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Hoeven hosts talks in Rugby

By Staff | Aug 12, 2016

North Dakota Republican Senator John Hoeven stopped in Rugby Monday afternoon to host a roundtable at Dakota Farms.

Hoeven discussed issues he was working on in Washington, D.C., including the Capital for Farmers and Ranchers Act with Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.); preventing enforcement of the Waters of the U.S. rule; the Illegal Synthetic Drug Safety Act of 2016; care options for veterans in rural communities; lifting oil export bans and other energy reforms.

Erik Christenson, pharmacist at the Heart of America Medical Center-Johnson Clinic pharmacy, discussed issues affecting HAMC. Christenson said HAMC is “beyond critical access” as it is at least 60 miles from bigger cities, and doesn’t have the capabilities to recruit doctors and other professionals that other hospitals do. Christenson also said that overregulation and insurance companies encouraging mail order drug purchases are affecting smaller hospitals. Hoeven asked for a possible solution, to which Christenson said opening the Medicare Prescription Drug Savings & Choice Act up to local pharmacies; change provider statuses in S.B. 314; and decrease regulations on critical access hospitals.

Daunne Heilman, i design owner, discussed what she felt was a lack of an employee pool for young professionals.

“On a small town level it is a struggle,” Heilman said of trying to recruit.

Dakota Farms manager and Rugby Convention & Visitors Bureau president Kevin Lashman said the temptation for some to go on government assistance is there and he would like to see tighter regulations on it.

“It’s too easy for [potential employees] not to work,” Lashman said.

Christenson said he would like to see something like what the Health Resources & Services Administration does, except for persons in non-medical professions. Job Development Authority board chairman Fr. Tom Graner said the JDA board talked about coming up with a student loan repayment program for entry level professionals. Hoeven said the Bank of North Dakota has a “good” student loan repayment program.

County Commissioner Duane Johnston said the county is experiencing a decrease in both state aid and Highway Distribution funds and asked if there would be relief from the U.S. Highway Fund. Hoeven said the state has received more money than it has from the federal government, but the state government ultimately decides where and how much is allocated.

Area farmer Chuck Volk, Rugby Ward 4 Councilwoman Sue Steinke and Prairie Village Museum Curator and N.D. Community Alliance member Stephanie (Steinke) Houim expressed concerns about borehole test drilling and nuclear waste disposal, particularly the meetings where the creation of a consent process were held. Volk said a “disconnect” was created as the consent process meetings were nowhere near where the proposed sites were and persons affected weren’t involved in the process. Hoeven said that zoning for such sites was a state and local government issue, and that he couldn’t see such a thing happening in North Dakota. Hoeven also said he would further look into the consent process creation.

Johnston also asked about the status of coal plant emission rules. Hoeven said enforcement has been stopped for now, but a “common sense” approach would be needed in the future.

Other roundtable participants included Chamber of Commerce and CVB Executive Director Shelley Block; Kyle Nelson of Bremer Bank; Pete Burgard of Merchants Bank; Heart of America Correctional & Treatment Center Administrator Mike Graner; Merchants Bank ag lender Jarrett Lovcik; area rancher Rebecca Leier; and Farm Services Agency director for Pierce County* and Rugby Ward 2 Councilman Gary Kraft.

*Edited from print edition

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