ND Legislature Wrap 2019

05-31-2019 | NDBA

While North Dakota’s 66th Legislative Assembly adjourned Sine Die (without setting a day for reconvening) April 26, 2019 - its 76th Legislative Day - about a month ago, work is already starting to get ready for the 67th Legislative Assembly, which will convene at noon on Tuesday, January 5, 2021. Mark your calendars. That’s just 491 days from now.

The Legislature has 80 legislative days to complete its work, so it managed to keep four legislative days in the bank that it can use at any time during the 2019-2021 interim to call itself back into session.

For those of you really into statistics - and aren’t we all - there were 984 bills and resolutions introduced this session, as compared to 833 in 2017. The odds of getting a bill passed in the Senate were better than the House. 361 of the 605 bills introduced in the House passed, or about 59.6%. In the Senate, 268 of the 379 bills and resolutions passed, or about 70.71%. Of the 984 bills introduced, 629 - or about 63.9% - passed. This is a bit higher than 2017 when about 57% of the bills passed.

The budget for the current 2017-2019 Biennium which ends June 30, 2019, was $4.3 billion in general fund appropriations and $13.6 billion in total spending. The 66th Legislative Assembly’s final 2019-2021 general fund (taxpayer funds) budget was approximately $4.8 billion, part of a nearly $14.7 billion total spending figure.

There are four possible effective dates for any legislation the Governor signs: (1) Bills with the emergency clause go into effect the date they are signed by the Governor and filed with the Secretary of State; (2) Revenue bills take effect July 1; (3) General legislation takes effect August 1; and (4) Any bills with specified effective dates take effect on those dates.

There are two excellent web sites to check on legislation. The Legislative Branch’s web page (www.legis.nd.gov) is all you ever want in legislative information and more. It not only includes a complete listing of all bills and resolutions, it also has video of floor arguments on each bill as well as a wealth of other information and statistics. In its bill listing you can trace a bill from its introduction through amendments (called marked up versions) and it’s final, or enrolled status. To see the final version of the bill, click on the “enrolled” bill. You can check the legislative history of the bill by checking on “bill status.” The Secretary of State’s web page (www.state.nd.us/sec) lists all the bills the Governor signed. This also lists the date the Governor signed them, which is important for emergency measures.

A copy of the final Master List for the bills I was following for the media this session is attached. The third column shows the final outcome for the bills.

It was a mixed bag for media bills this session - and no game changers.

Regarding open records, the 66th Legislative Assembly wasn’t a big fan. It passed HB 1132 closing records of interviews for law enforcement positions and HB 1332 that allows schools boards - in secret - to designate school employees to carry firearms. And, it defeated HB 1363 that would have required release of certain information regarding the costs of security and travel for the Governor and other state officials.

It also passed SB 2021 that expanded the confidentiality of legislative communications to any public agency, but that bill may be referred to a public vote.

We were able to get criminal libel penalties out of the HB 1521 that creates the Ethics Commission, but much of the new commission’s proceedings remain confidential. And, SB 2320, that does allow controversial free speech on college campuses, unfortunately also permits certain restrictions on when and where controversial speech is allowed.

I considered it a privilege to represent NDBA during the 2019 Session. Please contact me if you have any questions concerning 2019 legislation or the upcoming interim.