchange for individuals and small businesses is expected to broaden health insurance coverage across the state as customers would have several plans from which to choose. The exchange should also promote competition among health insurance companies.
A study on the health insurance exchange system has been conducted by lawmakers serving on the interim Health Care Reform Review Committee.
The final topic scheduled during the special session will see legislators addressing the flooding problems from Minot, the Mouse River Valley and Devils Lake.
The losses and disaster declarations from the 2011 Mouse River Flood have activated federal emergency funding, with matching funds required from the state. “There was enough loss so that FEMA and the federal government cover 90 percent of the costs,” Froseth explained.
“The state pays seven percent, and the local city and taxing districts are responsible for three percent.”
The state’s portion has not yet been designated, with legislators waiting for a proposal from the Minot and Mouse River Valley area due by November 3rd. Froseth expected the legislative discussion to include property buy-outs within a flood protection zone recommended for the city. “I think Minot’s concern will be financing the buy-outs of all those damaged homes,” he said.
The four approved agenda items will demand much time and attention from legislators meeting during the short session, but Froseth has heard news of more bills that may come before the body, including bills addressing rental payments, housing topics and other infrastructure needs in the state’s booming oil patch.
“There’s one that would also increase funding for law enforcement needs in western North Dakota,” he said, “but any of those would have to come through the Delayed Bills Committee and must be approved before the legislature can consider them.”
He continued, “Right now, the basis of the special session is to consider the redistricting plan and the other three critical areas that need to be dealt with. Those four items are on the agenda.”
During the special session next week, Froseth will represent his District 6 constituents and can be contacted by email at email@example.com.
Also serving District 6 will be Representative Bob Hunskor of Newburg, who can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, and Senator David O’Connell of Lansford, who can be contacted at email@example.com.
Phone messages can be left for the legislators during the session by calling 1-888-635-3447 (888-NDLEGIS).
More information from the 2011 62nd Legislative Assembly special session can be found online next week at www.legis.nd.gov.