5 things to know today: Drag shows, Election bills, Gun privileges, Confidential information, New location
A select rundown of stories found on InForum.
1. North Dakota House advances bill banning drag shows in public, near children
A bill to restrict drag shows and cabaret performances in North Dakota is one step closer to becoming a law.
The North Dakota House of Representatives voted 79-13 on Thursday, Jan. 26, to advance House Bill 1333, which would prohibit “adult-oriented performances” in the presence of minors and on public property.
A person who violates the legislation would be guilty of a Class A misdemeanor, punishable by up to 360 days in prison and a $3,000 fine. Repeat offenders would be guilty of a Class C felony, punishable by up to five years in prison and a $10,000 fine.
The proposal will head to the Senate when the chambers swap passed legislation in March.
The bill’s passage marks the first win for socially conservative lawmakers who have promoted a series of bills aiming to restrict gender expression for LGBTQ residents. The Senate killed a proposal last week that would have barred transgender residents from using pronouns that align with their gender identity at schools and other publicly funded entities.
Bill sponsor Rep. Brandon Prichard, R-Bismarck, and other supporters say the legislation protects the innocence of children by shielding them from explicit performances.
LGBTQ advocates said at a hearing earlier this week that the bill suppresses North Dakotans' freedom of expression and discriminates against drag performers, who symbolize inclusivity in the LGBTQ community.
Prichard said Thursday he brought the bill after learning of drag shows performed in front of children, including at least one show on the steps of the Capitol. The 21-year-old legislator said he thinks the state’s existing obscenity laws should have prohibited the performances, but his bill would make explicit that the shows are not allowed.
Bill backer Rep. Lori VanWinkle, R-Minot, referred on Thursday to cabaret performers who take the stage in front of children as “perverts” and said the bill would safeguard kids where society has failed.
Read more from Forum News Service's Jeremy Turley
2. North Dakota lawmakers wading through myriad election bills, again
From the Bismarck Tribune via Forum News Service
Supermajority-wielding North Dakota Republican lawmakers in the Legislature have again filed a flurry of election-related bills, including ones to ban certain voting methods and mandate post-election audits.
The bills continue a nationwide trend that pervaded the 2021 Legislature, which handled more than 40 election-related bills in the wake of the 2020 presidential election and former President Donald Trump's baseless claims of election fraud.
Secretary of State Michael Howe's office is monitoring more than 30 such bills, several of which had hearings Thursday.
North Dakota's top election official, who is a former lawmaker, said his ultimate goal in following the bills is, "Do they make it easier to vote and harder to cheat?" — a mantra from his 2022 campaign.
The Republican secretary and county election officials say North Dakota's election processes are secure. They cite State Auditor Josh Gallion's findings last fall from a state election system review, which concluded, "It is exceptionally unlikely that the results of an election in North Dakota would be fraudulently influenced."
3. North Dakota lawmakers to consider full clip of bills expanding gun privileges
North Dakota has among the least restrictive gun laws in the country, but some conservative lawmakers believe the state Legislature should lift nearly all limits on where weapons can be carried.
The Legislature approved a bill in 2017 to allow most law-abiding adult residents to carry a concealed gun in public without a permit. However, the law includes exceptions — schools, colleges, bars, places of worship and publicly owned buildings — where gun possession is still largely prohibited.
Proponents of eliminating those exceptions say more firearms would make students and employees safer while allowing people to protect themselves.
Education administrators and police officers worry that allowing nearly any adult to carry hidden weapons into schools and public buildings would increase the risk of gun-related violence.
The House Energy and Natural Resources Committee held hearings Thursday, Jan. 26, on nine gun-related bills, including five that would expand the right to carry a concealed firearm.
- House Bill 1483 would permit the possession of guns in public buildings, other than schools, federal facilities and courthouses. The legislation sponsored by Rep. Ben Koppelman, R-West Fargo, also would repeal a prohibition on carrying guns in bars.
- House Bill 1404 would effectively authorize the concealed carry of guns on public university and college campuses. The bill is sponsored by Rep. Matt Heilman, R-Bismarck.
- House Bill 1194 would allow honorably discharged military veterans to carry hidden guns in schools, churches and public buildings. The proposal is sponsored by Rep. Bill Tveit, R-Hazen.
- House Bill 1341, brought by Koppelman, would permit concealed carry at the state Capitol.
- House Bill 1339, sponsored by Koppelman, would allow residents of other states to carry a concealed gun without a permit in North Dakota.
- House Bill 1401, backed by Heilman, would bar local governments from adopting “red flag laws” that restrict gun access for people who police deem a threat to themselves or others.
Koppelman told the committee he believes federal courts have expanded and will continue to widen legal parameters for where guns can be carried. He said his bills preempt judicial action and support the U.S. Constitution’s Second Amendment.
Read more from Forum News Service's Jeremy Turley
4. North Dakota bill would conceal officers' names after shootings, defendant contact info
North Dakota lawmakers have proposed a bill that would keep private the addresses and phone numbers of criminal defendants before trials, as well as the names of police officers involved in shootings while authorities investigate what happened.
North Dakota Sen. Sean Cleary, R-Bismarck, introduced Senate Bill 2216 earlier this month. The proposed legislation would make a criminal defendant’s address and phone number a confidential record if it is in possession of a correctional facility or staff, until after a trial or appeal.
Cleary told the Senate Judiciary Committee at a hearing Wednesday, Jan. 25, that he would like to expand the legislation to include all government agencies. He plans to offer up an amendment later this week.
"The real impetus behind the criminal defense portion of this was, there are defendants who just get bombarded with unwanted solicitation the minute there is a record," Cleary told The Forum in a phone interview.
The bill would also prevent the public release of an officer’s name if they are involved in a shooting or any incident resulting in a death or serious injury until after the investigation into the incident is completed. Cleary said he would craft an amendment so the bill referred to internal investigations, not criminal.
"The goal of this legislation is to avoid harassment and potential safety concerns at the very early portion of the potential incident," he said.
The bill would not prevent government agencies from sharing officer names or defendant contact information with other agencies for “official government business.”
The judiciary committee didn’t vote on the bill.
Read more from The Forum's April Baumgarten
5. Fargo's new Asian and American Supermarket is ready to make you feel at home, no matter where home is
John Huynh has made it his mission in life to make you feel at home, no matter where in the world that home is.
To that end, the co-owner of Fargo’s Asian and American Market is ready to unveil a new, much bigger, home for the region’s multi-ethnic foodies who count on him to provide the tastes they’ve grown up with — or simply have grown to love.
At 9 a.m. Friday, Jan. 27, Huynh will open the Asian and American Supermarket at 1425 Main Ave., just a few blocks west of the longtime location at 1015 Main Ave.
Huynh has been working 15- and 16-hour days, seven days a week to get the new store ready. He’s keyed up, but by his reckoning, keyed up in the best way possible.
“Here is what the customer has been looking for,” Huynh said Monday, Jan. 23, gesturing to the clean, wide aisles of his new 19,000-square-feet store.