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Capitol Chatter

A prickly argument

Tensions roiled in an April 8 House floor debate over a $5 million appropriation for the care of cacti on display at the International Peace Garden. Several lawmakers balked at the amount.

By BILAL SULEIMAN and DIANE NEWBERRY
North Dakota Newspaper Association

“We sit here and fund junk like this,” Rep. Daniel Johnston, R-Kathryn, said. “We’re ripping North Dakota taxpayers off.” After an impassioned speech by Rep. Jon Nelson, R-Rugby, arguing for the importance of fostering peaceful relations between the U.S. and Canada, Rep. Dan Ruby, R-Minot, asked, “When have we ever been at war with Canada?” Ruby was then informed by Rep. Thomas Beadle, R-Fargo, that the last time the U.S. was technically at war with Canada was the War of 1812, in which British troops burned down the White House. The House ultimately decided to fund the cacti, passing SB 2019 by 61-29.

School board

update

On April 10, Gov. Doug Burgum signed SB 2230, barring people with felony convictions from serving on school boards. The NDNA previously reported on this bill and the controversies in the Belcourt School District on the Turtle Mountain Indian Reservation that led to the legislation. Two current members of the Belcourt School Board have felony convictions. On April 9, the board voted to suspend Superintendent Lana DeCoteau. The district is undergoing a financial audit from the state auditor’s office and, according to Scott Davis, executive director of the state Indian Affairs Commission, an unusually high number of people have come forward to run for the school board in the upcoming election.

Tres-passion

“I thought my tires would be slashed in the parking lot,” Rep. Cynthia Schreiber-Beck, R-Wahpeton, said during a slow, yet fiercely passionate floor debate on SB 2315, also known as the “trespass bill.” A total of 15 reps spoke on the bill during the hour-long floor session in which it was the only bill heard. Bill carrier Rep. Bill Tveit, R-Hazen, stood eight separate times to stump for the bill, which evoked fierce passion from hunters and landowners throughout the session. On a 55-38 vote, the House passed a version of the bill declaring all private land in North Dakota to be closed for access with an exception for hunters, setting up a likely contentious conference committee session in coming weeks to hammer out the details.