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KHRT ND News - Friday - 03/15/19 - Morning Edition

North Dakota's Legislature has slightly increased tax collection expectations for the next two-year budget cycle....

     BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) - North Dakota's Legislature has slightly increased tax collection expectations for the next two-year budget cycle due to a belief in stable oil prices and increased production. House and Senate appropriation committees on Thursday predicted general fund tax collections at just under $4 billion. That's just $25 million more than what the GOP-led Legislature used as a budgetary starting point in January.

    Lawmakers based their numbers from a pair of competing revenue forecasts presented earlier this week. The tax revenues estimates lawmakers adopted are closer to the forecast done by state budget analysts and Moody's Analytics. That forecast showed the state treasury expects to collect about $4.95 billion in oil tax collections for the budget period that begins July 1. The Legislature's estimate is about $100 million less than that.


     BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) - The North Dakota Legislature has endorsed a major spending plan aimed at rebuilding infrastructure projects outside of the state's oil patch. The Senate voted 46-0 on Thursday for the House bill aimed at providing $250 million in every two-year budget cycle for counties, cities and airports in non-oil producing areas. The proposal by the Legislature's Republican majority leaders has been called "Operation Prairie Dog." The legislation assumes that that oil production and prices will hold at the current levels. The measure now heads to Gov. Doug Burgum.


      BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) - North Dakota's Republican-led Legislature has passed a resolution urging Congress to follow the state's lead and ban abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy. Senators passed the House resolution on Thursday. North Dakota passed a law in 2013 that outlaws abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy, based on the premise that a fetus can feel pain by then. The Red River Clinic in Fargo is the state's sole abortion clinic. Officials at the clinic say the ban is unconstitutional but it does not apply to North Dakota because no abortions are performed at the clinic after 16 weeks.


     BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) - North Dakota's Republican-led Senate has defeated a measure that would outlaw sobriety checkpoints in the state. Senators voted 36-10 to kill the House bill on Thursday. It would have required "reasonable suspicion for certain traffic stops." Bismarck GOP Rep. Rick Becker was the measure's primary sponsor. He says sobriety checkpoints are ineffective and don't act as a deterrent. Opponents of the bill say the checkpoints are effective and probably save lives. Becker unsuccessfully pushed similar legislation two years ago.


     BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) - The Trump administration is finalizing plans to ease restrictions on oil and natural gas drilling and other industrial activities that were imposed to protect an imperiled bird species that ranges across the American West.

    U.S. Bureau of Land Management Acting Director Brian Steed told The Associated Press the changes still protect greater sage grouse while addressing concerns that policies adopted by former President Barack Obama were too restrictive. A formal announcement is expected today.

    Critics say the changes will mean more disturbances to the bird's habitat, which includes portions of 11 states. Brian Rutledge with the Audubon Society says that will undermine efforts to shore up grouse populations. The ground-dwelling birds, known for an elaborate mating ritual, have seen steep declines due to energy development, disease and other factors.


     FARGO, N.D. (AP) - Heavy snow drifts and poor visibility closed interstates in North Dakota while flooding made several highways in Wisconsin unpassable as snow and rain moved through the upper Midwest.

    No travel is advised this morning in areas near Fargo, as authorities say many rural roads are impassable. Interstate 94 from Bismarck to Fargo and Interstate 29 from Fargo to the Canadian line remains closed.
     In South Dakota, schools in Rapid City are closed today as authorities dig out from a blizzard. In Sioux Falls, authorities went door-to-door and evacuated residents from homes due to flooding by the Big Sioux River.
     Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, was also hit hard. Rescuers had to move residents to higher ground after flooding on the Fond du Lac River. Highways in Fond du Lac, Dodge and Iowa counties were blocked by high water.




   (Copyright 2019 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.)


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