GRAND FORKS — Infrastructure, the Legacy Fund and economic development in general should be among the goals of the next session or two of the North Dakota Legislature, according to District 20’s six legislative candidates.
Those running for one of two open spots in the state House of Representatives are Republican Mike Beltz, a Republican from Hillsboro; Cathy "Kit" Brenan, of Hillsboro, who is running as an independent; Republican Jared Hagert, of Emerado; and Democrat Tommy Passa, of Thompson. Beltz and Hagert are incumbents.
Those running for the district’s lone spot in the Senate are Democrat Paul Hanson, of Mayville, and Republican Randy Lemm, of Hillsboro. Lemm is the incumbent.
District 20 encompasses an area west and south of Grand Forks. The election is Nov. 8.
For a deeper look at the candidates, go to the Grand Forks Herald's website and search for the story headlined: A look at the candidates seeking election to the Legislature from North Dakota's District 20. Also, a Herald story published online on Oct. 6 outlined the candidates' comments during a public forum in Grafton .
Among other questions, all of the District 20 candidates were asked by the Herald: “What should be the Legislature’s main goal in the coming session or two?”
For Beltz, the question offered the opportunity to outline infrastructure issues in the district that he believes must be addressed.
“Locally, in District 20, roads and bridges are always a concern. The issue at Mayville State and Old Main needs to be addressed,” said Beltz, a retired farmer.
He also said priorities should shift to projects that create “opportunities.” Among them, he listed a proposed west-to-east natural gas pipeline; the Red River Water Supply project, which he said “would provide another reliable source for rural water districts;” and efforts to bring a new nitrogen fertilizer plant to North Dakota.
“We have the gas to produce and the ground to fertilize, we are at the tail end of the supply chain. This could be done as a standalone or in conjunction with the proposed hydrogen hub being developed in state,” he said. “Which leads us back to the goal of making life better for today and tomorrow.”
Brenan, a podcast host and former faculty member at Northland Community and Technical College, said the Legislature should focus on uses for the Legacy Fund, a savings account created by placing taxes on gas and oil production in the state. Created in 2010 by statewide vote, the account already has grown to more than $7.6 billion.
Also, she said, lawmakers should focus on “education reform by resetting graduation and learning standards rather than simply removing or lessening them.”
She said that determining a “main goal” for lawmakers isn’t necessarily an easy task, but urged bringing “more freedom back to the state of North Dakota by reducing dependence on federal money, which comes with increased federal regulations, and real transparency in records and voting law.”
Jared Hagert, a farmer and business owner from Emerado, said the main goals for lawmakers should be “to identify a responsible tax policy for North Dakota, identify a plan to address infrastructure issues and continue to attract value-added opportunities to the state.”
He also mentioned the Legacy Fund, and said the Legislature must utilize the earnings “in a manner that is beneficial to the state as a whole.”
Passa, a behavioral health technician from Thompson, was brief, saying “the Legislature’s main goal in the coming session should be what it always should be, and that is to best serve all things North Dakota.”
In the Senate race, Hanson, a semi-retired crop adjuster and consultant with a nutrition plant — he also has a background in ag production and as a chemist — said he’s proud of the “progressive environment that has evolved over the last few decades” in North Dakota.
“We need to be careful not to hinder further development. Our state is more than business development. Improvements can be made to complete our society. Universal Pre-K, a family leave policy and attention to our crumbling mental health is something we can change,” he said. “Lastly, I call on elected leaders to tone down rhetoric that divides us.”
Hanson’s opponent, the incumbent Lemm – a farmer from Hillsboro — offered a quick response to the question.
The Legislature, he said, should focus on “making sure our spending obligations don’t outpace our income.”