Heitkamp attends POA conferenceU.S. Senate Democratic candidate Heidi Heitkamp was in Jamestown Wednesday evening as the keynote speaker at the annual North Dakota Peace Officers Association barbeque at the Stutsman County Fairgrounds.
By: Ben Rodgers, The Jamestown Sun
U.S. Senate Democratic candidate Heidi Heitkamp was in Jamestown Wednesday evening as the keynote speaker at the annual North Dakota Peace Officers Association barbeque at the Stutsman County Fairgrounds.
Heitkamp is no stranger to law enforcement, having served as North Dakota’s 28th attorney general from 1993 to 2001.
“I’m going to catch up with some of the guys known for years and years and find out what the current issues are,” Heitkamp said before the barbeque.
She knows of problems in the Oil Patch with attracting and retaining law enforcement officers. She also said there is a growing concern over violent crimes with last Saturday’s homicide at a Tioga, N.D., man camp.
“That has the heightened awareness that we can’t be policing the Oil Patch with the same amount of resources we’ve had in the past,” Heitkamp said.
In this part of the state, Heitkamp also expressed concern over synthetic drugs with two overdoses in Grand Forks. A 17-year-old and 18-year-old in the Northern Red River Valley died from an overdose of synthetic hallucinogens in June.
She praised law enforcement for taking advantage of federal grants to bolster forces.
“I think North Dakota has always done the Byrne grants right because they look at what could be helpful using those monies statewide and then looking at the individual departments and trying to build capacity through one-time expenditures as opposed to building budgets overall,” Heitkamp said.
Heitkamp had some praise and some changes she wanted to see in the overhaul of health care in America.
“We need to be extraordinarily careful because I know Congressman (Rick) Berg has talked on and on and on about repealing and replacing, and what I’m saying is there are provisions in the Affordable Care Act that are unique to North Dakota that will never be passed again,” she said.
Some of those include eliminating the restriction of pre-existing conditions, closing the Medicare part D donut hole but primarily keeping the Frontier Amendment.
The Frontier Amendment evens the playing field on reimbursements for health care providers. Over the course of 10 years it’s projected to bring North Dakota hospitals and clinics $650 million.
“I will challenge anyone who tells me that you can repeal the Affordable Care Act and get the Frontier Amendment passed as a standalone — it won’t happen,” Heitkamp said.
She does oppose the mandate to purchase health insurance because it assumes people aren’t buying it because they don’t want to, which is one reason to look at affordability.
The AHCA also doesn’t reward intervention programs that could reduce the cost of health care down the road.
The amount spent on health care in the U.S. is closing in on 20 percent of gross domestic product, she said. The inflation curve appears to be growing and for Heitkamp that’s unacceptable.
“We have to look at ways we can keep people healthier, use less health care and keep quality health care at an affordable price in our country,” she said.
The top priority for Heitkamp is “getting our fiscal house in order,” she said.
“We cannot continue to spend money that we don’t have on things we don’t need,” she said.
One way Heitkamp wants to eventually limit spending is by making an investment in affordable and reliable domestic energy production.
She also wants to make educational opportunities available for more children and keep children healthier while protecting Medicare and Social Security.
A farm bill that provides a safety net is another priority for the Senate hopeful.
Heitkamp does see eye-to-eye with challenger on Rep. Rick Berg on EPA regulations regarding North Dakota energy production, with Great River Energy as an example.
“I totally agree with Rep. Berg especially as it relates to the Spiritwood plant,” Heitkamp said. “EPA needs to get moving and we’ve been doing everything we can to encourage that movement.
“So I don’t disagree with him at all, I think this is exactly the type of facility EPA should be promoting and not putting their thumb on in terms of stopping progress.”
She also has three ideas for encouraging population growth in a state with thousands of job openings.
“… We have to take a serious look at affordable housing because a lot of reasons why you aren’t seeing folks come to North Dakota is that they can’t find affordable housing, and I know your inventory is down here in Jamestown in terms of what people can expect,” Heitkamp said.
If the state wants to grow, more specifically out west, she said there needs to be access to quality day care and more educational opportunities for children as well as affordable housing.
Sun reporter Ben Rodgers can be reached at 701-952-8455
or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org