Legislative Update, Week 12 or where we are at after 54 days
Session continues to grind on. Most of the bills that have crossed over from their chamber of origin have been heard and if they haven't yet been acted upon, will be soon. We are quietly entering the "third period" of the hockey game analogy, conference committee. To recap, first period is when all bills are introduced. Second is when the passed bills cross the hall, leaving their chamber of origin to be worked on and voted on by the opposite chamber. Both first period and second have defined start dates signaling a rush of activity. Third period is a bit unique - it's a subtle shift due to the ongoing activity that has been occurring in both chambers.
Bills that pick up alterations, or amendments, following their initial chamber's passage don't fast track to the Governor for signage. Instead, they must be reviewed again by their original chamber. Amended bills can move forward via two paths. The chair of the committee that had the first reading of the bill can concur with the amendment(s). If the chair, after additional work and consultation, does not agree with the second chamber's amendment, the bill comes before conference committee. Conference committee is made of three members of each the House of Reps and the Senate. These members are selected by the chairs of the committee that worked on the bill while in their respective chambers. The chair of this new committee comes from the bill's house of origin. They will provide a recommendation forward and the bill will again come before the appropriate body for full vote. The bills are voted on in full if they have changed in any way from the way they left when they were passed on the chamber floor. For example - if the House proposed and passed Bill A and the Senate adds Amendment 3, and the conference committee makes no changes, the House will have to have a fresh floor vote on Bill A, Amendment 3. However, if the committee alters Amendment 3 to be Amendment 5 - the bill would see another day in both chambers. Needless to say, third period is where things can get a bit messy.
ACTED UPON BILLS
HB 1087 Reinsurance Program – This bill extends the invisible reinsurance program for the next biennium. The reinsurance program was implemented during the 2019 legislative session to help stabilize the individual health insurance market and realized a 20% rate reduction in 2020 for enrollees.
This bill passed both the and the Senate and is now on its way to the Governor for signature. GNDC supported this bill this session and in 2019.
SB 2220 Sunday Alcohol Sales – Would allow liquor stores, bars, and restaurants to sell alcohol starting at 8:00 am on Sundays. This aligns with the law for alcohol sales during the rest of the week. GNDC supported this bill.
The bill narrowly passed the Senate and the House but is on its way to the Governor for signature.
HB 1420 Adult Recreational Marijuana – This bill was introduced by the legislature in an effort to head off future initiated measures. The bill would allow adults to purchase, possess and consume small amounts of marijuana legally in the state. Employer protections were added to the bill that would allow businesses to continue to implement drug-free workplaces.
This bill passed the House of Representatives but failed by a large margin in the Senate, 10 yeas, 37 nays. North Dakota citizens will likely have the opportunity to vote on a measure in 2022 on legalizing recreational marijuana. The 2018 recreational marijuana initiated measure failed by nearly 20 points.
BILLS ON OUR AGENDA
HB 1323 Mask Mandate Prohibition – Would prohibit the state or political subdivision from implementing a mask mandate. The bill further describes that wearing a mask or face shield cannot be a condition of entry, education, employment, or service. GNDC did not testify on this bill in the House but will engage in the Senate. There could be some unintended consequences for private businesses working under state or political subdivision contracts. Employee safety is important to employers and in many cases is regulated by OSHA. The lack of definition of masks and face shields in the bill could include personal protective equipment like masks used for painting or protective face shields used when operating a grinder. GNDC is opposed to the bill.
This bill will have a hearing in Senate Political Sub-Divisions on April 1 at 8:30.