A recap of the 2023 Legislative Session in North Dakota

Published: May. 1, 2023 at 7:07 PM CDT
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BISMARCK, N.D. (KFYR) - After 75 days and 990 bills, the 2023 Legislative Session has come to an end in North Dakota.

The 2023 Legislature was memorable. How it’ll be remembered probably depends on your political leanings. Maybe you’ll remember it as the session where lawmakers finally did away with abortion, or the session where the majority of North Dakotans got a tax cut. Or maybe you’ll remember the bills aimed at banning books and barring trans girls from playing girls’ sports. Either way, you’ll probably remember it.

Half a billion dollars in tax cuts.

“Retirees on social security, workers with second jobs to make ends meet, and countless others benefit from this plan,” said Tax Commissioner Brian Kroshus.

And $5.5 billion to shut down the pension plan for future state employees.

“The defined contribution plan that we’ve put together is outstanding,” said Representative Mike Lefor, R-Dickinson.

Non-relatives can co-own animal agriculture operations for the first time in 90 years.

“With these animal ag operations coming into this state, we’re going to add that value back into our local communities,” said Representative Paul Thomas, R-Velva.

The state passed $66 million to address the childcare shortage and $6 million to expand free student lunches, despite some controversy getting there.

“Yes, I can understand kids going hungry, but is that really the problem of the school district? Is that the problem of the state of North Dakota? It’s really the problem of parents being negligent with their kids,” said Senator Michael Wobbema, R-Valley City.

Speaking of controversy, two lawmakers turned their back on the chaplain during the daily prayer, which they felt had been politicized.

“My first reaction was, ‘Oh, that looks really ugly,’” said Rev. Dr. Leanne Simmons, pastor at First Presbyterian Church of Bismarck.

Then there were the social issues. Like an outright ban on abortion.

“This is a life state, it has promoted the life of the unborn and mothers from before statehood,” said Senator Janne Myrdal, R-Edinburg.

“No matter what states do to try to restrict women’s access to reproductive healthcare, those laws are going to end up before state and federal courts,” said Representative Zac Ista, D-Grand Forks.

And two bills relating to banning books. Both passed, one was vetoed.

“It used to be that libraries and schools were safe zones for minors in our towns and communities, this is no longer the case,” said Senator Keith Boehm, R-Mandan.

“It’s an insult to librarians and it’s an insult to our citizens,” said Christine Kujawa, library director at Bismarck Veterans Memorial Public Library.

About a dozen bills relating to transgender people passed, including banning trans girls from girls’ bathrooms.

“I have nine granddaughters, and I sure hope that as the oldest one goes to middle school, that she’s not confronted in a locker room by biological males at the age of 11 or 12,” said Representative SuAnn Olson, R-Baldwin.

“It is not their intention to take advantage of people or to violate other people’s space. It’s literally to be able to use the bathroom,” said Representative Josh Boschee, D-Fargo.

Cigar bars will soon be open for business. Vouchers for private schools passed but was vetoed. 80-mile-per-hour speed limits passed but was vetoed. A bill banning approval and ranked-choice voting passed but was vetoed.

“I’m getting sick and tired of vetoes. I feel our branch is being disrespected,” said Representative Mike Lefor, R-Dickinson.

A dozen bills were introduced to slow construction on the five-state Summit Carbon Solutions project, but just about all of them failed.

“How small of a minority should be able to outweigh the rights of the majority?” said Senator Jordan Kannianen, R-Stanley.

While some are thrilled with the outcome of the session…

“Our state is well-positioned to grow our economy, strengthen our communities, and create a brighter future for all,” said Governor Doug Burgum, R-North Dakota.

Others are concerned the majority party doesn’t have its priorities straight.

“Time and energy that should’ve been spent on these issues that impact the broader population, was spent on niche issues that target a tiny number of North Dakotans,” said Representative Josh Boschee, D-Fargo.

Governor Burgum has 15 days to act on the remaining bills.

The Legislature also approved $130 million for a new women’s correctional facility in Mandan, banned foreign adversaries from buying North Dakota land, passed stricter regulations on the charitable gaming industry, and passed the biggest raises for state employees that anyone can remember. It was all part of the most expensive budget in state history at $19.6 billion.

Your News Leader will take a closer look at some of the biggest impact laws later this week.