In the News…


Students Rally Against Loan Cuts

Grand Forks Herald, May 21, 2006

Recent college graduates communicated their distaste with the student loan program Monday during a student-led rally outside the Bank of North Dakota in Bismarck.

About 25 participants protested tuition hikes, student loan cuts and low wages. Speakers said the problems amount to a lack of leadership by policymakers.

Participants held signs saying, "Don't Cut Student Loans to Give Tax Breaks to Millionaires" and "Stop Making it Worse!" They also called the offices of Gov. John Hoeven, Sen. Kent Conrad, D-N.D., and Rep. Earl Pomeroy, D-N.D., encouraging them to continue supporting "Reverse the Raid on Student Aid," a bill pending in Congress that would cut student loan interest rates in half.

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Can't We Do Better?

High Plains Reader, May 5, 2006


By Ryan Gustafson
Guest Editorial

College is nearly out and students around the state will return home for the summer. Thoughts of next year and the paperwork to come will be the furthest thing from their minds as they contemplate how best to spend their summer vacation.

The furthest thing from the minds of many of our elected officials, however, is how to make college affordable and make it possible for young people to stay in North Dakota after graduating.

A quick review of the rampant hypocrisy surrounding the education debate:

  • The Board of Higher Education pushed through another tuition raise… while the state’s share of higher education funding fell for the third straight year.
  • The Bank of North Dakota made record profits last year… but the bank’s largest holdings are student loans.
  • North Dakota’s average wage is about $28,000… but the average debt carried by a college graduate is $23,000.
  • The federal government cut $12.7 billion from student loans… while the same Republican Congress handed out $90 billion in tax cuts to people who can already afford college.
  • Republican leaders in North Dakota wring their hands and wail about out-migration… but gloat about the $300 million surplus which was built off the repayment of student loans to the Bank of North Dakota.
  • Republican leaders in North Dakota voted against comprehensive renewable energy legislation, a boom industry… at the same time they carried on about their ability to create jobs and attract business.

Can’t we do better?

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Can't We Do Better?

Western Concept, Dickinson State University student newspaper, April 24, 2006


By Staff Writers

As parents and students prepare paperwork for financial aid filings next year, they're finding it more difficult than ever to pay for higher education in North Dakota.


The North Dakota Board of Higher Education recently approved a 9 percent increase in tuition at campuses across the state.


"This creates another roadblock for prospective students," Ryan Gustafson, Communications Director for the North Dakota Progressive Coalition, said. "A good government removes roadblocks - it doesn't make them worse."

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Privacy Worries Motivate Requests to Close Records

Grand Forks Herald (AP), March 12, 2006

North Dakota's sunshine laws assume government records, and meetings of government boards, are open to the public unless part of the meeting, or information in a record, is exempted from the law.

Public agencies have the option of disclosing information that is exempted from the law. Only information that the law deems confidential is barred from public release.

Mark Trechock, director of the Dakota Resource Council, a Dickinson (N.D.)-based landowner and environmental group, said lawmakers should closely examine any requests to close off information held by local or state governments.

"I think the open records law is a great tool for ordinary folks in North Dakota to figure out what is going on," Trechock said. "It's a great tool for people to become engaged in civic affairs, and any attempt to take those rights of access to information away is, to me, really an attack on democracy."


Don Morrison, director of the North Dakota Progressive Coalition, which has monitored feedlot development, said keeping feedlot information confidential as a terrorism safeguard "was one of the more ludicrous arguments that we have heard."

"They really do want to hide from the public the fact that these feedlots are coming," Morrison said. "They don't want the public to be part of the process of finding out information about what is planned, and what is going on."

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Asbestos bill won't help victims

Ed Christensen, The Forum (Fargo), February 18, 2006 

When it comes to matters of illness, we listen to our hearts and look to compassion. Right now, they both are telling me not to trust the proposed Fairness in Asbestos Injury Resolution Act, which should really be named the “Asbestos Bailout Bill.”

