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Today's Thought

No one plants a seed in the morning and eats the fruit in the evening. Parenting is a lot like gardening. What we sow today will be reached in a future season.

- Mark Driscoll

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 KHRT ND News

KHRT ND News - Monday - 02/11/19 - Noon Edition

Gov. Doug Burgum and National Guard leaders honored soldiers from the Upper Midwest who spent about a year serving in Afghanistan....

     FARGO, N.D. (AP) - Gov. Doug Burgum and National Guard leaders honored soldiers from the Upper Midwest who spent about a year serving in Afghanistan. A special ceremony was held Sunday afternoon at the Armed Forces Reserve Center in Fargo for about 30 members of the North Dakota Army National Guard's 191st Military Police Company. The soldiers are from 20 communities in North Dakota, South Dakota and Minnesota.
 
     Burgum said it was also important to recognize and thank the families of the soldiers who spent so much time away. Sgt. First Class Tyson Mattson said his wife held the family together while he was serving. The unit which provided protective service detail and secure transportation while assigned to NATO returned in December.
 
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     BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) - Several mothers with babes in arms joined women's groups in lobbying North Dakota lawmakers to pass a measure removing what they describe as subjective language in the state's breastfeeding law. Women may breastfeed in public if they do it "in a discreet and modest manner." A bipartisan bill removes that language, and also makes it illegal to prohibit a mother from breastfeeding. A House committee gave the measure a "do not pass" recommendation. The full House could vote on the bill today.
 
     Fargo Democratic Rep. Gretchen Dobervich says the current law is "outdated." The legislation comes after an incident at a Fargo restaurant last year when a woman was told to leave because she was breastfeeding her baby without a cover.
 
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    BISMARCK, ND - The North Dakota Department of Human Services announced today that Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits for March will be issued to qualifying low-income households on March 1. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) will provide funding for next month's benefits even if there is a second partial federal government shutdown.

    In North Dakota, SNAP benefits are normally issued to electronic benefit transfer (EBT) cards on the first day of each month. Due to the recent partial federal government shutdown, February benefits were issued early to qualifying households on or before January 20.

    "With about three weeks to go before March benefits are issued, it is important for households to continue to plan and budget accordingly to cover food purchases through the end of February," said Michele Gee, the department's Economic Assistance Division director.

    Gee says the department continues to monitor the situation and remains in contact with USDA partners as funding for SNAP benefits beyond March is unknown at this time. Any information regarding future benefits will be communicated by the department.

    Gee says county social service offices continue to accept and process SNAP applications, and households determined eligible for the program will receive benefits on March 1.

    Local food pantries and charitable feeding sites in North Dakota may be able to help people with immediate food needs. The Great Plains Food Bank has location information online at www.greatplainsfoodbank.org/our-partners/partner-agency-network.html.

    Qualifying households can check their account balances before making food purchases by calling the North Dakota EBT customer service line at 800-630-4655 or by using the new ebtEDGE mobile app that is available in the Apple Store and Google Play Store.

    For general updates about the program including future issuance of benefits, individuals can visit www.nd.gov/dhs. Qualifying households with questions about their benefits can contact their county social service office. Contact information is online at www.nd.gov/dhs/locations/countysocialserv/.

    The federally-funded program serves qualifying low-income individuals. Clients typically include children, low-wage working families, people with disabilities and seniors on limited and fixed incomes. In January 2019, the program provided almost 24,000 low-income North Dakota households with about $5.8 million in benefits to purchase food at approved grocers and other vendors.

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    FARGO, ND - Xcel Energy says they will soon distribute nearly $10 million to all North Dakota electricity customers as a result of the Federal Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. All Xcel Energy electricity customers in the state will receive a credit on their bills. The refund for a residential electricity customer will average about $46, but will vary based on each customer's actual usage.

    "We are pleased to deliver tax reform benefits to our North Dakota customers that will also benefit the state's economy, said Chris Clark, president, Xcel Energy-North Dakota. "The savings from the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act will provide nearly $10 million to North Dakota customers and keep rates flat for two years while we continue delivering the low-cost, reliable energy our customers expect."

    The North Dakota Public Service Commission approved these refunds last week and customers should receive them as one-time bill credit beginning this spring.

    As an additional part of the agreement, North Dakota customers will not see any increases in their base electric rates until at least Jan. 1, 2021, which is the earliest any future rate reviews could take effect. The agreement also allows Xcel Energy the ability to provide customers with additional refunds should the company achieve higher earnings than authorized by the Commission.

    Xcel Energy provides the energy that powers millions of homes and businesses across eight Western and Midwestern states.

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    BISMARCK, N.D. - Gov. Doug Burgum says he is willing to consider granting waivers on a case-by-case basis for school districts that have canceled school because of severe winter storms and dangerously cold temperatures in recent weeks, provided certain criteria are met.

    Under state law, if a school must close because of weather or other emergency situations, the district "shall make every effort to reschedule the remaining classes, so that students receive at least the number of full instructional days required." [North Dakota Century Code 15.1-27-23(3)]. This can be done in the following ways:

    Districts may schedule instructional days on the designated snow days that they are required by law to include in their school calendar and use if needed. Make-up days cannot be considered as part of a waiver application and by law cannot be waived.

    Qualifying districts may utilize one allowed academic day (grace day). A qualifying district is one that schedules school days that are at least 30 minutes longer than required by law.

    Districts may make up missed instructional time by lengthening the school day - i.e., 30 minutes per day and/or scheduling an instructional day on Saturday and/or adding an instructional day to the end of the school year.

    Burgum said he will consider waiving weather-related closure days if, as required by law, a district has made every effort to make up the missed instruction time. For each school day, the state expends roughly $5.5 million to provide for the education of North Dakota children.

    "We are seeking to balance our responsibility as stewards of taxpayer dollars with gratitude for the hard work of our educators and our commitment to preventing undue hardship. Every day of instruction is important to the education of our children, and both students and taxpayers deserve the value of a complete academic year," Burgum said. "There has not been a single day this academic year during which every district in the state has been closed. Therefore, a statewide waiver would be inappropriate for those districts that provided instruction when others didn't, due to our state's geographic size and highly variable weather."

    Under state law, any public school or school district for which the rescheduling of classes would create undue hardship may request that the governor waive the rescheduling in whole or in part.

    In the near future, the Governor's Office will distribute a survey to school districts to understand the impacts of severe weather events on districts across the state. A waiver application period will open March 1 and close March 15. If additional severe winter weather occurs between now and March 15, the application deadline may be extended.

    The Governor's Office will review each district's waiver application in the totality of their circumstances. The governor will look at the number of major weather incidents the districts/regions experienced and what efforts the district has made to ensure students receive as much of their legally mandated instruction as possible.

    If and when school districts apply for a waiver, it will be essential to provide as much specificity as possible so the governor can make an informed decision. Additionally, if districts demonstrate they are attempting to meet the law's intent of ensuring an effective education by utilizing alternative, non-timebound instructional strategies in place of adding days or hours to the calendar, that will also be taken into consideration.

 


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

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