Legislative Update, Week Six
As the legislature prepares for the crossover of bills from their house of origin on February 24th, both the House and the Senate are spending more time in floor sessions and less time in committee hearings. This week, some House and Senate committees began hearing bills that have already passed on the other side. Legislators are working hard to stay ahead of schedule in the hope of saving some of the maximum eighty days for later in the biennium.
The Senate voted to pass SB 2134, a bill that came out of the Energy & Natural Resources Committee with a Do Pass recommendation. The bill clarified who owns the minerals located underneath Lake Sakakawea and the Missouri River, resolving years of fruitless litigation and returning minerals to their rightful owners.
This week, the Senate Human Services Committee held a public hearing on SB 2344, a bill designed to implement the medical marijuana ballot initiative that passed last year. As written, the language on the ballot is missing important details. For instance, the ballot measure included no decriminalization language, meaning that patients would have no protection from being arrested for their lawful use of medical marijuana. SB 2344 is designed to help the Health Department implement what the voters decided, making these necessary revisions. The public hearing was the start of a long legislative process, and the Senate is working toward crafting the best solution while respecting the will of the people.
A few topics that have garnered some media interest were heard on the floor this week. The bill proposing consolidating North Dakota under one timezone and exempting the state from Daylight Savings Time failed, putting the contentious issue to rest. In addition, the statewide prohibition on parking meters was repealed, leaving the decision up to local political subdivisions.
A refugee resettlement bill, that brings the state of North Dakota and local communities to be part of the discussion on their capacity for how many refugees they are able to support. The committee heard many heartfelt testimonies from refugees and ultimately decided to turn this bill into a legislative study that will be done during the interim. It was a great compromise for both those for and against this bill.
On Friday, February 10th, the house voted on the sexual orientation bill. This bill has been brought forward several sessions now and continues to get a red vote. Those opposed to this bill do not believe in creating special-class protections, and that no one should be discriminated against, regardless of sexual orientation.
Another hearing that was filled with supporters and those in opposition, was the “Food Freedom Bill” which would allow those who make homemade goods to sell in the stores, along with products like raw milk. This is illegal federally, so there will continue to be a lot of debate on this topic before it goes to the House floor for a vote.