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Governor powers bill packed with amendments

North Dakota Legislature
North Dakota Legislature(kfyr)
Published: Apr. 20, 2021 at 9:42 PM CDT
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BISMARCK, N.D. (KFYR) - One way the legislature is attempting to fit a plethora of issues into one session is by pushing many amendments into one bill.

Members added amendments to SB 2124 regarding issues ranging from emergency powers to undocumented migrants before passing it. And the process was confusing and lengthy.

Crammed into one bill are limitations on the governor’s power to enact statewide executive orders, vaccine passport requirements, the potential for the legislature to reconvene during emergencies, and undocumented child migrant facilities and the House spent more than an hour trying to sort through all of it.

Debate reverberated throughout the House as confusion ensued around the correct process for dividing the large bill into two.

“We cannot have wholly separate divisions of this bill because the bill itself has not been engrossed,” said Rep. Corey Mock, D-Grand Forks.

Ultimately, the legislation was separated.

The first half of the bill, Divison A, only included two sections regarding limitations on providing a facility for unaccompanied undocumented children along with executive branch actions that may violate someone’s due process rights.

“I have to lament that this is our last opportunity to deal with what happened during the pandemic,” Rep. Ben Koppelman, R-West Fargo.

Rep. Koppelman said he wasn’t in support of the second half of the bill because, paired with the first half, he said it has less of a chance of passing altogether.

A vaccine passport section in Division B of the bill also garnered conflicting views, with some saying it didn’t go far enough to stop vaccination requirements and others saying it wasn’t possible to do so.

“You can’t help yourself to say ‘I don’t want someone to tell me I have to be vaccinated,’ but yet I don’t want to tell a business how to run their business if they think it’s the safest and best thing for their business. So we hit this conundrum,” Rep. Todd Porter, R-Mandan.

Despite many different views on the bill, it did pass in its entirety.

According to committee members, however, the amendments were slipped in too quickly.

“Maybe some of the committee members had these amendments well in advance, but I didn’t. I had them only moments before they were presented,” said Rep. Kathy Skroch, R-Lidgerwood.

Lawmakers in support of the bill in it’s entirely said it should help in case of future emergencies.

“This is something that we’re going to put in place that future governors and future legislatures will have to deal with. And we don’t know, at least I don’t think this body has a crystal ball of what the future will hold,” said Rep. Robin Weisz, R-Hurdsfield.

Rep. Weisz said the bill strikes a balance between still allowing the governor power to act immediately in emergencies and letting the legislature request to convene during them as well.

With the House wiping the original bill clean and adding different language and additional issues, the newly passed bill will head back to the Senate for approval on the amendments.

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