BISMARCK — A North Dakota Senate committee charged with drafting legislation to implement the state constitution's new ethics rules is expected to send a bill to the full chamber early next week, its chairman said Friday, April 12.
But Minot Republican Sen. David Hogue said there are some disagreements still lingering over defining gifts that lobbyists can't give to public officials. The new constitutional language allows a yet-to-be appointed ethics commission to have a say and delays the ban's effective date by two years.
Voters approved the ethics measure during last year's election, setting up legislative debates over how to enact the new rules.
The Senate committee is considering a House-approved bill while a House committee ponders a bill passed by senators. The House committee's chairman, Fargo Republican Rep. Jim Kasper, said they're waiting to see what the Senate may approve.
Friday marked Day 66 of the 2019 session, which is capped at 80 days. In a sign of lawmakers' urgency at the finish line, Republican majority leaders said they planned multiple daily floor sessions next week.
Battle for F-M diversion funding to continue in conference committee
Lawmakers are expected to continue the debate over funding the massive Fargo-Moorhead flood diversion in a House-Senate conference committee.
The House approved a package of water projects Friday that includes an extra $133 million for the diversion of the Red River, bumping up the state's commitment to $703 million. Backers of the project continue to seek $870 million from the state of North Dakota for the $2.75 billion undertaking.
Rep. Jim Schmidt, R-Huff, expected the diversion to be "the major discussion item" in the water budget bill when it goes before a conference committee. Those panels are made up of members of both chambers to craft compromises before a bill's final passage.
The Senate earlier this session signed off on $703 million for Fargo flood control, which Fargo Republican Rep. Thomas Beadle said "doesn't get the project done."
"We need an increased commitment from the state above where we're at now in order for this project to get done in a timely manner without adding additional costs," he said.
Schmidt expected the conference committee to start deliberations next week.
House approves boat fees to fight aquatic invaders
North Dakota House lawmakers approved new motorboat fees to help fund efforts to fight the spread of aquatic nuisance species like zebra mussels Friday.
Senate Bill 2293 imposes a $15 fee for boats licensed in the state to be paid every three years. It also adds an annual $15 fee for motorboats operated on North Dakota waters that aren't licensed here.
A Game and Fish Department official previously said the new money would allow for increased education, inspections, enforcement and monitoring.
The fees are expected to raise $1.3 million in the 2019-21 biennium. The Senate will need to approve House changes before the bill's final passage.
House passes bill creating new concealed carry license
The North Dakota House has passed a resurrected proposal creating a new, more stringent type of concealed weapons license that would allow people to pack heat at public gatherings.
Senate Bill 2172 was amended to include provisions written in a bill that was earlier approved by the House but defeated in the Senate. It would create a "Class 1 exempt" license that would require training equivalent to what police officers receive.
Holders of the new licenses would be exempt from a state law banning possession of weapons at public gatherings, which includes schools, churches, public buildings and sporting events. But those facilities could still prohibit guns on the property, said Mandan Republican Rep. Todd Porter, chairman of the House Energy and Natural Resources Committee.
The House approved the bill Thursday, but it's scheduled to be debated in a conference committee with members from both chambers.
Burgum signs bills on sexual extortion, rapist parent rights
Gov. Doug Burgum signed legislation Thursday outlawing "sexual extortion" and allowing judges to terminate rapists' parental rights.
Senate Bill 2273 is aimed at people who threaten another person in an attempt to coerce them into sex, including by threatening to release intimate photos of the victim.
Penalties depend on the victim's age and whether they comply with the extortionist's demands. At most, the crime would carry Class B felony charges and requirements to register as a sex offender.
The Republican governor also signed Senate Bill 2185, allowing judges to terminate the parental rights of somebody who pleaded guilty to or was convicted of a rape that led to a child's birth if it's in the child's best interest.
Both bills take effect Aug. 1.
Record-sealing bill signed by Burgum
People with a criminal past who stay out of trouble for several years will be able to petition for their records to be sealed under a bill signed by Burgum Thursday.
House Bill 1256 covers a wider set of crimes than the DUI records bill the governor already signed. But it doesn't apply to felonies involving violence or intimidation during the period in which the offender is ineligible to possess a firearm, or to offenses that require sex offender registration.
The bill takes effect Aug. 1.