Yet another lively couple weeks of legislation under the proverbial belt! It’s gotten me wondering…. so, just what have we accomplished to date? With somewhere around 1400 bills, it’s easy to start loosing track of where things are – what’s still alive, what’s not. A quick run-down of some of particular interest include:
GVA (Gov. & Veterans Affairs)
HB 1219 – Relating to providing free tuition for dependents of disabled veterans, this is a good bill that extends the benefit in the event of the veteran’s death. A good bill, so far it has passed both chambers and is now destined for conference committee where committee members of both the House and the Senate will reconcile changes made to the bill on the Senate side.
HB 1332 – is a bill that originally was one paragraph that dealt with the timing of elections. It was “hog-housed” in committee to become an eight page piece of legislation that will change how North Dakotans vote in future elections. While not actually a voter registration bill, it will require a proper identification before a ballot will be provided. The entirely unexpected hog-house may not be completely off the mark, but some of my committee members agreed this is too much too soon and that we should look to educate the public first, implement in the 2015 session. As it stands, this bill made it through the House, has made it through Senate Committee and is currently in Senate Appropriations for consideration.
HB 1259 – is a bill that would allow the sales of fireworks from December 26 through January 1 of each year. While I am not a big fan of fireworks, I know that many are – and that the ability to purchase and set off fireworks over the New Years time frame is something that many would enjoy. Looks like for all those piro-techs among us you’re about to get your wish! 1259 has passed through both chambers as of March 26 and should be available for the Governor to sign yet this week. Start making those holiday festivity plans now!
The big news for the past two weeks in Human Services is all about abortions. By the time this makes the local press, the news will have hit national stations across the country that North Dakota is about to enact the most restrictive bills related to abortions in the country. All together there are four of them that are alive, with three of them (SB 2305, HB 1305 & HB 1465) signed by the Governor. One, SB 2368 is still floating around and will have to go through conference committee to reconcile the restrictive education amendment made to that bill. SCR 4009 is a resolution that has passed both chambers and will now go to a vote of the people in 2014.
There is little doubt that the four bills will immediately be challenged in the higher courts. Each of the bills restrict in one fashion or another with the intent to make an abortion procedure illegal in the state. The two of greatest implications, however, is HB 1465 and SCR 4009. Both of these pertain to identifying exactly when life begins (by statute) and conversely, the argument can be made, when life ends. 1465 attempts to identify life with the beat of a heart and with that logic, it isn’t a stretch to see the implications of this to end of life choices and decisions currently legal by statute. 4009 attempts to identify that all life, in all stages of development, is to be protected, and in the vagueness of the language immediately leaves a multitude of life decisions open for legal debate. Some of the obvious that jump to the top of the list include living wills, transplant processes, DNR (do not resuscitate) orders, advanced health directives – and no doubt, many more will crop up. All of the bills and resolution leave no exception for cases of rape, incest or fetal abnormality or fetal fatality situations.
Will take a look at more bill comparisons next week! Til then… Happy Easter to all!
Representative Gail Mooney