2007 Session - A to Z
by Christopher Dodson
Executive Director
North Dakota Catholic Conference
May 2007

The North Dakota Catholic Conference followed close to 200 bills and resolutions this last legislative session. Here is a look at some of them:

Abortion: North Dakota now has a law prohibiting most abortions. It would go into effect when it becomes constitutional. The abortion alternatives services program became permanent. A bill to update the state’s current abortion laws failed, as did an immediate ban on abortion, and a bill to recognize the unborn child as a legal person.

Charities: Certain charities got protection from high damage awards.

Deadly Force: Law enforcement, states attorneys, and the Catholic conference opposed an attempt to greatly expand when a person can use deadly force. The legislature subsequently removed most of the problematic sections.

Defibrillators: The legislature authorized the purchase of automatic external defibrillators for schools. Incredibly, some expressed opposition to giving nonpublic schools this life-saving device.

Emergency Shelter: Even legislators who take a dim view on spending state funds on new programs were moved by the testimony and evidence presented on the need for temporary shelters in the state.

Faith-Based and Community Initiatives: The legislature authorized this program last session as part of the Governor’s office, but gave it no money. This year, it was moved to the Department of Commerce and given money.

Funerals: A bill prohibiting disruption of funerals easily passed and was among the first enacted into law.

Health Care Directives: People in hospitals and nursing homes will no longer have to receive additional counseling when appointing a health care agent. Another new law allows a person to appoint an agent to speak on his or her behalf, even if he or she is not incapacitated.

Home Education: A bill originally intended to allow grandparents to home educate was changed to a bill liked by very few. It failed. A proposal to provide tax credits for the costs of home educating also failed.

HPV: While other states considered mandatory vaccines against the sexually transmitted human papilloma virus, North Dakota opted to fund an education program. Watch for it.

Human Rights: Enforcement of the state’s Human Rights Act now makes up the bulk of the work now done by the Department of Labor. Nevertheless, a second attempt to change the department’s name to the Department of Labor and Human Rights failed.

Human Services: The Department of Human Services received a needed boost in funding, especially for providers of health care to the poor and disabled. Some feel, however, that the appropriation falls short of what is needed to fulfill the state’s obligations to the most needy.

Immigrants and Driver’s Licenses: In order to comply with the federal Real ID Act, the state put limits on the ability of immigrants to obtain and keep driver’s licenses. A few weeks later, the legislature passed a resolution urging Congress to repeal the Real ID Act.

Marriage: Lawmakers changed state’s “cohabitation” law to reflect its original purpose of preventing fraudulent marriage. Some married couples will see a tax credit as part of an attempt to address the “marriage penalty” in the tax code. The legislature defeated a plan to give a discounted marriage license to couples that have received premarital counseling.

Minimum Wage: The state minimum wage will go up if the federal minimum wage goes up. Efforts to immediately increase the state minimum wage failed.

Organ Donation: The state adopted the Uniform Anatomical Gift Act as part of a national effort to increase organ donation.

Peace: A resolution encouraging peace in Iraq and Afghanistan and expressing support of the troops received a spirited hearing with many citizens attending.

Prison Chaplains: For the first time in recent history, the state expressly authorized funding for full-time prison chaplains.

Right to Organize: State and local government employees are not allowed to organize and collectively bargain in North Dakota – a right considered fundamental in Church teaching. Lawmakers refused to remedy this problem.

SCHIP: The legislature authorized expanding the state children’s health insurance program if certain federal barriers can be overcome.

Suicide: Insurance companies can no longer deny health care coverage solely because the injuries were the result of self-infliction or attempted suicide. Recognizing the serious problem of suicide among youth, the legislature authorized an interim study on identifying students at risk of suicide and developing needed programs.

Tuition Tax Credits: The legislature again turned down a proposal to provide some financial relief to parents with children in nonpublic schools.

* * * * *

For the last two and one-half years, Kathryn Grafsgaard has served as the conference’s health care advocate and associate director. Kathy leaves the conference this month to be closer to her family and to pursue new endeavors. She will be missed.