Sen. Rich Wardner and Rep. Mike Lefor, both from District 37, sat down with a group of citizens this past weekend at City Hall to discuss issues and bills being addressed in the Legislature, as well as giving the people of southwest North Dakota an opportunity to voice their own concerns.

The Dickinson Area Chamber of Commerce partnered up with The Dickinson Press to host Coffee with Your Legislators on Saturday, March 6, in the commission room at City Hall, where both Lefor and and Wardner talked about proposed legislation as citizens chimed in to ask questions on topics they felt vital.

A major issue that both Lefor and Wardner touched on was how Dickinson and southwestern North Dakota lacked behavioral health services. Wardner briefed the audience on how Substance Use Disorder vouchers can cover extra costs associated with behavioral health services.

Sen. Rich Wardner discusses legislation being proposed at the North Dakota Legislature during Saturday's Coffee with Your Legislators at City Hall in Dickinson. (Jackie Jahfetson/The Dickinson Press)
Sen. Rich Wardner discusses legislation being proposed at the North Dakota Legislature during Saturday's Coffee with Your Legislators at City Hall in Dickinson. (Jackie Jahfetson/The Dickinson Press)

“... We’re hoping that there’s still some room up there at the old St. Joe’s Hospital to do this. That would be huge if we can get a provider here. Here’s the problem: the feds only allow 16 beds if you’re going to use Medicaid dollars. (Only) 16 beds, that’s it. However, to make it go, these providers need more than 16 and that’s where the SUD voucher comes in and that can help,” Wardner said.

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Lefor added, “... We all know what a critical need that is.”

The two legislators also discussed the importance of reviving the coal industry in North Dakota.

“The coal industry is struggling and we’re doing everything we can to make sure that that plant gets back up and running again and there’s been some work in regard too. Because we have to have coal as part of our future,” Lefor said.

Rep. Mike Lefor is pictured. (Jackie Jahfetson/The Dickinson Press)
Rep. Mike Lefor is pictured. (Jackie Jahfetson/The Dickinson Press)

Wardner noted there is work being done at the Milton R. Young Station, which is working on Project Tundra with hopes of building the world’s largest carbon capture facility in North Dakota.

“For those of you who are into just renewable energies, you’re not going to like it. But I’m going to tell you that I believe we need to have base load, and we have to have a coal fire generation in order to make it,” Wardner said, explaining, “Now the people that are pushing the fossil-fuel generation are not just saying, ‘Here’s the CO2, what are you going to do about it?’ We’re doing a lot of work and research and carbon capture and sequestration and putting it into the ground where it won’t bother anybody.”

Lefor was pleased to talk about was unemployment benefits for military spouses, in which North Dakota is one of two states that does not have that provision. Lefor also discussed the COVID-19 liability bill that was passed, that prohibits out-of-state law firms from targeting and suing small businesses for not following health protocols. Lefor also discussed the Legacy Fund Streams.