Mesothelioma is a type of cancer caused only by asbestos fibers. Public personalities like Warren Zevon and Steve McQueen both died, through no fault of their own, at the hands of this preventable disease. Thousands die unnecessarily each year due to asbestos-related illnesses they should have been protected from years ago.

If the “Asbestos Bailout Bill” goes through, I’m afraid there will come a day when these victims will have to fight mightily to get what they most certainly deserve. To put it simply, the trust fund is inadequate. Not to mention the burdensome claims process will leave thousands without a glimmer of hope.

When I was introduced to politics as a child, I was taught that the lawmaker’s job was to protect us from harm. Yet we are one of only two industrialized countries who have not banned asbestos. What matters most are the rights of the victims. Do not let the asbestos industry’s negligent policies run roughshod over people poisoned by asbestos.

It is a moral imperative that our lawmakers continue to make progress in asbestos public awareness by rejecting this bill. Then they should outright abolish this hazardous material and promote more medical research. That is the only fair resolution.



Alito's opinions draw mixed reactions

By Janell Cole, The Forum (Fargo), January 10, 2006

But the North Dakota Progressive Coalition's Don Morrison said Alito's opinions while on the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals and as part of the Reagan administration show he goes out of his way to favor government and corporate interests over individuals' rights.

The coalition is made up of more than 30 labor, environmental and human rights groups across the state.

"We need to know if we can trust the Supreme Court to uphold the Constitution, to uphold our rights and freedoms and to protect us against illegal power grabs by the president, Congress, and big corporations," Morrison said.

He believes information recently released about "illegal and unconstitutional presidential spying on American citizens" resulted in growing opposition to Alito among Americans. Alito has defended Bush's right to conduct surveillance without a warrant.

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Alito's Nomination Could Hurt North Dakotans Over Time

Erin Entzminger, Letter ot the Editor, Jamestown Sun, January 16, 2006

The potential lifetime appointment of Sam Alito to be Supreme Court Justice will just add another reminder to the extreme partisanship our nation faces. His association with the utmost right Republican operatives does not promote a desirable balance to the highest court.

Alito’s record on standing up for large corporations could end up hurting North Dakotans in the long run. His views show that overcoming economic inequality is not one of his highest priorities. I do not know what the future holds, but I do know a justice in charge of upholding the Constitution, who is biased, is no hero. We need a moderate, one who would be the best choice for everyone, and not just a good choice for corporations and those with power.

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Group Claims Tax Cut Favors the Rich

By Tom Rafferty, Bismarck Tribune, Dec. 9, 2005 

Don Morrison, director of the Progressive Coalition, said congressional leaders are trying to push a tax cut that will do little to create jobs, while creating more hardship for those struggling to pay for medical care and go to college.

Morrison urged North Dakotans to thank the state's congressional delegation for opposing the plan, and to call other members of Congress and the governor to tell them to oppose it.

"We don't have to accept the fact that our leaders want to take from child health care and give to millionaires,"Morrison said.

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Wal-Mart Movie Causes Stir

By Amber Poulson, KFYR-TV Bismarck, Nov. 15, 2005 

Robert Greenwald produced a new movie "WalMart: the High Cost of Low Price". Members of the North Dakota Progressive Coalition debuted the film last night and the scenes caused quite a stir.

Fifteen people gathered in a Bismarck home to get the first look. After seeing the movie many people in the room voiced concerns about all the Supercenters going up around the state.

Rick Pfenning says, "It`s gonna squeeze out all these little stores that I`m so fond of and I`ve grown up with that give this town it`s character. WalMart has no character it`s just a big box that every other town has. It`s not gonna have a little hardware shop and café and little tire store that I go to and the owner lives there and the owner works there every day. I know everyone that works there and if I go to WalMart I`m not gonna have that."

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House Budget Plan Prompts Concern

By Stephen P. Wagner, The Forum (Fargo), Nov. 9, 2005 

Kayla Pulvermacher said she’s worried a proposed federal budget bill will force her two younger brothers to bypass a college education.

The 22-year-old North Dakota State University senior was the first member of her family to attend a four-year school.

