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Legislative Wrap-up
by Christopher Dodson
Executive Director
North Dakota Catholic Conference

May 2019

The 66th regular session of the North Dakota Legislative Assembly ended last week. Here is a look at some of the session’s highlights, lowlights, and little-knowns, on issues of concern to the Catholic Church. In no particular order, the legislature:

  • Required abortionists to inform women that a drug abortion might be reversible.

  • Fell short of protecting free speech and religious rights of students at the state colleges.

  • Defeated several attempts to allow guns in churches and schools without the church or school’s permission.

  • Expanded and improved the state’s safe haven law to protect abandoned infants.

  • Put a hold on a plan to move female inmates from New England to Bismarck, move male inmates from Bismarck to buildings used by the state hospital in Jamestown, and build a new state hospital. Lawmakers immediately questioned the plan and administration officials complicated matters by dropping the plan for a new state hospital early in the session.

  • Repealed the state’s long-standing Sunday morning law that provided families and communities rest and recreation.

  • Passed several laws impacting local control, including prohibiting local minimum wage laws, gun buy-back programs, and bans on plastic bags. Lawmakers also removed some of the ability of local governments to zone for animal feeding operations.

  • Created a task force on the prevention of sexual abuse of children.

  • Directed the Human Trafficking Commission to develop a training program to help hotel operators identify human trafficking victims.

  • Gave nonpublic schools a rare victory by expanding the tax credit for contributions to nonpublic schools and universities.

  • Expanded Medicaid coverage for pregnant women and their unborn children.

  • Began implementation of the new constitutional ethics provisions in a manner that protects the contributors and members of churches and charities.

  • Passed a ban on dismemberment abortions that will go into effect when either the Eighth Circuit or the Supreme Court allows enforcement.

  • Made female genital mutilation reportable and punishable as child abuse.

  • Ensured that a caregiver cannot deny visitation by a close family member or clergy.

  • Urged Congress to pass a ban on abortions after twenty weeks gestation.

  • Rejected several attempts to expand gambling, including sports betting and the use of “historic horse racing” machines.

  • Defeated two bills to give special legal protection to “sexual orientation” and “transgender” expression.

  • Increased funding for the corporate guardianship program provided by Catholic Charities North Dakota. The service helps intellectually disabled individuals live and work in the community.

  • Refused to study school choice programs during the interim.

  • Defeated legislation to allow the use of deadly force to defend property and when its use is not necessary to protect life.

  • Failed to allow law enforcement to remove firearms from an individual determined to be endanger of harming self or others.

  • Restored funding for homeless shelter grants that was reduced in the 2017 session.

  • Increased funding for programs that support victims of human trafficking.

  • Added more funding than the Governor proposed for the alternatives to abortion program.

  • Approved several new initiatives and expanded others to help individuals with mental illnesses.

  • Increased funding for guardianship services provided through counties.

  • Revised the home education statute so that parents do not need to directly supervise at all times.

  • Rejected a proposal to remove almost all state oversight of education.

  • Soundly defeated a bill to mandate Bible education in all schools, including private schools.

  • Prevented government employers from automatically refusing an applicant who has a criminal record.

  • Required life insurers to disclose if a policy has a waiting period that would not cover newborns.

  • Rejected an effort by police and firefighters to obtain collective bargaining rights.

  • Turned down a resolution that sought to clarify that the time for adoption of the Equal Rights Amendment has passed.

  • Defeated legislation mandating that health insurance polices cover a variety of “infertility treatments,” some of which the church considers unethical.

  • Allowed public and nonpublic schools to have armed first responders in limited circumstances.

  • Expanded the farm ownership law to allow second cousins to have ownership in a family farm.

  • Transferred the Tompkins Rehabilitation program and the its building from the Department of Human Services to the Department of Corrections. The successful program treats soon-to-be-released inmates with substance abuse issues. The state hospital will retain some beds at another location.

  • Allowed a court to terminate the parental rights of someone convicted of a rape that resulted in the child’s conception.

  • Passed a major overhaul in the delivery of social services at the local level, moving from a county-based system to human service zones..

What We Do

The North Dakota Catholic Conference acts on behalf of the Roman Catholic bishops of North Dakota to respond to public policy issues of concern to the Catholic Church and to educate Catholics and the general public about Catholic social doctrine.
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