Published June 2, 2023

Gov. Burgum Vetoes: 7 Vetoed Bills this Session, here are 2 of them

Governor Doug Burgum Vetoed seven bills and partially voted an 8th. Here are the details on two of them.

Written by
The Dakotan
| The Dakotan
[Photo from Governor Burgum's Facebook]
[Photo from Governor Burgum's Facebook]

This article is part one of a mini-series documenting the seven bills that Governor Burgum vetoed in the 2023 legislative session. For the other articles, click here.

The ND Legislative session ended at the end of April. It was a historic session with 932 bills and 56 resolutions that were introduced during the session. Of these, Governor Burgum signed 583 bills and vetoed seven bills while partially vetoing an eighth. Here is a recap of the bills that Governor Burgum vetoed. 

Senate Bill 2231 - “The Pronoun Bill” 

Introduced by:  

Senator Larry Luick, Senator Scott Meyer, Representative Claire Cory and Representative Karen Karls 

Verbiage of bill: 

Section 1: 

The verbiage of Senate Bill 2231 stated that government entity could not require an employee to use an individual's preferred pronoun when addressing or mentioning the individual in work related communications or designate the employee's preferred pronoun in work related communications. 

Section 2: 

Further the bill stated that a board of a school district, a public school, or a teacher in a public school may not adopt a policy or practice regarding expressed gender, provide or authorize classroom instruction recognizing expressed gender, or provide or require professional development recognizing expressed gender. 

Gov. Burgum’s Veto Statement: 

Section 1 of Senate Bill 2231 codifies First Amendment protections against compelled  speech, setting state policy addressing pronoun use by state employees. However, vetoing Section 1 changes nothing, because under existing free speech protections, a state employee already cannot be required to use preferred pronouns but may still voluntarily do so. I would have no objections to signing this bill if it contained only Section 1. 

Section 2 infringes on local control by unnecessarily injecting the state into rare instances most appropriately handled at the parent, teacher and school district level. This section removes discretion from school boards, schools and teachers in determining how to accommodate the needs of all students in public schools. Further, the First Amendment already prohibits compelled speech and protects teachers from speaking contrary to their beliefs, and courts across the country have upheld these rights. 

Ambiguity throughout this bill would invite lawsuits and put teachers in the precarious position of trying to determine how to refer to students without violating law. The teaching profession is challenging enough without the heavy hand of state government forcing teachers to take on the role of pronoun police. Parents, teachers and administrators using compassion, empathy and common sense can address individual and infrequent situations that may arise. 

At the end of the day, children are the future of our state, and we have a duty to protect all of them. North Dakota will continue to stand for free speech, local control and freedom from discrimination. 

For the reasons stated above, Senate Bill 2231 is vetoed. 

House Bill 1475 - “The Speed Limit Bill”  

Introduced by:  

Representative Ben Koppelman, Representative Jim Grueneich, Representative Scott Louser, Representative Eric James Murphy, Senator Bob Paulson, Representative Brandy Pyle, Senator Kristin Roers, Representative Dan Ruby, Representative Mary Schneider, and Representative Steve Vetter 

Verbiage of bill: 

The goal of this bill was to increase the speed limit to eighty miles an hour on access-controlled, paved and divided, multilane interstate highways, unless otherwise permitted, restricted, or required by conditions. 

Gov. Burgum’s Veto Statement: 

House Bill 1475 increases the maximum speed limit on access-controlled, multilane interstate highways from 75 miles per hour (mph) to 80 mph unless otherwise permitted, restricted or required by conditions. 

Increasing the maximum speed limit on interstate highways increases both the risk of speed related crashes and the potential severity of such crashes. From 2017 to 2021, 178 people died in speed/aggressive driving-related crashes in North Dakota, and speeding or traveling too fast for conditions is a factor in approximately 30% to 40% of all fatal crashes in North Dakota each year. A study by the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety found that a 5 mph increase in the speed limit is associated with an 8.5% increase in fatality rates on interstate highways and freeways. 

This increased risk runs counter to the goals of Vision Zero, North Dakota’s multi-agency effort to eliminate fatalities and serious injuries caused by motor vehicle crashes. The 98 fatalities from motor vehicle crashes in North Dakota recorded in 2022 was the lowest annual total in 20 years, yet much work remains to improve seat belt usage in our state. In 2022, approximately 2 out of 3 fatalities were unbelted where seat belts were present in the vehicle. 

Compared with secondary enforcement laws, primary seat belt laws have been associated with a 10% to 12% higher observed seat belt use rate, according to 2019 data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. 

A primary seat belt law is a reasonable and responsible means of mitigating the increased risk of a higher speed limit. In the absence of a primary seat belt law, I am unable to support the heightened risk of an increased speed limit on interstates. 

For the reasons stated above, House Bill 1475 is vetoed. 

This article is part one of a mini-series documenting the seven bills that Governor Burgum vetoed in the 2023 legislative session. For the other articles, click here.

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