Dakota Download Governor Burgum's Weekly Update - November 12, 2023

Burgum, Miller honor nation's military service members on Veterans Day

Lt. Gov. Tammy Miller participates in the ribbon cutting for the new columbarium at the North Dakota Veterans Cemetery in Mandan on Veterans Day Saturday.

Gov. Doug Burgum and Lt. Gov. Tammy Miller honored our military veterans and the families who support and serve alongside them Saturday on Veterans Day.

“The current conflicts overseas and the crisis on our own southern border are daily reminders that a strong military is absolutely necessary to maintain peace through strength, and that has only been possible through the service and sacrifice of our military veterans and their families,” Burgum said. “The more than 50,000 veterans in North Dakota and the more than 16 million veterans across our great country deserve our deepest gratitude and support on Veterans Day – and every day – for their courageous service in defending our freedoms and protecting our nation and its citizens at home and abroad.”

Miller delivered remarks in the morning at a Veteran's Day ceremony at the Heritage Center in Bismarck and joined the North Dakota National Guard in the afternoon for the official ribbon cutting for the new columbarium at the North Dakota Veterans Cemetery in Mandan.

Initial design of the columbarium took place in the spring 2019, groundbreaking for the project occurred on Memorial Day 2023 and construction began three days later on June 1. The columbarium will be open for interment mid-November.

"By adding 20 years of interment space through 2,240 niche units, this columbarium will provide many more families with the opportunity to make the beautiful North Dakota Veterans Cemetery the final resting place for their loved ones who served their country with courage and honor," Miller said. "We’re deeply grateful to the North Dakota Veterans Cemetery team for their significant work on this project, as well as the Veterans Cemetery Foundation for its contribution of over $600,000, and our congressional delegation for their efforts with the National Cemetery Administration to secure nearly $1.9 million in federal funding. It’s always a great thing when we can expand opportunities to show respect for our fallen military service members. And this is yet another way we can show gratitude for our men and women in uniform, not only with our words but with our actions."

Burgum petitions FMCSA to reconsider rule restricting hours of service waivers from 30 days down to 14 days

Governor concerned change will hurt farmers, ranchers, fuel distributors, make it harder to meet citizens’ needs during weather-related emergencies

Gov. Burgum is petitioning the federal government to reconsider a rule restricting governors’ ability to waive hours of service regulations for commercial truck drivers, repeating his concerns that the change will hurt farmers, ranchers and fuel distributors and make it harder to meet the needs of citizens during weather-related emergencies.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration finalized the rule on Oct. 15 regarding governors’ authority to waive hours of service regulations during a declared state of emergency.

As originally proposed, the rule would have shortened the maximum duration of the waiver from 30 days to just five days, while also limiting the scope of which FMCSA regulations can be waived under a state-issued waiver. The final rule maintains the 30-day waiver for presidentially declared emergencies, but it narrows state-issued waivers to 14 days and further limits the FMCSA regulations that are automatically exempted under a state-issued waiver.

Burgum opposed the proposed rule change in a Feb. 6 letter to FMCSA Administrator Robin Hutcheson, saying it “would severely impact operations in North Dakota during emergencies and have a direct impact on all citizens of our great state.” He reiterated those concerns in a letter to Hutcheson Thursday.

“This isn’t about letting truck drivers work longer hours in December so they can deliver enough toys to stores to make sure all the kids get Christmas presents,” Burgum said, referring to one example cited by FMCSA to suggest that governors are abusing the waiver process. “In North Dakota, the ability to waive hours of service quickly during an emergency without having to slog through a sea of bureaucratic red tape can literally mean the difference between life and death or the loss of someone’s livelihood. While we appreciate that FMCSA abandoned its five-day proposal, the 14-day waiver period is still too short, and we urge FMCSA to restore the 30-day waiver authority.”

Since taking office in December 2016, Burgum has issued hours of service waivers, or waiver extensions, a total of 28 times, with 19 of those waivers being for 30 days or more. The governor noted that in just the last two years, he issued three executive orders to waive hours of service for haulers of propane, gasoline, diesel fuel and heating oil, and six additional orders for haulers of agricultural inputs, fertilizer, milk for students, rural electric workers and haulers of hay, water and livestock.

