Legislators consider 969 measures
BISMARCK -- North Dakota legislators aren't quite as prolific with paper production as in some other years. As of day's end Monday, 412 bills had been introduced in the Senate and 501 in the House. With the addition of 14 Senate concurren...
BISMARCK -- North Dakota legislators aren't quite as prolific with paper production as in some other years.
As of day's end Monday, 412 bills had been introduced in the Senate and 501 in the House.
With the addition of 14 Senate concurrent resolutions and 32 House concurrent resolutions, the total number of measures is 959. Some bills can still be introduced through the delayed bills committee.
At the same point in the 2001 session legislators had introduced 972 total measures compared to 980 in 1999.
The low in the past 20 years was 916 bills in 1997. The high -- 1,259 -- was reached in both 1983 and 1987. From 1983 through 1995, the number was never below 1,000.
Adoption bill passes
The Senate on Tuesday passed a bill that private, religious affiliated adoption agencies say is necessary to preserve their religious liberty.
Senate Bill 2188 passed on a 45-2 vote. The agencies don't want the state to force them to facilitate adoptions that violate their religious or moral principles. The bill says that the Department of Human Services can't refuse to license them if they use the principles to select their clientele.
Opponents of the bill included gays and lesbians who think they will be shut out of adoptions.
Sen. Judy Lee, R-West Fargo, said the bill does not outlaw gay adoptions and clientele turned away by some religious agencies can find another one. Four of the six agencies licensed in the state are religiously affiliated.
The two senators who voted against the bill were Sen. Carolyn Nelson, D-Fargo, and Sen. Linda Christenson, D-Grand Forks. The bill now goes to the House.
State worker pay
North Dakota state employees made their pitch to the Senate Tuesday for higher wage increases and full health benefits.
Gov. John Hoeven has recommended a 1 percent increase on Jan. 1, 2004, a 2 percent increase on Jan. 1, 2005 and the state's agreement to continue to pay full health insurance premiums.
Gerry Lies, a University of North Dakota employee, raised chuckles at the Senate Appropriations Committee when he ended his testimony with a light-hearted summary of this year's Legislative issues.
"Please don't take my insurance. I will need it when I accidentally shoot myself when I reach down to pick up my illegal cigarette that I dropped while trying to pet my friend's dog that he brought from Minnesota to hunt," Lies said. "We had been discussing economic development and my pay raise and health insurance and how they would be comparable to that of his company that he was looking to bring to North Dakota for economic development."
On agenda today
Today will be busy at the Capitol. Some bills that could bring heated testimony -- even crowds -- include House Bill 1243, which will set up the state's participation in a multi-state lottery; HB, 1450, which would require all school districts to have a high school; HB 1489 on high school teacher qualifications; HB 1449, which gets rid of the small commission retailers receive for collecting sales taxes for the state; HB 1377, legalizing state employee collective bargaining.