Now a budget bill, with debate expected on the U.S. House floor Thursday, could cut $14.3 billion in student loans nationwide while raising fees and interest rates.

Pulvermacher said her family also may see cuts through farm programs.

“It is important to me to see my younger brothers have the same opportunity as me,” she said Tuesday during a news conference called by the North Dakota Progressive Coalition. “They (lawmakers) need to find a different alternative.”

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Student Futures at Stake

By Andrea Johnson, Minot Daily News, Nov. 9, 2005 

MSU junior Mike Sadowsky was one of several students at a press conference to protest the federal budget reconciliation bill. The students say the bill will cut $14 billion from student loan programs and funding from other social programs. A vote on the bill is possible this week in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Sadowski said his student loans don't cover all his bills. He currently works 25 to 30 hours per week to cover rent, food and the tuition not covered by his student loans. He said other students aren't as lucky as he is and could be forced to drop out altogether if their student loans are cut.

"I'm afraid it will price students out of college," he said.

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Sunshine: The Best Antiseptic for Corporate Welfare

By Greg LeRoy of Good Jobs First, Nov. 8, 2005 

The most heart-warming disclosure victory story in years – are you listening, Hollywood? – came last spring in North Dakota, a wall-to-wall “red” state not known for its labor-friendly policies. A dogged grassroots network, the North Dakota Progressive Coalition, capped off a four-year campaign by winning a disclosure law passed by both houses of the legislature and signed by the governor.

The campaign climaxed during a three-week period in February and March when members of the coalition stood outside the state capitol in Bismarck every morning – in blowing snow and temperatures that dipped as low as zero Fahrenheit – creating a gauntlet to leaflet the legislators as they arrived to session.

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Whats the deal with Social Security?

By Don Morrison, Jamestown Sun 7/19/2005


For most of us who work many hours every day and then try to juggle family, kids’ activities, going to school and everything else, it is critically important that Social Security is there when we retire, face a death of a spouse or parent, or become disabled. Can you imagine finding additional time to navigate around the Enrons and Viacoms while we try to not lose money on our Social Security, too?


That’s just what the Bush administration’s plans for Social Security would mean. They are pushing to privatize Social Security, cut benefits and add trillions of dollars to American debt. Thank goodness, Americans aren’t buying it.

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Bill requires subsidy reporting

By Associated Press, 4/12/2005


After a legislative trip that included lengthy delays and clashes between activists and the Senate’s Republican majority leader, senators approved a bill to require companies to disclose how they use taxpayer subsidies.

Under the bill’s terms, most businesses that take taxpayer aid worth at least $25,000 must report the number of jobs they create, and the jobs’ average pay and benefits. It also requires businesses that fall short of their goals to pay back public aid in some cases.

Sen. April Fairfield, D-Eldridge, said the bill was ‘‘not perfect. It’s not even close.’’ But she declared during Senate debate on Monday that it was ‘‘a good place to start.’’

‘‘It affirms what many North Dakotans, including myself, believe

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President’s Social Security plan draws opposition

By James MacPherson, AP, Grand Forks Herald 2/02/2005


BISMARCK, N.D. – A day before President Bush was slated to arrive in north Dakota, union leaders, students, and political activists attacked his plan to restructure Social Security.


“It’s not broke, but his plan will surely break it,” said Don Morrison, director of the North Dakota Progressive Coalition, which represents more than 30 advocacy programs.


Economic development bills heard

By Janell Cole, The Forum 2/01/2005


BISMRCK – Taxpayers deserve to know how many and what kind of jobs their money has paid for is used to lure or expand businesses, sponsors of two economic development bills said Monday.


The House Industry, Business, and Labor Committee put an approval stamp on Gov. John Hoeven’s preferred bill, while a few doors down a Senate committee heard and dispensed one backed by Democrats.


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Election lost, but fight must go on
By Don Morrison, Bismarck Tribune 11/26/2004

Yes, the election hurt. The mountain of injustice just got bigger. But that means the fight for justice just got clearer.

It is clear that, in 2004, hate defeated hope, division trampled on community, greed stomped on justice, and fear spit at freedom.