“As an agricultural state, these executive orders are carefully considered and determined necessary to combat significant winter storms, drought and staff shortages in the CDL industry that last longer than the 14-day anticipated change,” Burgum stated in Thursday's letter. “North Dakota heavily depends on CDL drivers, and as a rural state, it is critical that we be able to move products and get resources to where they are needed most.”

Location selected for new North Dakota State Laboratory in northeast area of Capitol grounds

Gov. Burgum and Lt. Gov. Miller announced the location and exterior design have been selected for the new North Dakota State Laboratory to be built in the northeast area of the Capitol grounds. The facility will be shared by the laboratory services divisions of the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) and the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ).

The 2021 Legislature approved $15 million for planning and design of a new lab, and the 2023 Legislature approved an additional $55 million to replace the existing facility, which is nearly 50 years old and faces ongoing infrastructure challenges.

“By siting the new State Laboratory on the Capitol grounds, we’re eliminating the need to purchase land, qualifying the building for lower utility rates and providing efficiencies through the lab’s proximity to the Department of Health and Human Services in the Capitol’s Judicial Wing,” said Miller, who chairs the Capitol Grounds Planning Commission. “We appreciate the Commission members, the project’s steering committee and the architects for developing a site plan and exterior building design that complement the Capitol grounds while meeting the needs of a state-of-the-art, world-class laboratory to help ensure the health and safety of our citizens.”

The State Laboratory assists labs throughout the state with consultation and training for the safe handling and testing of samples regarding germs or poisons. It also ensures compliance with Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulations. The State Laboratory tests for various infectious diseases and supports water quality monitoring, mosquito/tick surveillance activities and investigational responses to natural or man-made disasters, such as sampling and testing water after a flood to ensure it’s safe to drink.

The new laboratory will preserve and advance the state’s ability to protect North Dakota’s public health and environment for future generations.

The state of the art, scalable lab is being designed to be flexible to meet immediate demands, adjust for growth opportunities and quickly pivot for public health or environmental emergencies. Modern mechanical equipment will ensure superior air quality and quantity, which are critical for a quality testing environment. The facility also will include a training lab for continuous learning and safety training.

Construction is expected to begin in April 2024 and be completed in June 2026. Zerr-Berg Architects will provide the design.

The 100,000-square-foot, $70 million lab will be operated by approximately 50 team members from DHHS and DEQ.

The Capitol Grounds Planning Commission consists of Miller as chair, Rep. Ben Koppelman, Rep. Bernie Satrom, Sen. Jay Elkin, Sen. Jim Roers, State Historical Society Director Bill Peterson, architect Chris Hawley and citizen members Vern Dosch and Wendy Van Duyne.

$25 million awarded to grow and expand tourism offerings in North Dakota

With a focus on attracting visitors and future workforce, the Governor’s Office and the North Dakota Department of Commerce announced $25 million of matching grants to create new attractions in North Dakota communities, enable significant expansions of existing attractions and support key amenities aiding the tourism economy across the state.

The Legislature approved $25 million for the Destination Development matching grant program proposed by Burgum in his executive budget recommendation for 2023-25. Applications were accepted in July and August.

“There was tremendous interest in the program, with 81 projects from 42 communities requesting more than $151.5 million in funding. While we had hoped the Legislature would allocate additional dollars during the special legislative session to support more projects, we are excited to see the many unique and innovative projects that were proposed and able to be funded,” said Commerce Tourism and Marketing Director Sara Otte Coleman. “As our state and its workforce needs continue to grow and diversify, it’s crucial that we recognize the immense potential to attract visitors and recruit talent by creating unique attractions and amenities, and these projects are a great start.“

Projects were diligently reviewed, scored on the application criteria and were further evaluated based on the following:

  • Would the new attraction or expansion motivate new trips to North Dakota from non-residents?
  • Is the expansion tied to a defining North Dakota theme or location?
  • Will the project have a lasting impact?
  • Will the project progress toward completion during the 2023-25 biennium?

Additionally, the reviewers made the strategic decision to support projects that enhance winter sports across the state and attractions that would enhance tribal tourism.

“We are making tourism business development a priority at Commerce by recognizing the value new attractions provide, not only by attracting visitors and spending but also by improving our quality of life,” said Commerce Commissioner Josh Teigen. “These project applications will help us further refine how we can support the development of tourism to help diversify our economy.”