North Dakota Legislature: Eminent Domain, Property Taxes, Transgender Sports bills take center stage

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

(Bismarck, ND) -- Plenty of major issues are being discussed as things continue to heat up in Bismarck during the current legislative session.

A pair of North Dakota House bills banning transgender girls and women from participating on school teams as athletes have passed.

One bill deals with K through 12 athletes, while the other addresses intercollegiate sports. The House killed a section of the intercollegiate athletics bill that would have banned state and local governments and entities receiving public funding from allowing athletic facilities to host transgender athletes. The bills both passed by veto-proof margins and are headed to the Senate.

In the meantime, the state Senate is advancing a bill that would lower North Dakotans' property taxes.

The bill would increase the state's contribution to public school districts, lowering property owners' taxes in turn. Governor Burgum is backing the competing priority of income tax reform. The governor's legislation is still being considered.

A North Dakota Senate committee is rejecting a proposal that would have made changes to the state's eminent domain statute.

The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee gave a do not pass recommendation to the proposal. It would have removed carbon pipelines from the eminent domain law, adding in a rule that would have required a one-thousand foot distance between occupied residences and the pipeline. The bill will be heard on the Senate floor this session.

A North Dakota Senate bill that would have changed the oversight of the State Crime Lab has failed.

The measure was killed Wednesday, with only two Senators supporting it. The original bill would have eliminated a portion of state law that requires the crime lab to be administratively separate from the Bureau of Criminal Investigation. A rewritten version that would have provided a co-director was killed.

State Attorney General Drew Wrigley had asked for the change, saying supervision by the BCI would streamline both organizations and help alleviate testing backlogs at the lab.

The North Dakota House is advancing a bill that would tighten rules for ballot measure petitions.

The bill would impose a penalty against organizers who willfully turn in petitions with more than 30-percent invalid signatures. Violators could face a misdemeanor charge, a potential 30-thousand dollar fine, and a five-year ban from applying with the Secretary of State.

 A state House bill would also make grants available to pay for free and reduced-price meals at North Dakota schools.

The proposal would make six-million dollars available through the superintendent of public instruction. Schools would have to apply to the superintendent of public instruction's office to receive the grants. The bill is still on the floor for consideration.

North Dakota lawmakers are also considering a bill that would expand the rural attorney recruitment plan.

The state Senate sent a bill to the House yesterday that would double the number of participants to eight. Attorneys accepted into the program will receive 45-thousand dollars over five years. The bill passed by a vote of 41 to five.

And finally, a House bill that would specify regulations regarding big game hunting is moving forward.

The House unanimously passed a measure Wednesday that would allow hunters to carry a handgun for while their hunting dog is tracking big game. The handgun could only be used for protection in case a hunter meets with a predator. Handlers would also have to notify the district game warden that they will be using a dog to recover big game.