BISMARCK — North Dakota lawmakers approved hundreds of bills during their biennial legislative session earlier this year, but many of the policy changes have yet to be implemented.
That will change Thursday, Aug. 1, when an array of bills will take effect.
While spending legislation takes effect July 1 during odd-numbered years to coincide with the state’s two-year budget cycles, policy changes generally become effective a month later.
And though an abortion bill the Republican-controlled Legislature passed this year will technically be the law of the land Thursday, the state has agreed not to enforce it until a judge issues a preliminary ruling in a legal challenge brought by the state’s sole abortion clinic.
How does it all affect you? Read on.
If you want to shop earlier Sunday — The new list of laws is topped by the new Sunday opening law that takes effect Thursday. North Dakota will allow retailers to open their doors on Sunday mornings after legislators narrowly voted to repeal a law that can be traced to a period before North Dakota became a state. The issue divided the Legislature on issues of free enterprise and religion. Some stores have already announced they will open earlier on Sunday mornings.
If you drive in the cold — Winter drivers will no longer have to worry about getting a ticket for leaving their car idling during North Dakota’s frigid months. Lawmakers voted to repeal a law imposing a $20 fine for leaving a car running while it’s unattended, which they said has gone unenforced. Meanwhile, drivers involved in crashes that result in at least $4,000 in damage will be required to immediately report the incident to police. The reporting threshold is currently $1,000. Legislators also outlawed ampersands on personalized license plates. Drivers already using the symbol will be asked to choose something new.
If you have a boat — Boaters on a nighttime cruise will face a $50 fine if their watercraft is too loud. The new law will prohibit boats from producing noises in excess of 88 decibels for more than 10 minutes between midnight and 5 a.m. The noise level must be measured from the shoreline.
If you have a criminal record — People with a criminal past will be able to have their records sealed if they stay out of trouble for several years. One bill was specific to drunk driving arrests, but another covered a wider set of crimes. The broader bill didn’t apply to felonies involving violence or intimidation during the period in which the offender is ineligible to possess a firearm or to offenses that require sex offender registration. Proponents said the legislation was aimed at giving people a better chance at finding a job and housing, thereby reducing the chances they’ll reoffend.
If you lie about having a service animal — Lawmakers approved a bill making it an infraction to falsely claim a pet as a service animal while trying to gain admission to a public place or obtain a reasonable housing accommodation. An infraction carries a maximum fine of $1,000.
If you like to smoke pot — People possessing a small amount of marijuana will face lighter penalties. Those caught with less than a half-ounce of the drug will face an infraction, which carries a maximum fine of $1,000. Marijuana possession is currently a Class B misdemeanor, which carries a maximum of 30 days in prison and a $1,500 fine. The change isn’t expected to significantly alter existing judicial practices or deter marijuana legalization efforts.
If you drink while under age — People caught drinking or trying to purchase alcohol before their 21st birthday will be ordered to go through an “evidence-based alcohol and drug education program” under a new law. That offense is already a Class B misdemeanor. In a separate bill, lawmakers raised the age of criminal culpability from seven to 10 years old, meaning people younger than that age are deemed incapable of committing an offense under the state’s constitution or laws.
If you use social media to bully others — North Dakota law will recognize negative messages students send or receive through mobile devices outside of school as a form of bullying. School districts are already required by law to develop an anti-bullying policy.
If you support anti-corporate farming — A crack will open in the state’s anti-corporate farming law Thursday. State law prevents corporations and limited liability companies from owning or leasing farm or ranch land and from “engaging in the business of farming or ranching,” with some exceptions. Lawmakers expanded requirements that shareholders or members be related to each other to include second cousins.
If you try to force someone into sex — “Sexual extortion,” a move aimed at people who threaten others in an attempt to coerce them into sex, will be outlawed. That could include threats to release intimate photos of the victim. Penalties vary, but at most it would carry Class B felony charges and requirements to register as a sex offender.