Stenehjem leads state AGs against proposed water rule

BISMARCK (FNS) — A bipartisan group of a dozen attorneys general, led by North Dakota’s Wayne Stenehjem, has asked the Trump administration to withdraw a proposed water supply rule that they argue will override state authority.

The letter, dated Thursday, Aug. 22, comes in response to an Army Corps of Engineers rule meant to clarify its policies governing the use of reservoir projects. In a news release, Stenehjem’s office said the Corps argues it controls water from the Missouri River once it flows into its reservoirs and can require prospective users to sign a water supply contract.

The news release said the Corps also uses some of the policies to “justify its moratorium on allowing water withdrawals from Lake Sakakawea and Lake Oahe, which has been an on-going issue in North Dakota for the last decade.”

Stenehjem’s office said it appears the Corps is moving forward with finalizing the rule, which was proposed in the final weeks of the Obama administration.

Strong end to budget cycle helps ND refill rainy day fund, Burgum says

BISMARCK (FNS) — The state of North Dakota has nearly refilled a rainy day fund after recent budget woes nearly drained it, Gov. Doug Burgum said Friday, Aug. 23.

The 2017-19 budget cycle ended June 30 with a higher-than-expected general fund balance of about $611 million, which will send $546 million to the Budget Stabilization Fund. The fund, which is capped by law at $726.5 million, will total nearly $660 million, Burgum’s office said in a news release.

Lawmakers raided the fund to balance the 2015-17 budget as falling oil and farm commodity prices slowed tax revenues.

“Given that our revenues remain largely dependent on commodity prices beyond our control, we must replenish reserves to withstand future economic downturns, protect taxpayers and maintain essential services,” the Republican governor said in a statement.

Lawmakers ended the 2019 session in late April by cementing a $4.8 billion general fund budget, which was part of a record $14.7 billion total spending plan.

Meanwhile, Burgum said July tax revenues were 7.6% ahead of the revenue forecast lawmakers adopted, which Office of Management and Budget Director Joe Morrissette said was “very conservative.”

Highway Patrol to look for ‘aggressive drivers’ in upcoming I-94 saturation

BISMARCK (FNS) — Highway Patrol agencies from North Dakota, Minnesota and Wisconsin are teaming up for a “Border-to-Border” enforcement saturation in an effort to crack down on what they call “aggressive driving”.

The saturation will be held on I-94 Aug. 26 through Sept. 1 leading up to the Labor Day holiday.

Troopers will be watching for things like excessive speed, following too close, lane change violations, hands-free violations, failure to signal and other aggressive driving behaviors.

According to the release sent out by the North Dakota Highway Patrol, the saturation is part of its “Vision Zero” initiative, a goal of achieving zero motor vehicle fatalities and serious injuries on North Dakota roads.

“This doesn’t mean writing more tickets, it means saving more lives,” said Lt. Steve Fischer, commander of the SW Regional North Dakota Highway Patrol. “Through our enforcement efforts of focusing on aggressive behaviors, we remind drivers to share the road, be courteous, patient and focus on safe driving practices.”

Person of interest’s vehicle found in case of former Viking, wife’s deaths

LONG PRAIRIE, Minn. (FNS) — The 22-year-old adopted son of a former NFL and Concordia College defensive lineman and his wife has been charged with two counts of second-degree murder in their shooting deaths at the family’s rural Long Prairie home.

Dylan John Bennett is still on the run and is believed to have fled to Cancun, Mexico.

Police are asking the public for assistance in locating Dylan Bennett, 22, after his parents, Barry Bennett and Carol Bennett, both 63, were found dead Wednesday, Aug. 21. It’s believed they were shot during the morning or afternoon hours of Monday, Aug. 19.

Long Prairie, a town of about 3,500 people, is around 30 miles northeast of Alexandria.

In charges filed Friday, Aug. 23, it was reported that Barry Bennett told Todd County Sheriff’s Office officials last December that his son while in a mental health treatment facility “had expressed homicidal thoughts about killing his parents.”

After the bodies were found Wednesday, a law enforcement investigator reported they found a vehicle in a motel parking lot that had been driven by Dylan Bennett in Columbus, Ohio, where a plane ticket was purchased and used for a Wednesday flight from Columbus to Atlanta and then to Cancun.

Based on usage of a cellphone, the investigator said it was believed Dylan Bennett was in Mexico on Thursday.

The bodies of his parents were discovered after the sheriff’s office received a call about 4:30 p.m. on Wednesday from a friend of Barry Bennett. He said Bennett, a retired physical education teacher and coach at the Long Prairie-Grey Eagle school, hadn’t returned his texts or call since Tuesday.

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