67th Leg Assembly Update: Week 1
The first week of the 67th Legislative Session started off with the swearing-in of North Dakota’s newly elected statewide officials and Governor Burgum’s State of the State Address. The Governor’s address focused on COVID-19 response and economic diversification, which closely mirrored his budget address in December. The legislature started its official work on Wednesday, January 6, and began hearing testimony on bills.
The Greater North Dakota Chamber (GNDC) began the session by reviewing the 333 bills that were submitted the first week and deciding based on our policy positions their importance and determining our stance. To see what bills are important to the business community, check out our advocacy page.
Here are two key bills that we are were heard in committee the first week.
SB 2064 was submitted by the Industrial Commission to add “responsible corporate officer” to the definition of a “person” in the Gas and Oil Resources chapter of North Dakota Century Code (N.D.C.C.). Director Lynn Helms explained the need due to two claims that were unable to be satisfied through the Corporation. This change would provide a tool to address these issues in the future. Helms also noted this is needed to combat issues arising from only 1% of operators in the state. GNDC strongly opposed this change and testified in opposition at the hearing. This law change is a bridge too far and would have significant negative impacts on all operators, It is only needed in a minimal number of cases. The word “person” is utilized in numerous chapters in state statute and raises a red flag - why this change in this specific chapter and how could this change potentially migrate into other laws later. Corporations are specifically set-up to protect their officers from liability; this change would send the wrong message to the business community.
No committee action has been taken.
HB 1084 was submitted by Workforce Safety and Insurance (WSI). This bill adds recreational marijuana to the list of substances that if found in an individual’s system would make an injured worker ineligible for workers compensation benefits. This is also true if the individual consumed recreational marijuana legally, in a state where recreational marijuana is legal. Additionally, this bill addresses the cost of copies, willful omission of information in a false claim, and other clean-up language in the statute. WSI brought this bill to our attention early in the process and we provided supporting testimony in the hearing.
No committee action has been taken.
To give options for testimony and ensure public involvement in the legislature during the pandemic, virtual options have been implemented. Committee chairs seem to be adapting well and have received testimony virtually. Even with these options available, people are still at the Capitol participating in the process. GNDC is participating both in-person and virtually to ensure we have the needed coverage on issues affecting the business community. The legislature is mandating masks when social distancing cannot be achieved and rapid COVID-19 testing is available for legislators, legislative staff, and lobbyists to keep people safe.
These weekly updates will continue throughout Session. We also have scheduled a HalfTime Report, March 9 at 2:00 PM, to provide a comprehensive update to members on business-related legislation - registration is now open.
If an issue matters to you or you would like to testify on a bill reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org.