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North Dakota Capitol notebook: Session's first full week in the books

The North Dakota Capitol in Bismarck. Photo illustration by Troy Becker

BISMARCK — North Dakota legislators concluded their first full week of the 2019 session Friday, Jan. 11, after launching initial budget discussions and holding hearings on a variety of policy changes.

North Dakota lawmakers had introduced 608 bills and resolutions as of Thursday, but Legislative Council Director John Bjornson expected plenty more to flow in as lawmakers approach deadlines.

Monday is the deadline for House lawmakers to introduce bills, while each senator will be limited to three bills after that day. Senators cannot introduce a spending bill after Monday, however.

Lawmakers introduced 833 bills and resolutions during the 2017 session.

House passes car idling bill

House lawmakers unanimously agreed to do away with a state law prohibiting drivers from leaving their unattended car's engine running, a common practice in frigid months.

Rep. Jim Grueneich, R-Jamestown, described the legislation as a "housekeeping" matter to remove an "unknown" and "unenforced" law from the books.

"I think we've all been in a grocery store in February and can attest that there are a few left running," he said on the House floor Tuesday.

Higher fines for running stop signs

A Republican state lawmaker wants to bump up fines for running stop and yield signs to $100.

Rep. Gary Paur, R-Gilby, said the current $20 fine hasn’t kept up with inflation and doesn’t offer much of a deterrent to violators. House Bill 1327 is scheduled for a Friday morning hearing.

“This is one of the more kind of dangerous practices, is to run stop signs,” Paur said. “(I’m) just trying to get it back up to a more reasonable level.”

A separate bill would also increase the $20 fee for failing to turn on a car's headlights to $100.

'Informed consent' on abortions

Physicians would be required to inform women that it "may be possible to reverse the effects of an abortion-inducing drug if she changes her mind" under a bill introduced in the Legislature.

House Bill 1336, proposed by a group of Republican lawmakers led by Rep. Daniel Johnston of Kathryn, also requires the state Department of Health to publish the information.

Johnston said the bill isn't meant to restrict abortions but is instead intended to "provide a little bit more information to a patient who's about to undergo that procedure."

But Tammi Kromenaker, director of the Red River Women's Clinic in Fargo, said "medication abortion reversal has not been researched and it's forcing physicians to lie to their patients about something that hasn't been well-researched."

The bill wasn't scheduled for a hearing as of Friday afternoon.

No smoking with kids in the car

People who light up a cigarette with a kid in the car would face a $25 fine under a bill proposed by a Democratic state lawmaker.

Rep. Pam Anderson of Fargo said her legislation was inspired by existing requirements that kids be secured in an appropriate car seat.

“We buckle in all our babies, and then we light up a cigarette,” she said.

Anderson’s bill would prohibit people from smoking, including electronic cigarettes, while a child under 9 years old is in the car. House Bill 1274 will be heard by a House committee Monday afternoon.

John Hageman

John Hageman covers North Dakota politics from the Forum News Service bureau in Bismarck. He attended the University of Minnesota in the Twin Cities, where he studied journalism and political science, and he previously worked at the Grand Forks Herald and Bemidji Pioneer.  

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