Constituents, 'bite-size' ideas drive North Dakota lawmakers bringing the most bills

Lawmakers have introduced 929 bills this session; the 1987 Legislature's 1,249 bills is the modern-day record.

North Dakota Capitol
North Dakota Capitol in Bismarck.
Forum News Service file photo

BISMARCK -- Rep. Bernie Satrom lets out a hearty "gee whiz" when informed he's among lawmakers who have brought the most bills this legislative session.

"What happens is, once I leave Bismarck at the end of the session, as things come up and as I have discussions with people ... and I have ideas, I have them drafted and then when I show up in Bismarck, I've got a pile of them," said Satrom, R-Jamestown.

He and Rep. Ben Koppelman, R-West Fargo, have brought the most bills in the House of Representatives, at 15 apiece.

Rep. Bernie Satrom, R-Jamestown

Sen. Jeff Magrum, R-Hazelton, has brought the most Senate bills, at 25.

Lawmakers have introduced 929 bills this session; the 1987 Legislature's 1,249 bills is the modern-day record.


Magrum said much of his legislation comes from constituents, "and it's hard to say no." He has multiple bills on topics such as carbon dioxide pipelines, private property rights, election procedures and vaccines.

"We're taking on a lot of big issues," said Magrum, a first-term senator who served in the House from 2016-22. "I'm willing to take them on because sometimes you have to have a pretty thick skin to take some of these issues on, and I guess I feel like I can handle the job, so I'm ready to do it."

Sen. Jeff Magrum, R-Hazelton

Satrom, first elected in 2016, said his bills address everything from the State Investment Board to artificial insemination without consent to renaming bridges in honor of veterans.

Koppelman, who's served a decade in the House, quipped he's "on the downtrend," having introduced 17 bills in 2021, though he usually introduces more than 10. He said he aims for his bills to be "divided into an idea that can be easily digested," citing his various gun bills this session.

"Just trying to make bills in bite-size pieces that are easy to digest and have a better chance of passing," Koppelman said.

Rep. Ben Koppelman, R-West Fargo

He's also introduced bills that would restrict transgender athletes in K-12 and college sports, and to raise the interstate highway speed limit to 80 mph.

Satrom said he felt a sense of urgency due to new term limits approved by voters last year, that "If there was anything I wanted to do, I need to do it now." He actually had more bills drafted than the 15 he introduced, many of those from constituents.

Scheduling isn't always easy for them. Satrom said he had three bills scheduled for the same time one day, a "tricky" situation.


Koppelman said he had a slight conflict on a day he had six bill hearings, but a committee chairman rearranged the schedule for him.

Magrum said a number of his bills have "gratefully" been heard before committees on which he sits. He said he also taps bill co-sponsors to fill in and help the legislation through committees.

"I ask them, first thing, 'Are you going to help me if I do this bill? Don't leave me hanging, I'm not a one-man show,'" Magrum said.

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