Summary of 2017 Session
by Christopher Dodson
Executive Director
North Dakota Catholic Conference

May 2017

Assessing a legislatives session from the perspective of Catholic issues is not easy task. By its nature the political process is never perfect. At the same time, the church does not always propose specific public policy proposals, but instead offers guidance on issues that may not always result in “yes” or “no” recommendations on particular bills.

Nevertheless, we can makes some observations about the last legislative session. As can be seen from the list below, the North Dakota Catholic Conference’s position prevailed on the bills it identified as most significant. At the same time, we wish more could have been done in the area of human services, especially behavioral health and addiction services.

The conference opposed more bills than any previous session. Usually, the conference opposes only one or two bills of importance. This session it actively opposed thirteen bills. Eight of those involved threats to religious freedom.

Also noteworthy is that the corporate guardianship program at Catholic Charities and the Alternatives to Abortion program received funding increases at a time when most programs received reductions in funding. Both of these programs are strongly supported by the Catholic Church.

Discovering how your legislator voted on these bills can be difficult. Contact the North Dakota Catholic Conference office if you need assistance.”

BillDescriptionNorth Dakota Catholic Conference PositionOutcome
HB 1012Department of Human Services Appropriation/corporate guardianship program/20 new slotsSupportSuccess.
HB 1012Department of Human Services Appropriation/Alternatives to Abortion program/increaseSupportSuccess
HB 1012Department of Human Services Appropriation/Renewal of Medicaid ExpansionSupportSuccess
HB 1015Office of Management and Budget Appropriation - inclusion of nonpublic school teachers in teacher loan forgiveness programSupportSuccess. Language included in final bill.
HB 1040Behavioral health programs recommended from interim study.SupportLimited Success. Final bill included only a fraction of the funding requested.
HB 1273Firearms in churches without the church’s permission.OpposedSuccess. House removed the objectionable language.
HB 1163Repeal Sunday closing laws.OpposedSuccess. Passed House but defeated in Senate.
HB 1294Allow alkaline hydrolysis for disposal of human remainsOpposedSuccess. The alkaline hydrolysis portions were removed by the House.
HB 1308Mandatory addiction screening/testing for TANF recipientsOpposedSuccess. Passed House but defeated in Senate.
HB 1319Disclosure of original birth records to adopted individuals.OpposedSuccess. Defeated in House.
HB 1365Authority of a guardian approve treatment in case of psychiatric emergencies.SupportSuccess
HB 1383Relating to loitering. Would have interfered with pro-life witnessing, religious expression, and homelessness.OpposedSuccess. Defeated in House.
HB 1386Prohibition of discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.OpposedSuccess. Defeated in House.
HB 1425Anti-foreign and religious laws bill.OpposedSuccess. Passed House but defeated in Senate.
HB 1427Original version would have allowed local and state authorities to block refugee resettlement.OpposedSuccess. House amended the bill into a possible legislative interim study of refugee impacts.
SB 2125Possession of a firearm in church without church’s permissionOpposedSuccess. Bill amended to address concerns.
SB 2139House amended the bill to allow any “elected official” to possess a firearm in a church, school, or public building without permission.Opposed.Success. Senate Defeated the bill.
SB 2201Relating to the freedom of expression of student journalists. Would have dictated policies for private universities regarding student journalists.OpposedSuccess. Senate removed the sections concerning private universities.
SB 2203Appropriation to the attorney general for human trafficking victims treatment and support services.SupportedSuccess.
SB 2279Drug testing for TANF program participants.OpposedSuccess. Defeated in Senate