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North Dakota Legislature: Minors in bars bill passes in House

BISMARCK - A bill that would allow minors in bars under certain circumstances created some small-town vs. big-town debate in the state House on Monday.

BISMARCK - A bill that would allow minors in bars under certain circumstances created some small-town vs. big-town debate in the state House on Monday.

House Bill 1307 would allow minors in bars if they are there to eat, if the bar serves tabletop food prepared in a kitchen with at least an indoor grill and if the bar is smoke-free.

The bill passed with a 50-42 vote, despite a do-not-pass recommendation from the Human Services Committee.

The committee debated the bill at length, said Rep. Curt Hofstad, R-Devils Lake. It got to the point where it became "a nightmare" for law enforcement, parents, bar owners and competing establishments, such as restaurants in small towns, he said.

Bill sponsor Rep. Jon Nelson, R-Rugby, said it would be up to the bar owners if they wanted to go smoke-free and serve food to minors. Parents could also not allow their children to eat there if they're concerned, he said.


Rep. Phil Mueller, D-Valley City, said minors can now eat at places like Applebee's and Ruby Tuesday, where there are bars.

"How this is any different, I do not know," he said.

Rep. Dave Weiler, R-Bismarck, said a bar may be the only place to eat in some small towns.

Rep. Wes Belter, R-Fargo, said legislators also need to keep in mind the state's bigger cities like Fargo and Minot.

The bill now moves to the Senate.

Income taxes

The Senate killed a bill that would have provided a state tax break for low- and moderate-income families.

Senate Bill 2260 would have created a state earned income tax credit equal to 10 percent of the federal earned income tax credit. The federal credit is aimed at low- and moderate-income families to help offset payroll taxes, Tax Commissioner Cory Fong said.


For example, a married couple with two children making $30,000 per year and filing jointly would qualify for $3,230 under the federal credit and $323 under the proposed state credit, according to an estimate provided by Fong.

The North Dakota Economic Policy Project in Bismarck compiled information that said state credits not only offset state income taxes but "other state and local taxes disproportionately felt by low-income families."

If the state credit exceeded the taxpayer's state income tax liability, the excess credit would have been refundable to the taxpayer.

Bill sponsor Sen. Connie Triplett, D-Grand Forks, said not everyone benefits from the state's oil boom and growing salaries. The state still has working poor and low-income people who face the increasing costs of housing and services, she said.

Roughly 40,000 North Dakotans would benefit from a state earned income tax credit, according to information provided by the North Dakota Economic Policy Project. Offering the tax break would have cost the state $17 million during the 2011-13 biennium, according to the bill's fiscal note.

Sen. Joe Miller, R-Park River, said the Finance and Taxation Committee felt the cost was high "for a minimal amount of beneficial effect." There were also concerns about tying the state to a federal program and instances of fraud in the federal program, he said.

The committee believes there's a need to look at housing, meal and medical care assistance instead of an earned income tax credit, he said.

The bill failed on an 11-34 vote.


Teri Finneman is a multimedia reporter for Forum Communications Co.

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