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The oil problems
Heitkamp was most effusive about the ongoing trouble with agricultural exports, as oil has been clogging the rail lines. After long talks with the rail lines about boosting investment and capacity, she says that the railroads say they can fix everything by June. Heidi, and everyone else, says that’s not soon enough at all. But what can a Senator do but complain slightly louder than the average customer?
Heitkamp was quick to attack the secondary problems oil is inflicting on the state, like drug and sex trafficking, and even the housing crisis in Western North Dakota. She even hazarded that oil companies ought to take responsibility for the waste management practices of subcontractors, saying that the taxpayers of North Dakota shouldn’t be on the hook for cleanups. The senator came closest to suggesting a partial solution when she advocated the use of radio tags to trace oil waste from source to disposal, but didn’t say whether the Federal Government should play a role in such a program.
When asked if the EPA could spare inspectors to check on oil waste disposal in North Dakota, she was vaguely negative. On the subject of new oil pipelines, Heitkamp didn’t have much to tell citizens concerned about their water supplies, just that the pipeline isn’t before any federal panel she knows about.
The Blue Shield
A particularly heated question was raised concerning the use of paid informants in drug cases. Heitkamp as Attorney General used such informants and took the position that paid informants are a necessary evil, despite the perception of entrapment and increasing questionability of police tactics in drug cases.
Heitkamp also recently sided with law enforcement groups in the blacklisting of Debo Adegbile, President Obama’s nominee for the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice, claiming that his confirmation would have paved the way for years of renewed controversy over the case of Mumia Abu-Jamal, whom Adegbile represented.
Formula Tweaks for Health Care
Heitkamp touted the successes of the new exchange in enhancing access to healthcare, and reassured the audience that a subsidy repeal in the Senate is unlikely. She also spoke to weaknesses, how insurance agents want to be part of the picture again. She also emphasized the need to prevent chronic illnesses to keep future health costs from escalating beyond control.
Young People: The Key to the Future
Heidi said she prefers to take a longer view, and think about what will keep the USA going strong in 20 years or more. She cited two high school students in Grand Forks who said they wanted to be President. Building a future for those young people is part and parcel of the job of a Senator. If a school cook can be one of the 100 most powerful people in America, there’s certainly hope for a President too.
Crippling student loan debt is putting too many lives on hold, and the Federal Aviation Administration’s hiring rejiggering has jeopardized Air Traffic Control jobs in particular. Senator Heitkamp said the FAA director is touring North Dakota soon and sitting down with UND Aerospace is near the top of the agenda.
As for the student debt cycle, Heitkamp focused on economic development, lowering interest rates and enhancing refinancing options, and raising the minimum wage to $10.10 per hour, citing a $20 per hour cost of living in Fargo. Though she points to California’s moves to make tuition free as exemplary, Heitkamp believes that the problem of paying for higher education will not be solved in North Dakota in her lifetime.
The Senator also had little help to provide for a group of off-reservation Turtle Mountain Band members, who have had difficulty petitioning the Band for their share of federal funds, including some to help tribal students. Effectively, the federal role is merely intergovernmental; it’s the tribe’s responsibility to distribute funds. Other states like South Dakota have significant programs for tribal populations in urban areas, but not so, it seems, in North Dakota.