Politics & Government

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."

Oil tax allocation bill 'premature,' says House

Feb 15, 2017

The House has rejected a bill dealing with oil tax distribution to local governments in the oil patch, saying it’s premature to approve it.

Opponents say the issue will come back in the second half of the session – after the new March revenue forecast. That forecast is to be released March 9th. Rep. Jason Dockter (R-Bismarck) said that forecast will allow big decisions like this to go forward.

Speed limit bill for I-94 and I-29 fails in the Senate

Feb 15, 2017

The state Senate has rejected a bill to raise the speed limits on I-94 and I-29 to 80 miles an hour.

Before the vote was taken, the Senate approved amendments that would more than double the fines for speeding on highways posted for 55 or higher speeds. Under it, the base fine goes from $5 to $50, plus $10 for every mile per hour over the limit.

Sen. Bill Bowman (R-Bowman) proposed the higher fines, once the bill was heard in the Appropriations Committee.

Senate rejects bill to limit bill introductions

Feb 14, 2017
Courtesy ND Legislature

The state Senate has overwhelmingly rejected a measure that would have limited each Legislator to seven bills per Legislative session.

That’s despite a 3 to 2 “do pass” recommendation from the Senate’s Government and Veterans Affairs Committee. Supporters said it would save money by cutting back on the days lawmakers are in session.

Courtesy ND Legislature

A bill introduced because of Dakota Access Pipeline protesters blocking highways has failed in the House.

The bill said a driver who “unintentionally” causes injury or death to a person intentionally blocking a roadway would not be charged.

One of the measure’s co-sponsors – Rep. Mike Brandenburg (R-Edgeley) -- said things have changed in the state since the Dakota Access protests began. Brandenburg told his House colleagues the protesters have blocked roads, pounded on cars trying to get through, and they're scaring people.