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Anti-mask mandate bill exempts cities, counties, schools, businesses

Published: Apr. 7, 2021 at 8:01 PM CDT
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BISMARCK, N.D. (KFYR) - The Senate has passed an anti-mask mandate bill that’s been garnering a lot of attention.

After barely passing through the House and receiving a do not pass recommendation from its Senate committee, the bill’s future looked bleak.

But, a last minute amendment saved its life and it passed through the Senate with a 30-17 margin.

As people crowded into the Senate balcony in support of the bill, applause broke out numerous times causing distraction during the floor session.

Loyal Karges said he and his family came to the Capitol from Stanton, North Dakota because they wanted the Senators to know they want to make their own choices.

“I get to decide that for myself, not a bureaucracy and not an elected position. Otherwise, it’s not freedom,” said Loyal Karges.

Although many of the people attending weren’t happy with the amendment added to the bill, it may be the very reason more lawmakers jumped on board.

“We are looking for a balance between holding our freedoms that are important to all of us as well as ensuring that people feel safe,” said Sen. Jessica Unruh-Bell, R-Beulah.

The amendment wouldn’t put restrictions on cities, counties, school boards, or businesses enacting mask mandates, it would only affect statewide elected officials, like Gov. Doug Burgum, R-N.D., and the state health officer.

Supporters of the bill said personal freedom matters more than anything. “Liberty always trumps safety, at least for the people of North Dakota and their history,” said Sen. Janne Myrdal, R-Edinburg.

But those in opposition of the bill said someone has to protect public safety.

“The executive branch needs to make decisions about the public’s good,” said Sen. Howard Anderson, R-Turtle Lake.

Although the bill’s future looked uncertain in the beginning, there’s now a possibility it could continue and strip the executive branch of their power to enact a mask mandate.

The bill will next head back to the House for a vote on the new amendment and, if approved, will then head to the governor’s desk for a signature.

If he decides to veto it, the bill would need to return and be approved by a two-thirds majority in both the House and the Senate in order to pass. But, the margin in which the bill passed in the Senate today wouldn’t be enough to reach the two-thirds majority threshold.

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