Politics & Government

House passes 'shared parenting' bill

21 hours ago
Courtesy ND Legislature

The House has passed a “shared parenting” bill that supporters say is much better than the initiated measures voters rejected.

The bill says there is a “rebuttable presumption” that divorced parents should equally share custody of their children. The bill says it could be 50-50, but could be as low a percentage as 65-35. But Rep. Shannon RoersJones (R-Fargo) said the judge will still have the final say concerning custody.

Higher Ed budget bill passes Senate

21 hours ago
Courtesy ND Legislature

The state Senate has approved the University System’s budget.

It’s a $65 million reduction in general fund spending from the 2015-2017 biennium.

"It's a large decrease," said Sen. Ray Holmberg (R-Grand Forks), the chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee. "But I think with good leadership at the campus level, and at the board level, they can continue to grow."

House rejects further limits on weaponizing drones

22 hours ago
Courtesy ND Legislature

The House has rejected a bill to prohibit law enforcement from using less lethal and non-lethal weapons on drones.

Two years ago, the Legislature prohibited the use of lethal weapons on drones.

The bill’s sponsor – Rep. Rick Becker (R-Bismarck) – said North Dakota was the first state in the country to allow any kind of weapons on those unmanned aerial vehicles. He told the House allowing weapons removes what he calls the “humanity” of law enforcement officers.

Courtesy Lynn Helms

North Dakota Mineral Resources Director Lynn Helms believes the state needs to rethink how it handles sales taxes in revenue forecasting.

Helms said during the oil boom, sales tax rose rapidly – and as things slowed in the oil patch, sales tax collections dropped.

"Of course, there was the materials that go into wells when they're drilled, and the materials that go into hydraulic fracturing," Helms said in an interview. "Those two things will come back when drilling activity increases."

House passes refugee study

Feb 21, 2017

The House has approved a study of refugee resettlement in North Dakota.

As originally proposed, the measure would have determined a community’s capacity to absorb refugees, and would have allowed a community to put a moratorium on accepting refugees. In North Dakota, three cities – Fargo, Bismarck and Grand Forks – have refugee resettlement programs. The bill was amended to call for a study of the effects refugees have on the state of North Dakota, and the role the state should have in the program.

Rep. Mary Schneider (D-Fargo) asked that the bill be rejected.

House passes substantial increase in littering fine

Feb 21, 2017
Courtesy ND Legislature

The House has passed a bill raising the fine for littering from $100 to $500.

Supporters say it sends a message to people to refrain from dumping garbage in highway ditches. They say the oil boom has caused an uptick in littering.

Rep. Denton Zubke (R-Watford City) said US 85 in western North Dakota was filled with all sorts of garbage. And he's hoping the bill will deter some of that.

Medical Marijuana bill clears another hurdle

Feb 21, 2017
Courtesy ND Legislature

The state Senate has approved amendments to the Medical Marijuana bill.

As originally proposed, the hill would not have allowed smoking marijuana. But the amendments spell out the idea that with a doctor’s permission, a patient can smoke from the leaves and flowers of the plant.

"Leafs and flowers? That's pot," said Sen. Oley Larson (R-Minot). "That's not medicine."

Larson had proposed allowing people to smoke “hash resin” instead.

Courtesy ND Legislature

The state Senate has voted to take the environmental functions now in the state Health Department, and put them in a new state agency – the Department of Environmental Quality.

It wouldn’t happen until January,2019 – and only if federal agencies sign off on the new department. It would affect about 170 people who now work for the division. And it would become a Cabinet agency – meaning the Governor would appoint the agency’s director.

Education groups tout "innovation bill"

Feb 17, 2017
Dave Thompson / Prairie Public

Lawmakers are considering a bill allowing school districts to adopt new and innovative teaching techniques.

It has unanimously passed the Senate – and now awaits House approval. It would require school districts to develop plans with teacher and public input, and submit their ideas to the Department of Public Instruction for approval.

The state Senate has rejected a bill calling for a study of having state lawmakers undergo cultural competency training.

Originally, the bill required 8 hours of such training. And the sponsors said it was to help legislators understand the Native American culture. But the Senate Government and Veterans Affairs Committee turned it into a study.

"Many of us in the committee felt the intentions for the bill were to give legislators information they may be interested in," said Sen. Shawn Vedaa (R-Velva). "However, to require it is overstepping legislation."