Only 8 of 20 bills advance to be heard further
BISMARCK—The first day of the North Dakota Legislature’s Special Session was jam packed, and perhaps no one had a busier day than the members of the House Delayed Bills Committee. This five-member committee was tasked with hearing approximately 20 bills that had been submitted on a wide variety of hot-button topics, including vaccine mandates, the teaching of Critical Race Theory, election integrity, and medical freedom regarding COVID treatments, among others.
The relatively small Pioneer Room in the Capitol was standing room only for more than the first hour of the meeting. Seats were set out for 24 observers, but at least 70 had gathered by the time the meeting began, and the crowd exceeded 90 at its peak half way through the meeting.
Out of the 20 bills, the committee advanced only 8 of those to be heard further. Rep. Scott Louser (R-Dis. 5, Minot) said the committee “had a good start, with more bills than I anticipated passing the committee [on] a variety of topics.”
One of those bills (21.1115.01000) will be taken up next by the Joint Redistricting Committee, because this bill would limit how many of the state’s legislative districts would be required to reorganize after a final re-districting plan is approved by the legislature in this session. Under current ND law, all the districts would have to reorganize in the upcoming late winter or early spring.
The other seven bills will advance Tuesday morning to be heard by the Joint Technical Corrections Committee, the committee assigned during this session to hear bills and move them forward to the full chambers with either a “Do Pass” or “Do Not Pass” recommendation.
“Any bills that did not pass may be brought up [on Tuesday].” Rep. Scott Louser (R-Dis. 5, Minot)
But even if a bill failed to advance out of the Delayed Bills Committee, it’s not necessarily dead in the water. According to Rep. Louser, “Any bills that did not pass may be brought up [on Tuesday].” He continued, “In order for that to occur the House would need to vote in favor by a 2/3 margin.”
This may provide hope for many among the crowd of observers who were visibly and audibly upset when at least two of the bills failed to advance. Those two bills were 21.1118.01000, sponsored by Rep. Ben Koppelman (R-Dis. 16, West Fargo), having to do with holding employers liable for adverse effects caused by vaccines they might mandate on their employees, and 21.1100.01000, Rep. Jim Kasper’s (R-Dis. 46, Fargo) bill prohibiting financial institutions from disclosing information from private bank accounts to the Internal Revenue Service.
“I said a month ago that I would support some sort of bill banning vaccine mandates, and we have two of those going forward.” Rep. Chet Pollert (R.-Dis. 29, Carrington)
Rep. Chet Pollert (R.-Dis. 29, Carrington), Chairman of the Delayed Bills Committee and House Majority Leader, who was the deciding vote against both of those bills, said later in the day, “I said a month ago that I would support some sort of bill banning vaccine mandates, and we have two of those going forward. I also said I would support a bill banning Critical Race Theory, and that one is going forward also.”
Regarding Rep. Kasper’s financial institutions bill, Rep. Pollert explained, “The banking industry needs to challenge that (federal) bill in court. In my mind, the real question is whose regulations do the banking institutions follow, state or federal? I don’t think the state will win out in that situation.”
One vaccine mandate bill that was advanced by the Delayed Bills Committee was 21.1082.03000, put forth by Rep. Bob Paulson (R-Dis. 3, Minot). Paulson’s bill mirrors the bill the state of Montana had passed into law earlier this year.
One North Dakotan who attended the day’s events said she was unhappy about the vaccine bills that were (and weren’t) moving forward. Brenda Reems, a nurse from Bismarck, said, “The vaccine bills that are left don’t have any teeth to them. They’re not going to help anyone in the health care industry.”
The seven bills to be heard by the Joint Technical Corrections Committee on Tuesday morning are the following:
21.1078.01000 – relating to prohibiting the teaching of critical race theory in public schools
21.1106.01000 – relating to charitable gaming tax
21.1082.03000 – relating to discrimination based on vaccination status or possession of an immunity passport
21.1105.01000 – relating to employer-required COVID-19 vaccinations
21.1117.01000 – relating to the asset allocation plan of the legacy fund
21.1116.02000 – relating to a hospital patient’s right to try off-label use drugs, a hospital ban on discrimination based on vaccine status, pharmacist fulfillment of off-label drug use prescriptions, and the board of medicine’s authority to bring disciplinary actions
21.3126.01000 – A concurrent resolution recognizing parents as the chief stakeholders of the future and education of their children
For all the latest updates on this current special session, check back regularly on our dedicated Special Session Update link.