Excerpts from recent North Dakota editorials

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Associated Press

Posted on February 28, 2013 at 6:00 PM

Jamestown Sun, Jamestown, Feb. 28, 2013

School safety discussions important

It's reassuring to hear discussions from the Jamestown Public School Board on improving school safety. Talks are in the early stages and initial recommendations were presented on Monday.

Greg Allen, School Board member, hit on the main point at Monday's meeting: "There will probably be different levels of security we can put in at different schools, but I don't want to wait for an incident to make that decision."

After December's Sandy Hook shooting in Connecticut, where 20 students and six adults were murdered, it's plain ignorance to think any school district is safe.

At Sandy Hook the shooter had hundreds of rounds of ammunition he did not use. That reminds us that every second a shooter is delayed, a life could be saved.

JPS Superintendent Bob Toso worked with Nick Hardy, school resource officer, and Mike Armitage, audio visual technology director, on suggestions to present to the School Board.

The trio recommended installing cameras that can be monitored on locked doors and panic buttons with a direct link to the police department. The cost for all five elementary schools is estimated at $100,000.

Although it was a preliminary discussion Monday, we feel these are prudent first steps.

Yes, schools would be more difficult for the community to access. Yes, parents won't be able to walk directly in without a call first. But most importantly— students will be that much safer.

Toso and Hardy agreed that a person bent on getting in a building will get into a building.

At Sandy Hook, the doors were locked and there were cameras. Still, the shooter shot out a window and climbed in. The immediate response by school officials in that time sensitive situation saved many lives.

These initial proposed steps at JPS are ones in the right direction, as students' safety should be the strongest priority.

The school district should also develop a long-term plan with more security improvement ideas for all the district's schools.

It's uncomfortable to think about, but also necessary.

As Allen said, we don't want an incident to dictate what choices we need to make.

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Grand Forks Herald, Grand Forks, Feb. 26, 2013

Lawmakers, keep eyes on the FAA's prize

Between the start of the North Dakota House's debate about the privacy implications of drones and today, something changed.

That something was the Federal Aviation Administration's Feb. 14 call for applications from facilities that want to become one of six drone test sites around America.

Grand Forks is in the running, and the region's chances are good. It's worth local government and business leaders' best efforts: Being named a test site could well be one of the biggest boosts to the valley's economy in the region's entire history.

But here's the thing: The competition is going to be tough — and a state law that tightly regulates drone use could hurt the Grand Forks area's chances.

That info comes from the source — namely, the FAA's "Unmanned Aircraft Systems Test Site Selection" document. The following is from the 69-page document's Section 9.2.3.1.14:

"Applicants that declare there are no local/state statutes limiting aircraft operations within the proposed Test Site area would be scored highest."

The North Dakota Senate should keep such provisions in mind as it considers House Bill 1373. A few days ago, the House passed the bill, which requires law enforcement to get a warrant before using drones for surveillance on citizens.

An amendment says the bill "may not be constructed to limit, constrain or adversely impact testing and operations of a state test range under the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012."

If the bill becomes law, then without a doubt, that clause will ease many of the FAA's concerns.

But will it ease all of them? That's the issue the Senate should consider.

Senators should hear testimony on the subject, then decide whether it's worth delaying action on a drone-privacy law until after September, when the FAA's site-selection decision is expected.

Don't take the Herald's word for this. Here's an excerpt from a recent story in The Washington Times:

"The sector's leading trade group, the Association of Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI), is sensitive to rising privacy concerns, but also fears states may be sabotaging their own ability to cash in on the drone revolution.

"'Depending on the provisions of specific state legislation, state officials may be working at cross-purposes — working to attract (drone) jobs on the one hand while, on the other, working to kill the job-creation potential of the technology,' said AUVSI spokeswoman Melanie Hinton. 'We would encourage officials in all states, and especially those seeking test sites, to work collaboratively to ensure that state legislation doesn't undermine the job-creation potential of unmanned aircraft or a particular state's ability to compete for a test site.'"

An AUVSI spokesman told the Chincoteague (Va.) Chamber of Commerce the same thing, Gannett News Service reports. Pending drone legislation in the Virginia General Assembly could be "a major stumbling block" to becoming a test site, he said, and added, "It would essentially stop for Virginia the creation of around 2,400 jobs."

