Wednesday, Feb. 20 was a hectic day in Bismarck for at least two North Dakota legislators.
Reps. Cindy Schreiber Beck, R-District 25, and Alisa Mitskog, D-District 25, prepared for the long haul. By the end of the day, the North Dakota House and Senate had to have completed voting on all bills in their respective chambers.
“Crossover,” the approximate midterm break for each legislative session, would begin that evening. Beginning Wednesday, Feb. 27, the returning representatives will evaluate bills which passed in the senators’ chamber and vice versa.
Leading up to crossover, state capitol procedure was a bit like a marathon.
“I think people were impressed by the efficiency displayed,” Mitskog said. “To see how many bills we went through in the week prior just showed the level of cooperation was there.”
Representatives passed 351 of 545 bills introduced in the House, Forum News Service reported. The margin was closer in the Senate, 269 approvals of 359 introduced bills.
Last Wednesday, cooperation came alongside success.
“I brought two bills back to the floor,” Schreiber Beck said. “I got one bill killed that I wanted killed and one advanced that I wanted advanced.”
The killed bill was House Bill 1493, concerning unmanned aerial systems. Under the bill, intentional violation of another person’s privacy through the use of drones and similar items would be a Class B misdemeanor, Forum News Service reported. The bill was defeated with a 56-36 vote.
“It was not a privacy bill, but an anti-drone bill,” Schreiber Beck said.
Rep Kim Koppelman, R-District 13, voted for the bill.
“The flip side of what we’re hearing is that anytime the term ‘unmanned aerial vehicles’ appears in a bill … certain folks get alarmed,” Koppelman said.
Mitskog and Schreiber Beck also cast affirmative votes for House Bill 1383. The bill, which passed with a 73-17 vote, calls for the creation of an environmental impact mitigation fund and relates to mitigation of direct environmental impacts.
Under the bill, funding may be used only for contracting for consultation with scientists, the reclamation, restoration or mitigation of any land or water resource adversely impacted directly by energy development or the offsetting or degrading costs of landowner mitigation as determined as a qualifying circumstance by an advisory board.
“I thought it was a very good bill and I’m happy to see it passed,” Schreiber Beck added.
Sen. Larry Luick, R-District 25, is listed as a sponsor of House Bill 1383. Sen. Jim Dotzenrod, D-District 26, is also sponsoring the bill.
House Bill 1066, commonly known as the “Prairie Dog Infrastructure” bill, received an 80-12 vote. The bill is expected to provide up to $3.6 million to Wahpeton each biennium. Essential infrastructure projects, everything from water treatment plants to roads and bridges, are expected to be funded by the money.
“I think it’s a really good bill, especially for those counties, cities and communities outside the oil patch,” Mitskog said. “It will bring some money for some much needed infrastructure. Even the local communities that are not in the first tier (of recipients) will be able to be rewarded. It’s a really good thing for North Dakota.”
There was little doubt that the bill would pass, Schreiber Beck observed.
“Every locale will be awarded some dollars, and there’s not too many people who would oppose that,” she said.
Like its namesake, the “Prairie Dog Infrastructure” bill is a traveler. Whether or not it concludes the journey this spring depends on the second half of the 66th Legislative Assembly.
The assembly is limited to a period of 80 legislative days. It is scheduled to conclude Tuesday, April 30 in Bismarck.