5 things to know today: LGBTQ advocates, Session birth, Budget framework, Permission slips, Kevin O'Leary
A select rundown of stories found on InForum.
1. 'Day of visibility' brings LGBTQ advocates to North Dakota Capitol
From the Bismarck Tribune via Forum News Service
Audin Rhodes found it difficult to testify for the first time in front of a North Dakota legislative panel on Tuesday.
Rhodes, who identifies as trans-nonbinary, opposed a bill restricting schools' transgender student accommodations such as for restrooms, one of roughly a dozen bills in the Republican-run Legislature opponents say would restrict trans people in society.
"I felt like I was very vulnerable and like I was exposed, and I just feel so desperate to try and make these people understand that trans people are people, trans girls are girls, trans boys are boys, nonbinary people exist. We're here," said Rhodes, who uses the pronouns they and them.
Rhodes, 28, grew up in Velva, with little access to a "visible queer community" before attending college in Wisconsin, when "I was able to see myself reflected in others" and joined a gay/straight alliance and met other trans people "living loud and proud."
Rhodes was one of many people who participated Tuesday in an LGBTQ lobby day at the state Capitol, where lawmakers this session have dealt with a slew of transgender-related bills that supporters say would protect youth and females in such realms as restrooms, school sports, and other places and activities.
The bills this session -- which include ones criminalizing gender-affirming health care for minors, restricting trans people in school athletics, and limiting vital statistics data collection -- made Rhodes feel "a lot of anger and anxiety and fear," which led them to testify, to "do something productive."
Rhodes, of Minot, hopes lawmakers "see that trans and nonbinary people are here, and it's our home, too."
2. North Dakota lawmaker welcomes newborn son during session
From the Bismarck Tribune via Forum News Service
State Sen. Jordan Kannianen had a busy time during the legislative session last week -- when a son was born.
Kannianen, R-Stanley, and his wife, Elizabeth, welcomed son James Herbert on Thursday morning at CHI St. Alexius Health in Bismarck.
The baby was 22½ inches long and weighed 10 pounds, 8 ounces. His name honors Kannianen's late grandfather, Herbert Jacob, and uncle, Herbert James.
He was born four days after Kannianen's grandmother died, and the baby attended her funeral -- "a little bit of the circle of life there, I guess," Kannianen said.
"It was a full week for us, having the birth and then having the funeral," he said.
Kannianen, 39, is an electrical contractor and lumberyard owner. He chairs the Senate Finance and Taxation Committee, and was gone Thursday and Friday for James' birth.
James Herbert is his parents' 12th child.
3. Walz, DFL lawmakers reach agreement on budget framework, with room for 'nice-sized checks'
Gov. Tim Walz and Democratic-Farmer-Labor legislative leaders have arrived at a framework for the state budget over the next two years: $17.9 billion on top of the more than $50 billion base budget.
DFL elected leaders on Tuesday, March 21, announced that they reached an agreement that includes $2.2 billion in additional funding for K-12 education, $2.3 billion for infrastructure projects and more than $3 billion for tax cuts and credits. The record surplus, more than $17 billion, will be used to support the spending and tax cuts.
Typically, Minnesota government control is divided between Democrats and Republicans, meaning deals don’t often emerge until much later in the legislative session. But with the DFL now in complete control of state government, they’ve been moving at a feverish pace on their priorities.
“As I said on Jan. 3 in the inaugural address, the era of gridlock is over,” said Walz, standing with House Speaker Melissa Hortman and Senate President Bobby Joe Champion at the governor's reception room at the Capitol. “This agreement moves us one step closer to ending childhood poverty. It invests in our families, it invests in workforce, it invests in infrastructure, roads and bridges.”
Work on the targets started in November immediately after the election, leaders said.
“Too often you have seen in the past that the leaders take a really long time to get a budget target to the chairs and to the members of the Legislature,” said Hortman at a press briefing announcing the framework. “The reason why we have an early joint target to announce today is because Minnesotans voted for Democratic leadership.”
Read more from the Forum News Service's Alex Derosier
4. Permission slip for 'Romeo and Juliet'? ND bill would regulate K-12 lessons on romance, sex
A bill moving through North Dakota’s legislative pipeline would task school boards with developing a policy to require written parental permission before K-12 students receive instruction on a wide range of topics, including sexual orientation and romantic relationships.
Conservative backers of the proposal say it would cement the rights of parents in state law, but educators and school board members contend that the broad language of the bill would hinder classroom instruction and place an unmanageable burden on teachers.
“To be entirely honest, (the bill) will push many caring and devoted educators out of the profession because at its core it’s centering so many people over the top of the student, who should really be our primary focus,” said Minot high school teacher Chris Brown.
The six-page Senate Bill 2260 asserts that schools and other government entities cannot infringe on “the fundamental right of a parent to direct the upbringing, education, health care, and mental health” of a child.
The legislation, which the Senate advanced last month, would mandate that school boards create rules for obtaining written parental permission before students attend “any instruction or presentation that relates to gender roles or stereotypes, gender identity, gender expression, sexual orientation, or romantic or sexual relationships.”
Parents would be able to withdraw their children from instruction they believe is “harmful,” which can include presentations on “sex, morality, or religion.” The bill also would open up a legal avenue for aggrieved parents to sue schools for violating the provisions.
Read more from Forum News Service's Jeremy Turley
5. Kevin O’Leary discusses FTX collapse, his fondness for North Dakota and ‘no-go’ investment states
“Shark Tank” star Kevin O’Leary was in Fargo Tuesday, March 21, to highlight his work with North Dakota’s Wonder Fund. As part of his visit, O’Leary sat down with the InForum Business Beat Podcast to discuss the fund, his personal investments in the state and what makes North Dakota stand out to investors.
Listen to full audio here, and read on below for highlights from O'Leary's appearance.
To lead the podcast, O’Leary addressed his role as a spokesperson for failed cryptocurrency exchange FTX and his recent criticism of the collapse of Silicon Valley Bank. O’Leary willingly admitted to losing $18 million on FTX, however he said a different standard will be applied while he is in charge of the Wonder Fund. “When I invest other people’s money, it’s a higher standard. I can’t take that kind of risk,” O’Leary explained.
The Wonder Fund consists of $45 million in taxpayer dollars used to invest in growing businesses that are based in North Dakota or plan to relocate to the state, O’Leary explained. The fund made its first deal in recent weeks, a $1.25 million investment in LandTrust, which promised to open a base of operations in Fargo.