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Capitol Chatter

A senate divided

Senate Bill 2060 would allow law enforcement to pull over and cite drivers for not wearing their seatbelts without having to find another reason to pull them over. Despite overwhelming support for the bill from law enforcement and first responders, the Senate Transportation Committee was evenly divided at 3-3, sending it to the senate floor without a “Do Pass” or “Do Not Pass” recommendation.


The committee vote was a sign of things to come, as the initial Senate vote on Jan. 21 also tied, at 23-23. The following day, Sen. Scott Meyer, R-Grand Forks, a sponsor of SB 2060 who was not present the previous day, asked for and was granted a revote, and the bill passed, 24-23. It goes now to the House, where it likely faces another mixed reaction.

Say goodbye to BUIs

North Dakotan bike enthusiasts and equestrians may be pleased to know that House Bill 1154, regarding the classification of bicycles and horses as vehicles, passed the House on Jan. 23 with a vote of 91-1. HB 1154 dictates that people found intoxicated while riding a bicycle or horse would not receive a DUI for the offence. The argument? You don’t need a license to ride a bike or a horse, so you shouldn’t get a DUI for it. The bill now trots to the Senate.

No such thing as a free lunch

One attention-grabbing bill this session would give lawmakers from outside of Bismarck meal reimbursement during legislative sessions. Co-sponsor Rep. Corey Mock, D-Grand Forks, said that although he has always refused to vote for his own paycheck, this is different. In the past, Mock said, food was often provided to legislators in events sponsored by lobbyists and special interests. That practice has been dropping off in the face of ethics concerns, and this bill is meant to ensure that anyone who wants to be involved in the legislative process is not barred because of financial need.

Bear v. Blum

“Sheriff Bear” and Rep. Jake Blum, R-Grand Forks, apparently buried the hatchet on their Twitter feud Jan. 23, when the sheriff himself traveled to the capitol for peace talks. Sheriff Bear, beloved peace officer from the Medora musical, is the face of a parody Twitter account that pokes fun at North Dakota politics.

Blum told the Bismarck Tribune that the feud jokingly began between the two during a summer trip to Medora. The sheriff tweeted that he had “many concerns” about how Blum’s proposal to raise speed limits would affect public safety. The tweets escalated in intensity over the next week, with Sheriff Bear even criticizing Blum for the euthanization of a wild bear that wandered into a city park in his Grand Forks district. It was purportedly the sheriff, however, that reached out to meet at the capitol last Wednesday.

The two took a picture together shaking hands. For a moment, there seemed to be an armistice, although Sheriff Bear has since tweeted, “Pleasant conversation with @RealJakeBlum today, but we have much more work to do.”

Can I get a nurse, please?

Jan. 23 was Nurses Day at the capitol. Booths for nursing programs across the state were set up in the Great Hall, and nursing students from across the state came to visit. During floor sessions, both the House and Senate balcony viewing areas were jam-packed with young nurses-to-be. Speaker Lawrence Klemin was impressed. “Wow, we’re in good hands today,” he said to chuckles from the House chamber as the students stood to be recognized.

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