North Dakota State Legislature: Several bills fall short, while others on domestic violence, transparency, investment heard

Photo by: North Dakota Legislative Branch
Photo by: North Dakota Legislative Branch

(Bismarck, ND) -- The true definition of a mixed bag after a busy Thursday in the North Dakota State Legislature.

The North Dakota House isn't moving forward with paid family leave legislation.

The House rejected a bill that would have created a statewide family leave program. The proposal would have been funded mostly by employers and workers. Workers would have been able to contribute to a state pool that would have paid them 60-percent of their salary for up to 12 weeks for an eligible event, such as the birth of a child or a family member's extended illness.

In the meantime, a North Dakota Senate bill aimed at addressing high prescription prices has failed.

Senators voted down a bill yesterday that would have allowed the state to import drugs at a discount from Canada. Opponents say Canada is unable to export drugs due to shortages in their country, making the bill unfeasible. Senators say they are still looking for other ways to address rising prescription prices.

The state House however is advancing a measure that would lower the number of years it takes to receive a lifetime teaching license in North Dakota.

The bill would drop the amount of time required from 30 to 20 years. North Dakota teaching licenses last for two-year and five-year periods. Teachers must submit six semester hours of continuing education credit to retain their licenses.

A Grand Forks lawmaker is bringing three bills dealing with domestic violence to the House floor.

Representative Zachary Ista introduced the bills that would strengthen domestic violence laws. The House passed one bill that would add stalking to a list of domestic violence offenses, giving victims with restraining orders more protection. A second bill would create a mandated intervention program for domestic violence offenders and includes a penalty. A third bill deals with presumptive probation for people who are convicted of a crime.

Also, a pair of House bills aimed at addressing transparency issues that emerged after the death of North Dakota Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem are also now being viewed.

One proposal would require state leases and rental agreements to list owners with at least five-percent interest in the property. A second bill would require state agencies to keep emails and account for 90 days after deletion to allow for review. Agencies would also have to create policies for reviewing and disposing of state data.

Separately, a new bill moving through the North Dakota House would open the state's investment contracts up for interested bidders every five years.

The bill's sponsor says the state should divest from concerns in China and Russia. Those involved with implementing the program say the process of opening contracts every five years would be very difficult, because most commitments are well over five years.

And finally, another bill being discussed would no longer consider bicycles and horses as vehicles when evaluating DUIs.

The bill would mean people would no longer be able to be charged with driving under the influence while riding a bike or horse while intoxicated. Supporters say the current law discourages people from choosing a low-risk alternative to driving drunk. The Highway Patrol testified in opposition to the bill, saying drunk bicyclists pose a hazard to themselves and others.