On Nov. 2, people were elected who will lead the charge to increase the wealth of a few, destroy the dreams of the rest of us, make the world safe for a new kind of slavery, and do it all with ugly religious wedges.

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A Word with John Nichols
By John Strand, High Plains Reader 04/29/2004

John Nichols, national political correspondent with The Nation, was keynote speaker with the North Dakota Progressive Coalition Leadership Council in Fargo. Here is talks about progressives in North Dakota..."the rest of the country could use a good dose of North Dakota common sense."

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Northern Progressive Network Aims for Community Development
By Steve Huenneke, Prarie Classic 02/04 Volume 1 - Issue 2

...North Dakota Senator April Fairfield of Jamestown came through a driving snow to give the keynote address to NPN members. “Being a progressive means saying what you believe,” she told the group.

“If you work full-time in America, you should not be poor,” Fairfield said. The majority of people in North Dakota agree with her, she said. The majority of citizens believe in economic opportunity, economic justice and economic development accountability....

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Workers Urge 'No' Vote On National Asbestos Compensation Bill
By Karen Herzog, Bismarck Tribune 01/14/2004

North Dakota workers who say they have suffered health problems from asbestos exposure in the workplace met Tuesday to urge North Dakota's senators to vote "no" on a bill that they say would delay and drastically cut compensation for workers and families of those hurt or killed by asbestos exposure....

Don Morrison, executive director of the North Dakota Progressive Coalition, called the underlying issue "what is happening to people who were poisoned in the workplace."

...Morrison said the bill "gives a windfall to the corporations who poisoned them in the first place," replacing victims' legal rights with "a new untested national trust fund," which is woefully underfunded, he said. He said companies favoring this bill hope the federal government will then step in and provide the difference.

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Development Loans Could Get A Closer Look
By Patrick Springer, The Forum 01/11/2004

Nobody can say with confidence how many jobs millions of dollars of subsidized low-interest loans have created in North Dakota.

That’s because nobody keeps verified numbers. Nor do state officials make any attempt to track what those jobs pay...

...“How do we know what programs are working if they refuse to allow any information about how the programs are working?” asked Don Morrison, executive director of the North Dakota Progressive Coalition, which lobbies for job requirements and disclosures. “Our point is let’s make sure this works.”

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Legislature Chalks Up 3 Failures
The Forum 02/16/2003

Last week the North Dakota Legislature gave cynics the evidence they needed to conclude that backwards is the state's preferred direction.

...probably the most callous of them all. Lawmakers backed away from demanding more accountability from businesses that receive taxpayer subsidies either to start up or expand. ...We find it peculiar that the Legislature's majority members - usually good stewards of tax dollars - seem to have an accountability blind spot when it comes to giving public subsidies to private companies.

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Public Workers Hold Rally
KXMC News 03/28/2003

Chris Runge says quality public services are critical to the growth of North Dakota and now is not the time to cut money for them.

Runge spoke today at a public employees rally at the Capitol. She is director of the state Public Employees Association. ...Don Morrison is director of the North Dakota Progressive Coalition. ...He says the majority of legislators are not giving enough money to important programs. Morrison says public employees have been asked to sacrifice in bad times and are left out in good times.

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Senate Committee Gives Living Wage Bill 'Do Not Pass' Recommendation
By Tom Rafferty, Minot Daily News 02/07/2001

The Senate Industry, Business and Labor Committee voted 5-2 for a "do not pass" recommendation on a bill that would require businesses that receive state economic development money to pay full-time employees more than poverty wages...

...Lee Peterson, director of the Department of Economic Development and Finance, said the bill is just another attempt to legislate wages...

...However, Gail Erickson, project manager of the North Dakota Progressive Coalition, said the focus of economic development in North Dakota needs to shift from the idea of creating a high number of jobs to creating quality jobs.

"A living wage bill would help shift the focus of our economic development away from just creating jobs and toward actually building wealth in our population base," Erickson said. "I think we have to move on from the idea that any job is good enough."

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