State looks at changes to elections, EMS system

By  | 

BISMARCK, N.D. - The Government Administration committee has two major issues to solve before the next legislative session. First is the possibility of city and county elections moving to November. Second, how will rural ambulance services stay afloat?

In the interim session, legislators wanted to see if they could save money in elections and they need to find a way to fund an EMS system without creating gaps in coverage.

If the legislature tries to move local elections to November, it's going to have opposition.

"There isn't going to be a cost savings by moving some of the election candidates or issues to November when the election in June still has to happen,” said Rep. Scott Louser, R-Minot.

A legislative study is looking at moving city and school board elections to November. The belief is that this would increase voter turnout and save money, but both of these points came back inconclusive. Louser says a bill won't change voter habits.

"It's crucial that every primary election season in June and every general election season in November, people are informed and they vote,” said Louser.

The committee also has to find a balance between EMS coverage across the state and funding.

"Many many ambulance services are just two good volunteers from being in a critical staffing crisis,” said Patrick Tracy, Maddock Ambulance Service.

The North Dakota Department of Health says one option is quick response units. The units would be made up of emergency medical responders, who need less training than an EMT.

"There would be a reduction ultimately in the number of transporting ambulance services in order to basically meet the needs of the system, but an increase in the number of quick response units,” said NDDoH Section Chief Tim Wiedrich.

Both Tracy and Wiedrich say in some places it works, but there's no consensus yet. ND EMS Association President Jim Restemayer said, "They are willing to work with the department on a plan to meet the needs of the individual services and providers across the state."