Legislative Update: Week 3
Week three brings forth a few legislative deadlines, which continues to set the pace of the session. The deadline has passed for the House of Representatives to introduce bills and the Senate’s deadline was January 25th. In the coming days, GNDC will review these final submitted bills to fully grasp all the potential legislation that will have an effect on the business community. As of now, we are tracking over 225 bills of the 788 bills that have been introduced. Here is some of the action we weighed in on this past week as well as a quick snapshot of a few others we are keeping an eye on.
SB 2188 is a bill that would preempt a local sub-division from regulating or banning the sale of a legal product. Across the country, some cities have placed additional regulations or restrictions on the sale of consumer merchandise and products. Business should have the freedom to sell any legal product that meets the demands of their customers. If debate around the sale of certain products needs to happen, they should be done at the state or federal level to limit the patchwork of rules and regulations a business needs to comply with. This bill does not restrict these discussions from happening just ensures they happen at the state level. GNDC testified in support of this bill.
The committee has not taken any action.
HB 1262 attempted to expand the rights of whistleblowers in the event they report an employer violating a government health or safety policy or rule or other significant workplace threat in response to a public health emergency. The bill sponsors had good intentions for the purpose of this bill, but it had unintended consequences and whistleblowers already have protections in law. The language “policy, rule, and other significant workplace threat”, used in the bill is vague and doesn’t give the employer the true metrics to implement policy. When the mask mandate was issued by the State Health Officer and Executive Orders were issued by the Governor, those had the power of law and fits the current language in statute. Current law already provides whistleblower protections in the event an employer is in violation or suspected violation of federal, state, or local law, ordinance, regulation, or rule. This bill was not needed and GNDC testified in opposition because of the previously mentioned reasons, the House Industry, Business, and Labor Committee voted to forward on a do not pass recommendation to the full House of Representatives.
The bill was voted down and will not become law.
HB 1204 would have offered an opt-out provision for employees who because of their religious, philosophical, or moral beliefs are opposed to wearing a face covering. Face coverings as provided in this bill were a face mask, face shield, or other face covering. This could have allowed an employee to opt-out of wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) that is in response to their normal job duties, not just a response to COVID. Included in the bill was a provision that an employer could decide if wearing a face covering is essential. The reality is that an employer wouldn’t implement a face-covering policy unless it was essential. GNDC testified in opposition to this bill.
It received a 12-2 do not pass recommendation out of committee.
HB 1320 relates to the condition of employment or entry based upon a vaccination status. The bill addresses numerous items as it relates to vaccinations but the portion of the bill GNDC has an issue with addresses employer rights. HB 1320 language states, “…. prohibits making receipt of a vaccine a condition for entry, education, employment, or services”. Employers currently have the right to refuse service to anyone unless they fall under a protected class established in the Civil Rights Act. If this law was to pass it would essentially create an additional protected class for individuals who wish not to receive a vaccine. Depending on the industry, service provided, or working environment employers may decide that requiring employees to get vaccinated is what is best for their business. To preserve North Dakota’s business climate and employer rights GNDC opposed this bill. GNDC’s opposition is not necessarily about vaccines but rather the rights of businesses. Business owners are individuals as well and have the right to determine what is best for their business and themselves.
The committee has not taken action this bill.
Read these bill drafts here by searching specific bill numbers on the official nd.gov page.
Reader's digest version of GNDC's Business Bill Tracker for those looking for more information on business-related bills:
- 2171: Transfer of ND Trade Office to Dept of Agriculture - MONITORING
- 2183: Insulin mandate that would result in 1.2% increase in health insurance premiums - OPPOSE
- 1307: Condition of entry - related to vaccines - OPPOSE