North Dakota Legislature heads toward midsession break

Published 02-17-2019

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BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) - North Dakota's Legislature is in its last week before its midsession break, and lawmakers have several spending bills and major measures left to be considered in their respective chambers as "crossover" looms. That's when senators will begin working on House bills, and vice versa.

Highlights this week include floor votes on ethics measures, data privacy and sexual discrimination.

Monday is Day 31.

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CROSSOVER COMING

The North Dakota Legislature has acted upon about 75 percent of the 958 bills and resolutions that have been introduced. House Majority Leader Chet Pollert says representatives will likely work through Thursday to clear remaining measures. His Republican Senate counterpart, Rich Wardner, says senators should be done Wednesday. Monday is Presidents Day and a state holiday but the Legislature will be in session. Lawmakers intend to take off after they complete their work. The session resumes on Feb. 27.

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ETHICS MEASURES

North Dakota's House and Senate will vote this week on competing Republican and Democratic bills that would develop rules to comply with a voter-approved constitutional amendment aimed at ethics reform.

The bills differ greatly in their approach on how to adhere to the wide-ranging measure passed by voters in November.

Along with creating a five-member independent ethics commission, the initiative req

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ETHICS MEASURES

North Dakota's House and Senate will vote this week on competing Republican and Democratic bills that would develop rules to comply with a voter-approved constitutional amendment aimed at ethics reform.

The bills differ greatly in their approach on how to adhere to the wide-ranging measure passed by voters in November.

Along with creating a five-member independent ethics commission, the initiative requires banning foreign money from state elections and restricting lobbying, among other provisions.

Republicans and most lobbyists are supporting the GOP bill. The initiative's sponsors like the Democratic measure because they say it better reflects the constitutional amendment's intent.

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DATA PRIVACY

A House bill aimed at giving residents more power over their personal internet data has been reduced to a study - and the measure's sponsor is upset about it.

Fargo Republican Rep. Jim Kasper, the primary sponsor of the bill, says th

North Dakota's House and Senate will vote this week on competing Republican and Democratic bills that would develop rules to comply with a voter-approved constitutional amendment aimed at ethics reform.

The bills differ greatly in their approach on how to adhere to the wide-ranging measure passed by voters in November.

Along with creating a five-member independent ethics commission, the initiative requires banning foreign money from state elections and restricting lobbying, among other provisions.

Republicans and most lobbyists are supporting the GOP bill. The initiative's sponsors like the Democratic measure because they say it better reflects the constitutional amendment's intent.

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DATA PRIVACY

A House bill aimed at giving residents more power over their personal internet data has been reduced to a study - and the measure's sponsor is upset about it.

Fargo Republican Rep. Jim Kasper, the primary sponsor of the bill, says the House Industry, Business and Labor Committee was influenced heavily by technology and wireless communications companies.

"Their lobbyists got to the committee," Kasper said.

Bismarck Republican Rep. George Keiser, who chairs the committee, says there had been lobbying on both sides of the issue, and he hoped committee members made up their own minds, as he did.

California passed similar legislation last year and several states are considering new laws. Kasper says he patterned his bill after a measure being considered in Washington state.

Keiser says the committee wanted more time to research the issue and believes the legislation should be specific to North Dakota.

Kasper wants North Dakotans to ask companies like Google and Facebook what personal data has been collected and how it has been shared. He also wants to allow residents to demand the data be deleted and not collected in the future.

Kasper says a study does nothing to achieve that.

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SEXUAL ORIENTATION DISCRIMINATION

Another attempt to pass legislation that would prohibit housing or workforce discrimination based on sexual orientation appears to face the same fate as many other failed attempts.

Fargo Republican Rep. Mary Johnson's legislation has received an 11-2 "do not pass" recommendation from the House Human Services Committee. A floor vote is expected this week.

Johnson's bill mirrors similar bills that were killed by the Republican-led Legislature in several past sessions.

The North Dakota Senate in January rejected a measure that would prohibit housing or workforce discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

The House bill does not include gender identity. The North Dakota Human Rights Coalition, which has supported the anti-discrimination bills in the past, said it now opposes the House bill because it does not also include gender identity.

The omission, according to Elizabeth Loos, the group's legislative coordinator, would "codify into law that it is acceptable to discriminate against transgender people."

GOP Gov. Doug Burgum says he supports the House bill.

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Follow James MacPherson on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/macphersonja

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