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Rules for remote voting, remote testifying, could be revisited by ND Legislative leaders

Legislative rules adopted during the COVID-19 pandemic allowed lawmakers to participate remotely, if they were quarantined.

The rules also allowed remote testimony in committees.

Some federal COVID relief money allowed the Legislature to put cameras and sound gathering in committee hearing rooms and on the House and Senate floors, as well as the ability for people working outside the Capitol to either testify in committee, or if Legislative members, could cast votes via the Internet.

Those rules have expired. But Legislative leaders say there have been some discussions about reinstating those rules.

"At the end of the organizational session (in December), we had several Legislators that tested positive for COVID," said Sen. Majority Leader David Hogue (R-Minot). "While we had an initial thought that it was not going to be a concern, it clearly was."

Hogue said the Senate will be prepared to re-implement those rules, if COVID becomes and issue in the upcoming session.

As for people testifying remotely on bills, Hogue said that will be left to the discretion of the chairs of each of the committees.

"But certainly, they will have the ability, and we will have the technical assistance, to allow people to testify remotely," Hogue said.

House Majority Leader Mike Lefor (R-Dickinson) agreed. Lefor said while he hopes lawmakers will be in Bismarck to participate and cast votes in person, he’s keeping an open mind about it.

"Sometimes, these things are fluid," Lefor said. "So we have to keep our minds open to it, in case something crops up, and we have to change the rules."

And Lefor said it will be up to the House committee chairman to allow remote testimony.

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