Republicans scratch head over fraud case

A grain elevator in McLean County went under the other week, and farmers are left holding the bag.

There’s a bit of back-and-forth between the PSC and the Ag Department, but no mention of activity from the state auditor or prosecutors in what I can only imagine is a serious case of fraud.

Further, Doug Goehring is so bold as to suggest that grain contracts are more worthy of repayment than chemical contracts. I’m no lawyer, but that doesn’t sound like standard bankruptcy procedure to me. Sure sounds like they’ve already given up any hope of recovering pilfered assets, too. Your highly-effective Republican-led state government!

My take on the Interim Higher Ed Meeting

Tuesday and Wednesday weren’t really big in the press, it seems. I mean, how much news is there really in an interim legislative session?

For some background, there was a huge scandal at Dickinson State University which involved human-trafficker-quality foreign student recruiters, lax fiscal standards, and even looser academic oversight. The result was a campus in disarray and a high-level suicide. Plus repercussions for everyone else.

Flash forward to this week, where two days of interim legislative meetings included two days of Higher Education Committee meetings in Bismarck. I had the opportunity to sit in on Wednesday’s session. Now, I turned it all around in my head all day yesterday and it still doesn’t make a ton of sense. But I guess I understand, at least a little, why North Dakota’s tuition rate increases have exceeded inflation for all of recent memory.

I’m not surprised by the overall tone of the meeting, which pitted the clueless and incredulous lawmakers, against university officials suddenly needing to defend the standard practice of free tuition for graduate student assistants and researchers, a task that’s probably impossible to explain to someone who never sprung for a Master’s or even taken a college class in the last decade.

Chairman Skarphol, among other things, seemed to have the sense of humour that only a committee chair could have. Between sharp cracks, he opined that North Dakota’s university tuition was still undervalued.

Rae Ann Kelsch took the opportunity to air her opinions as well. She displayed a rather unsurprising amount of ethnocentrism when she insisted it was impossible for an entire class of foreign students to pass an English course, and suggested that no class should ever receive straight ‘A’s. I suppose she’d prefer that every basic knowledge class to be curved like an MIT death march.

Rounding out the clan of ideologues was Representative Dosch, who only came away from the meeting with a positive feeling, it seems, because David Fuller from MSU put on a jaw-droppingly Randian display of pure capitalistic self-centrism.

Also of note was Duaine Espegard (the vice-chair of the SBHE) placing his foot firmly in his mouth in a dialogue with Rep. Martinson, as he admitted the State Board knew of DSU’s problems during the previous legislative session.

Committeemembers dwindled throughout the day as the session stretched past schedule. In the end, Skarphol had to call the meeting on account of time, pushing the issues, facts, and basic understanding problems off to a later time. I got the feeling this happens a lot.

Only the letter of the law, not the spirit

North Dakota’s Attorney General has dropped the ball yet again on electronic payments, now ruling that EFTs are not a public record in the same way as cheques.

This is in a banking universe where the cheque is only a physical record of an actual, electronic transfer.

In fairness, I should say that Mr. Stenehjem isn’t the only one who has earned a share of the blame for North Dakota’s surreal relationship with electronic payment networks. A decade ago, Heidi Heitkamp
had the power to light a fire under the Bank of North Dakota to start issuing and processing credit cards… and decided to allow state agencies and
localities to fend for themselves
on the payment processing market.

Which in turn set the stage for UND donating 3% of its students’ financial aid to a Massachusetts corporation, or whoever bought them out this month…

Other states have to deal with these issues every day, but North Dakota is supposed to be special. We have a state banking law for a reason. Terminology changes, banking methods evolve. But the spirit of the law was always there… To be ignored?