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Minot Area Chamber EDC hosts legislative forums

Minot legislators have plenty of bills to discuss

The Minot Area Chamber EDC will host virtual legislative forums in coming weeks to enable community members to hear from their representatives and senators.

The chamber will be using the Zoom platform and has tentatively scheduled forums for this coming Saturday and again Jan. 30, beginning at 9 a.m. Anyone interested in getting on a list to receive a link to any of the upcoming forums can contact the chamber at 852-6000.

Work has just started at the Legislature, which convened Jan. 5. A number of bills have been filed since then.

Among bills filed are those sponsored by Rep. Jeff Hoverson, R-Minot, regarding masks, vaccinations and abortion. Those bills include:

– HB 1323, prohibiting a state government or political subdivision from imposing a mask mandate and prohibiting a mask mandate for entry to education, employment or services.

– HB 1204, gives certain employees with physical conditions or who hold religious, philosophical or moral objections the ability to opt out of an employer mask mandate.

– HB 1320, prohibiting states and political subdivisions from requiring vaccinations for entry to education, employment or services.

– HB 1306, calling for a study on the relationship between vaccines and sudden infant death and autism spectrum disorders.

– HB 1313, classifying abortion as murder unless performed to save the life of the pregnant woman and also making promotion of abortion a felony.

– HB 1317, directing the Department of Human Services to develop a program to provide financial assistance to individuals for costs associated with a pregnancy that results in adoption of a newborn.

Rep. Matt Ruby, R-Minot, is sponsoring HB 1210, which would be of interest to educators. It calls for a study on out-of-pocket expenses incurred by teachers for classroom supplies and the feasibility of creating a teacher reimbursement program.

Ruby had introduced a bill in 2019 that would have created a fund to reimburse teachers up to $200 annually, but it failed handily in the House.

Ruby and Rep. Larry Bellew, R-Minot, have their names on HB 1321, which would exempt the state from instituting daylight savings time and eliminate the need for North Dakotans to change their clocks twice a year.

Ruby also has a bill, HB 1215, that would create a low-interest park district loan program. It would be funded with a transfer of 10% of the oil extraction taxes deposited in the North Dakota Outdoor Heritage Fund, not to exceed $25 million.

Ron Merritt, Minot Parks director, said park districts across the state have been asking for help, and HB 1215 is a good option. He noted it is not the only option before the Legislature. A provision in the State Parks funding bill includes $20 million in grants for park districts.

Merritt said the Minot Park District has received money from the Outdoor Heritage Fund but was turned down on its last two requests as the fund appropriators looked more favorably on projects not associated with park districts.

The Minot Park District sought funding for a road and other infrastructure for a new family recreation area being developed on the west side of Minot.

“Because they said no twice, we are having to do that out of our budget. Any help we can get from them on these types of projects would sure be good,” Merritt said.

Sen. Oley Larsen, R-Minot, has introduced SB 2184, allowing volunteer instructors in certified hunter education courses to purchase deer hunting licenses without going through the usual lottery process. An instructor who provided instruction in each of the five preceding calendar years would be eligible to purchase a license for either bighorn sheep, elk or moose without going through the lottery. Other license limitations would still apply.

Rep. Dan Ruby, R-Minot, has introduced HB 1152, allowing bars or cigar lounges that meet certain requirements, including a ventilation system, to permit smoking of cigars in designated, enclosed areas. A bar would have to have at least 10% of sales from cigars to qualify. A cigar lounge would need to generate 30% or more of annual gross income from the sale of cigars.

Rep. Scott Louser, R-Minot, is looking to create a permanent Rebuilders Loan Fund in HB 1187 to help residents following disasters, as Minot residents were helped following the 2011 flood.

There’s also a collection of election-related bills introduced by Louser.

HB 1182 would allow candidates in local elections to list a political party affiliation on the ballot. Candidates for local judgeships are excludedSimilar legislation failed in 2019.

Two other House bills, 1253 and 1189, include provisions limiting how long voters can tie up a polling place after the polls close. One bill requires poll workers to generate a vote report within 30 minutes of closing time and the other establishes 90 minutes. Voters still holding ballots at that time would either have their ballot forwarded to the canvassing committee for counting in HB 1253, or in HB 1189, the ballot would be treated as provisional, which means it is separated from other ballots and handled under procedures set by the Secretary of State.

HB 1161, introduced by Rep. Dan Ruby, also addresses dallying voters in requiring ballots to be marked and cast 30 minutes after the poll closes to be counted.

A Minot polling place has dealt with this situation in a couple of recent elections. In those cases, a voter took extensive time following the closure of the poll to finish marking a ballot, delaying the tallying of results.

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