Congress, too, is addressing drone-privacy concerns; and sooner or later, all 50 states also seem likely to do so. But are the concerns so urgent that they must be addressed by the North Dakota Legislature in the next few weeks?

Odds are that the answer is no. But if it's yes, then lawmakers must take great care that the result doesn't hurt North Dakota's chances of being named a test site.

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Bismarck Tribune, Bismarck, Feb. 28, 2013

Confiscated animals finding homes

Twenty-two mules confiscated from a Morton County ranch will be sold at a public auction on Saturday. They are among the 119 horses, mules and donkeys belonging to William Kiefer and removed from his property northwest of New Salem in January. The animals suffered from malnutrition and related ailments, and 96 animals were dead.

Another 38 animals belonging to Kiefer were confiscated at the same time in Burleigh County. Three horses were found dead there.

It has been an awful business.

Hopefully, the sale of the mules will provide good homes.

All of the animals confiscated by Burleigh County have been adopted, as well as many from the Morton County group. Those animals that were in the worst condition — 16 in number — are still being cared for by Triple H Miniature Horse Rescue. People in the community with the means and space to take these animals have stepped up. Thank you.

It's no small thing. The high price of hay this winter itself can be a burden.

The former owner of the animals has been charged with five counts of overworking, mistreating or abandoning animals in Morton County, and four similar counts in Burleigh County. They are all Class A misdemeanors. An animal welfare bill now in the North Dakota Legislature, would increase the penalty for this kind of neglect, as well as set out the process for intervention.

Senate Bill 2211, which represents well-developed legislation, should be passed by the North Dakota House and signed into law by Gov. Jack Dalrymple.

Kiefer is to make a court appearance on the Morton County charges next week and on the Burleigh County charges March 20. He has been silent about the condition of the animals, their confiscation and how it was allowed to happen.

But happen it did, and people have responded to the plight of the abused animals.

The two sheriffs' offices, Triple H Miniature Horse Rescue and the public, through donations to help pay to feed and board for the animals and in adopting animals, pulled together to address the needs of the horses, donkeys and mules.

The cause is sad and unfortunate, but the response from people here and around the country has truly been great.

The sale of the mules will take place at Triple H Miniature Horse Rescue, 4747 22nd Ave., Mandan. Viewing of the mules will be from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., with the sale beginning at 1 p.m.

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The Dickinson Press, Dickinson, Feb. 28, 2013

Parents have the right to discuss guns in school

Guns have always been a huge part of life for those of us who live in the west. We hunt, target shoot and keep guns for self-defense that hopefully will never be needed.

There are countless bills in the state Legislature that are designed to protect our Second Amendment rights and allow for a citizen's response to mass shootings that have plagued our country. Most of the bills are probably not needed and a waste of our legislators' time, but it plays well to the majority of North Dakotans, and for the most part they are harmless.

The exception is House Bill 1215 that would allow school districts to arm teachers, administrators, janitors or guards.

Now we want to be perfectly clear, we are not against doing everything possible to protect our children, and if that means arming adults at school, so be it.

The dangerous part of the bill is that school districts can decide to arm people at the schools without any input or review of the process from the parents who entrust their children to the schools. The bill's sponsors argue that they must keep the discussion closed to the public so those armed are kept secret in an attempt to thwart would-be shooters who won't know who is armed.

The discussion of if schools are going to have armed staff should be reviewed by parents and can easily be done without identifying who will be armed. What level of firearm proficiency should the defenders possess?

Having armed staff at a school is a huge step, and must be open for public scrutiny. Keeping the discussion private is dangerous and sets a precedent anytime there is an important issue where there could be different points of view or dissention. Will the Legislature allow schools or other government entities to simply close the meeting?

Citizens don't need our elected officials treating us like we don't know what is in our best interest. Government absolutely works best when it is open for review of the people who it represents.

The House passed the bill this week and now it goes to the Senate. Hopefully common sense will prevail, and the bill will be defeated, amended or vetoed by the governor should it make it past the Senate.

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