HB 1175: COVID19 Liability Protection
HB 1175, which passed in the House of Representatives, begins work on the Senate side on March 10th. Its path begins with the Senate Industry, Business and Labor Committee.
HB 1175 specifically offers:
- Protection for business owners, property owners and tenants from frivolous civil liability lawsuits who acted in good faith and followed COVID-19 applicable laws, regulations and orders
- Civil accountability for business owners, property owners, and tenants if they acted with malice and/or total disregard of the laws during the COVID-19 pandemic
- Protection for health care facilities and providers who responded quickly with uncertain guidance and limited resources
- Help to manufacturers that adapted quickly to meet pandemic demands and produced PPE, ventilators, hand sanitizer, and/or other health-related products that were outside normal production lines
- Protection to independent contractors, employees, school, churches, and the general public
We expect swift action on this bill and anticipate a floor vote soon. This bill has a current active emergency clause, giving it instant authority of law as soon as it receives the Governor's signature.
FURTHER READING: One-sheeter
REP. MICHAEL HOWE
GNDC sat down with bill sponsor Rep. Michael Howe to discuss an update on 1175 and also report on other ongoings at the Capitol.
GNDC: Why is this legislation important? Why have you championed and sponsored this HB 1175?
Rep. Howe: Business needs to get back to normal – this is the first step. Business owners and leaders need to know the state is there to support and protect them. They are the economic engines – providing employment to citizens and driving our economy. They were shutdown in May and have since opened with hesitancy but now in order to support themselves, their workers, and the state – they need to open and run at full operations with necessity.
We know Governor Burgum will sign 1175 and it passed through the House of Representatives with the emergency clause intact. Congress should have done this in 2020 as the pandemic damaged consumer and business confidence. Instead, we had to wait until our State Legislature was in Session this past January. When you couple the vaccine and this legislation – these are two giant steps towards normalcy. North Dakota needs that.
What are you hearing about this bill? Why should the Senate make it a priority?
While I’ve heard from trial attorneys who have expressed concern, my concern lies with the businesses that have contacted us. Attorneys pursuing frivolous lawsuits will lose work but North Dakota cannot lose business. Bad actors will still be punished for ill intentions and this bill isn’t taking away any individual rights or removing the responsibility of business to further provide and promote safety in their establishments. North Dakota is a pro-business state. The Senate will begin their work on this bill almost a year to the day on when the virus impacted our state – they will see– like the House saw – that this is needed, common-sense legislation that furthers North Dakota.
1431 – The infrastructure bonding bill – is one that you’ve been openly supportive of – how would business benefit from the passage of this legislation?
This bill provides certainty to business through infrastructure development. Businesses need consistency in business costs – insurance, for example, or in building and structure security. This bill looks at the big picture and business that are here or are considering relocation will know that certainty can be provided to them and their workforce. I am the most passionate about the funding for the Agriculture Products Development Center at NDSU. I have worked on legislation like this in the past. Ag and energy are vital to the economy and serve as a foundation for all development in our state. This building will go beyond its wall and serve as a mainstay for furthering our economy and trade opportunities. This development will take our agriculture infrastructure beyond the 21st Century.
Let’s talk technology for this session, what do you think of the changes that have been brought forth?
Prior to the pandemic, North Dakota held a high level of transparency in government. These changes have further amplified it. Legislative Council did a fantastic job of implementing these changes including the livestreams, recordings, and the ability to provide written testimony. That component is huge. I personally feel this is an advantage as I’ve been able to better communicate messages and happenings to my constituents. I will go toe-to-toe with anyone that doesn’t think our state is the most open and accessible government in the nation.