North Dakota limps ahead as ACA deadline approaches

mnsuregtFactoring in Medicaid coverage, North Dakota’s tepid participation in health care reform has managed to cover 7000 people, placing it just ahead of South Dakota and Wyoming, which refused essential coverage to the least fortunate.

North Dakota still has a major donut hole in affordability, however — there is a gap of over $2800 (even more, for older people) between the highest income for Medicaid coverage and the point where the cheapest plan on the market is affordable.

If HealthCare.gov worked as advertised, and the federal subsidy factored in, it’d hardly be an issue.  But there are still applications — including mine — that just haven’t gone through.

With March 31 being the key deadline to sign up, I’m faced with a situation where I’m seriously considering calling an insurer directly to get the insurance I’m required to have.  But if I do that, I’ll have to forfeit the subsidy I would get on the exchange.  Apparently, if you don’t do it on the exchange, you can’t even get your subsidy as a credit on next year’s taxes.

Special Session needed for oil matters

Badly needed regulations and assistance to local governments could be the focus of a special session. League legislators have officially filed their petition to the Governor today.

Even as the overworked legislature nearly went into overtime last year, there were calls for annual meetings. Careful scheduling could work around North Dakota’s 80-day legislative straightjacket in future bienniums.

Manitoba PCs finally file sales tax lawsuit

The long-promised lawsuit against the Manitoba Government’s questionable sales tax hike has finally hit the court docket. The NDP is accusing it of grandstanding, but the timeline and letter of the law appear to be consistent with what the Tories allege — the 1% PST hike was and is illegal. Still, Canada’s murky constitutional law may yet save the NDP government an embarrassing defeat.

Cover those oil slicks with Astroturf!

There’s a good idea out there with a chance at becoming law: Saving 5% of oil revenue for environmental cleanup, and maintaining the great outdoors in North Dakota. The petitions are circulating right now! Of course, it’s also being opposed by the usual suspects.

While certain oilmen are out there being responsible, there’s a large enough number doing illegal dumping, registering shell companies, and most of those are going to ruin fields, rivers, and lakes and get away with it. If neither the industry nor the legislature of North Dakota is setting aside money to bear the costs of cleanup and environmental protection, then the craters left in western North Dakota are likely to be permanent scars.

The great and lasting triumph of the William Guy administration was prevent the coal industry from turning North Dakota into a moonscape. Today, there are precious few in Bismarck that have such moral stature, but through the initiative process, North Dakotans can at least get to vote on a measure of needed insurance against the growing damage of the energy industry.

Hopes for hemp rising with new Farm Bill

David Monson and Wayne Hauge remain cautiously optimistic about the prospects of a hemp crop in North Dakota in the near future — but it’s North Dakota State University that will likely be first to seed, with a provision in the 357-page Farm Bill that opens the door to  state-licenced university research plots, which North Dakota law already provides for.

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Goehring on thin ice as Farm Bureau abandons him

According to reports, North Dakota Farm Bureau is supporting a primary challenge to Agriculture Commissioner Doug Goehring.  Judy Estenson will be contesting for the Republican nomination this year.

As Ag Commissioner, Goehring is one of three state officials on the North Dakota Industrial Commission, a panel that has taken increased powers during the state’s oil rush.

The League has yet to introduce a candidate; my shortlist would have to include farmer Ben Vig of Aneta, and USDA Rural Development state director Jasper Schneider.