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Meyer envisions a session of 'challenges' as she seeks re-election

DICKINSON - Rep. Shirley Meyer, D-Dickinson, doesn't want her run in the Legislature to end, not when so much is happening in her district.

"District 36 is going to be facing more challenges, I believe, than any other district down there," Meyer said of the upcoming legislative session.

She pointed to energy and mining issues in the area such as oil and gas development, the proposed coal gasification plant in South Heart, the state's first uranium leasing in three decades and worries about erionite, a possible carcinogen found in gravel deposits.

"We're sitting here in District 36 right in the middle of this amazing amount of energy that is going to be driving our state coffers for a while," Meyer said Tuesday.

Meyer wants to ensure a "fair percentage" of oil revenues make it back to oil-producing counties where energy development is taking a toll on infrastructure.

"It's not fair that our district has to have all of the impact, and we get such a small percentage of the revenues back to our counties. These impacts are real and they're now," she said.

Meyer, who serves on the House Energy Committee, has proposed legislation to increase the amount of grant money set aside for oil-producing counties each biennium from $6 million to $40 million. She said it's her priority to secure that money before it is spent or becomes tied up in state trusts.

"Before we lock this money up, we have to have some way of addressing this, what's happening to our infrastructure in these developing counties. Dunn County and Mountrail, they're just suffering. Their roads are gone. The bridges need repair," she said.

Meyer said the state ought to fund a greater share of K-12 education costs to stem the rise in property tax rates. But first, she said, the formula for distributing oil revenue must be reworked.

She said the state's budget surplus is due to tax revenues from oil production in western counties.

"That's where this money's coming from, regardless of what you hear about wonderful management of the money or anything," Meyer said.

She said the state should put surplus funds toward debts, deferred maintenance and social services.

She cited Dickinson's St. Joseph's Hospital and Health Center as being vital to her district, which includes rural Stark County and parts of Morton, Hettinger and Dunn counties.

"Our number-one priority is keeping our hospital open," she said.

Meyer, 55, lives south of Dickinson with her husband, Dean, who serves as chairman for the district's Democratic Party. The couple farms, ranches and raises quarter horses.

"That's what we've done our whole life and that's what my parents did and Dean's parents also," she said.

Her dad was in the North Dakota House for two decades. Her husband and mother-in-law both served in the state Senate.

Meyer was representative of District 36 from 1997 to 2000 and was elected again to serve in 2005. She is chairwoman of the Judicial Process Committee, which addresses topics like child support, child custody, missing persons and bankruptcy. Meyer also sits on the Interim Legislative Council, which sets the agendas for committees when the Legislature is not in session.

Along with Meyer, the district Democratic Party has nominated Dunn County rancher Todd Hall for the other representative slot and South Heart businessman Chuck Andrus for senator.

North Dakota GOP executive director Mike Schatz of New England, and rural Dickinson businessman Frank Klein are the Republican Party candidates for representative. Retired banker George Nodland of rural Dickinson was endorsed by the GOP to run for state senator.