ND House keeps pharmacy law, kills Legacy Fund loansBISMARCK – The North Dakota House overwhelmingly decided on Tuesday to keep the state’s pharmacy law as is.
By: Teri Finneman , The Dickinson Press
BISMARCK – The North Dakota House overwhelmingly decided on Tuesday to keep the state’s pharmacy law as is.
House Bill 1434 sought to delete wording in North Dakota law that requires pharmacies be majority-owned by pharmacists licensed in the state.
Rep. Jim Kasper, R-Fargo, said the North Dakota pharmacy ownership law has served the people of North Dakota well in the past 50 years.
“There’s an old saying: If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” he said.
North Dakota is the only state in the nation with this pharmacy law. Rep. Thomas Beadle, R-Fargo, said this is an issue directly affecting consumers in the state.
He said independent pharmacies across the nation prove they can compete with chain retailers and said competition is beneficial to consumers.
Beadle said the same concerns about big-box stores came up when they began selling groceries, gas and hardware items, but small towns still offer those services.
“It is not our job as a legislative body to choose the preferable business model,” he said. “That is the job of the consumer.”
Rep. George Keiser, R-Bismarck, said he sat through more than four hours of testimony on the bill and said there was only one conclusion: to keep the state’s current law.
Rep. Jon Nelson, R-Rugby, said he doesn’t know how lawmakers can justify the current law.
“If this (proposed) law would pass, and I understand it probably won’t, it doesn’t prevent any one of you or any one of North Dakota to continue to do business in the place that they’re doing business today,” he said.
The bill died on a 26-68 vote.
The House also killed a bill on Tuesday that would have allowed oil and gas impact loans from the Legacy Fund.
North Dakota voters approved the Legacy Fund in November. Starting July 1, 30 percent of oil extraction and gross production tax revenue will go into the fund. The State Investment Board is in charge of investing the money.
House Bill 1362 sought to allow the board to invest money by providing loans to oil- and gas-affected counties, cities and school districts. The board would collect interest on the loans.
House Majority Leader Al Carlson of Fargo said the state hasn’t put $1 in the fund and already there’s a bill to take money out of it.
“I don’t believe the voters, when this was set up, had the intention that this would be a loan pool,” he said.
The state is committing money for infrastructure needs in the oil and gas counties this session, Carlson said. The Legacy Fund is intended to be a fund for the future, he said.
Rep. Shirley Meyer, D-Dickinson, defended the bill, saying the fund’s money is going to be invested anyway.
“The question you have to ask yourself: Do you want them invested in our local communities at a guaranteed rate, or do you want to lose them on Wall Street?” she said.
The loans would be another tool for the oil and gas impacted areas, she said.
The bill failed on a 25-68 vote.
Finneman is a multimedia reporter for
Forum Communications Co.