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Capitol Chatter

Senate snafu

The Senate was riding the struggle bus on March 26. Sen. Oley Larsen, R- Minot, spent more than four minutes attempting to explain his proposed bill division on HB 1268, which deals with mill levy taxes for ambulance services.


Fellow Minot Republican and Senate president pro tempore David Houge couldn’t hear his soft-spoken colleague. After resolving that issue, two bills later senators hit another roadblock: their computers weren’t working. “Unless there are other people who wanted to talk about it, I would say we go ahead and vote on this and then we’re going to call it a day,” Majority Leader Rich Wardner, R-Dickinson, said. HB 1302 promptly failed and the Senate adjourned half an hour early.

Overlooked no more

When news reached North Dakota Insurance Commissioner Jon Godfread that a 6-foot-10-inch New York city councilman had just been awarded the Guinness World Record for “tallest politician,” Godfread was a tad insulted. “I didn’t even know this was a thing,” Godfread said. Godfread was officially listed as 6 feet 11 inches when he played basketball for the University of Northern Iowa, and he said he plans to get in touch with Guinness. They won’t take his university’s word for it, though. The commissioner will have to be officially measured for the title.

Double trouble

Visitors to the Capitol Wednesday morning might have thought they were seeing double: almost every portrait in the Rough Rider Award Hall of Fame was accompanied by a living, breathing mini-me prepared to tell passersby about their life. Fourth and fifth graders from Cathedral Elementary School in Bismarck have been participating in this project for the last four legislative sessions. According to Kay Power, the teacher who began the tradition, the most popular historical figures to portray have been Theodore Roosevelt, actress Angie Dickinson, singer Bobby Vee and – inexplicably – Elizabeth Bodine, mother of 18.

No drivers needed

The Senate unanimously passed a “futuristic bill” March 20 that lays the regulatory groundwork for the testing of autonomous vehicles in North Dakota. In explaining the bill, Sen. David Rust, R-Tioga, said that his first new car, “a 1967 candy-apple red, high performance four-speed transmission Mustang,” would be a Level 0 on the automation scale. Vehicles with features like cruise control and blind spot detection would be a level 1 or 2. The bill paves the way for using and testing autonomous vehicles in levels 3, 4 and 5 of automation. Rust said that with this legislation, North Dakota is on the “leading edge” of this technology but it will be “several years” before fully autonomous vehicles will be available to private owners.

Take a deep breath

Roughly two hours and eight minutes into the March 27 Senate session, Sen. Howard Anderson, R-Turtle Lake, announced that he would “encourage everyone here to take a couple of deep breaths because after this long session we need more oxygen.” Anderson, who at the time was introducing a bill regarding hyperbaric oxygen chamber research, earned empathetic laughs from his fellow senators. The Senate, with 47 members as opposed to the House’s 94, naturally drafts fewer bills. After the crossover of each chamber’s bills to the other, however, there is always a dramatic shift in the amount of work to do and Senators are feeling the pressure as the temperatures in Bismarck rise. The session continued for 10 more minutes after Anderson’s quip.