BISMARCK — Rep. Bill Tveit, R-Hazen, said Tuesday he'd received 232 emails about Senate Bill 2315, the so-called "trespass bill."
By Wednesday, he couldn't even guess.
"The number has grown, but I've lost count," Tveit said.
He is set to carry the bill on Thursday with amendments from a joint subcommittee for its vote on the House floor. Sen. Robert Erbele, R-Lehr, brought the bill, citing the many trespass charges generated from the Dakota Access Pipeline protests of 2016 and 2017, but also seeking "a bridge" for landowners and hunters.
"This bill in my opinion is far better than even what the Senate sent over," Tveit said, noting "a lot of pushback" from sporting groups.
The bill passed the Senate 28-18 in a form that presumes all land is closed except for hunting, with a coded database of landowners' preferences for hunting their land to be phased in by 2022.
Now the bill has House amendments from a subcommittee that change it further — keeping the presumption of private land as closed except for hunting, but directing a "land access committee" to study trespass, hunting violations and land access with recommendations on electronic land posting due before Aug. 1, 2020.
Tveit said legislation may follow for the 2021 session, depending on what recommendations could come from the land access committee.
If no recommendations come, private lands would then be presumed closed for all activities, with permission required from landowners for hunting. Those without permission would be subject to a class A misdemeanor for trespass, according to a transcript of amendments.
Tveit said he's unsure of how the House vote may go. The bill covers a sensitive subject. Similar bills have appeared in at least eight previous legislative sessions.
"First off, we need to understand 2315 is a landowner rights bill," Tveit said.
Rep. Dennis Johnson, R-Devils Lake, who chairs the House Agriculture Committee which heard the bill with the House Energy and Natural Resources Committee, said the joint subcommittee considered seven combinations of amendments before adopting the version to be voted on in the House.
Fellow House members say they've heard the most about this bill.
Rep. Karla Rose Hanson, D-Fargo, said she's had more than 100 emails about the bill, "and just a small fraction from my district."
Rep. Karen Rohr, R-Mandan, said she's had 25 to 30 emails in the past two weeks. She also said she looks forward to hearing the bill's amendments and floor debate.
Rep. Jake Blum, R-Grand Forks, who sits on the House Agriculture Committee, said he's still pondering how he'll vote amid more than 500 emails about the bill to his inbox.
"It's kind of tough," Blum said of how he'll vote. Many of the emails have appeared identical, he said, but he's had some personal notes from his District 42 constituents and messages from as far as Massachusetts. About 90 percent of emails on the bill have been against it, he added.
Rep. Steve Vetter, R-Grand Forks, said the bill has generated "definitely the most emails," anywhere from 50 to 100 for him. He said he'll wait to form a stance on the bill until reviewing the House side's final product.
"There hasn't really been one where we've had this much," Vetter said. "Looking at my email, it's 2315, nonstop." Most emails have been similar complaints, he added.
"There. Another one as we're talking," he said while speaking with a reporter at his desk as he ate lunch. "Three in the last 20 minutes."