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Legislators address New England, cybersecurity

Coffee with the Legislators brought together community members and their elected leaders from Districts 36 and 37 for an update on the current legislative session. The public event, held Saturday at Dickinson Public Library, attracted nearly 40 p...

At Saturday's Coffee with the Legislators event, Sen. Jay Elkin, Sen. Rich Wardner, Rep. Mike Lefor and Rep. Vicky Steiner spoke on the current legislative session and took questions from a group of nearly 40. (Brandon L. Summers / The Dickinson Press)
At Saturday's Coffee with the Legislators event, Sen. Jay Elkin, Sen. Rich Wardner, Rep. Mike Lefor and Rep. Vicky Steiner spoke on the current legislative session and took questions from a group of nearly 40. (Brandon L. Summers / The Dickinson Press)

Coffee with the Legislators brought together community members and their elected leaders from Districts 36 and 37 for an update on the current legislative session.

The public event, held Saturday at Dickinson Public Library, attracted nearly 40 people.

Participating were Sen. Rich Wardner, Sen. Jay Elkin, Rep. Mike Lefor and Rep. Vicky Steiner.

Wardner applauded Operation Prairie Dog (HB-1066) being signed into law Thursday by Gov. Doug Burgum.

"For those of us out in the west, it made sure the funding that comes, in lieu of property tax, back to the counties and cities, schools, townships out here, stays here," he said.

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There was a real effort to change hub city funding, Wardner said.

"They thought we were getting too much," he said. "It's real. That could have been cut in half. Dickinson will receive approximately $26 million over two years."

The funds are needed because of the debt incurred from oil development, Wardner said.

"It's not from those of us who lived here all the time. It was created by the influx of people and the development we had to do," he said.

Wardner also addressed the women's correctional facility in New England.

Funds are being directed in the North Dakota Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation budget specifically for the facility.

"We're looking at $4 million, and the counties will have to divy up some and do some things down there, get a vocational program in for that place," he said. "We think it makes sense to leave that facility right there."

Lefor voiced his support for the effort, adding that legislators have been working alongside Hettinger County's commissioners, who serve as the prison's board of directors, to keep the prison in New England.

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"I don't believe the Department of Corrections is doing the right thing by attempting to close New England," he said. "The prison has gotten an unfair rep, has been treated unfairly by the head of DOCR. It's like Sen. Wardner talked about. Don't move, improve."

If moved, a newly constructed facility would cost as much as $80 million, Wardner said.

"That doesn't make sense to me. This place is doing a good job," he said. "And remember, 68 percent of the women aren't there more than three months. They're in and they're out."

Steiner spoke about HB-2110, a bill that would address state cybersecurity and schools.

Cybersecurity practices set by the state information technology department would be taught throughout the state.

This follows several major attacks on the STAGEnet broadband network.

"We have a large public school that was attacked by a foreign nation," Steiner said. "They got in that school's internet system and went to some other schools... trying to get to (Minot Air Force Base). They were trying to enter one system and make their way across many platforms and end up at the air base."

There have been about one million attacks on the system daily, Steiner said.

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"It's phenomenal," she said. "It's a huge number of attacks."

The bill has been amended because schools were concerned about mandate costs. They will now just train on preventing the attacks, Steiner said.

"They were worried about being told they had to buy certain kinds of equipment, and that's been taken out of the bill," she said.

Work continues on establishing an ethics commission following the passage of Measure One in November's election.

Five people will be appointed to the commission after the current session, Wardner said.

"If you're wondering where is the commission itself, the five members, we don't have time to do it right now," he said. "I'm up to my eyeballs. I wouldn't have time to sit down and take a look at selecting commissioners."

The commission would have final authority over changes to bills, Lefor explained.

"No matter what bill comes out, in the Senate version or House version, the constitutional provisions give the ethics commission a wide range of authority," he said. "If we put a definition into statute, they can change those things."

He added, "A lot of things we do as a legislature, the ethics commission... will be able to change a lot of that."

The next Coffee with the Legislators event will be held at Dickinson Public Library on April 27 at 10 a.m.

Related Topics: RICH WARDNER
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