Capitol Chatter

Out of the blue

Senators concurred with their colleagues in the House March 19 to repeal the blue law dictating most businesses be closed before noon on Sunday. It was a close vote, 25-21, and a heated discussion pitted the desire to support “traditional family values” against an argument for personal freedom and recognition of non-traditional workweeks.

By Diane Newberry

and Bilal Suleiman


Sen. Ray Holmberg, R-Grand Forks, supported the bill, pointing out that what was left on the books has been chipped away over the years in response to public opinion. “In 1992, voters in North Dakota weighed in on a measure to open stores start- ing at noon on Sunday,” Holmberg said. “Sixty-eight percent voted yes — 95,000 to 44,000. How many of us sitting in this body win by such a margin?”

Will the real farmer stand up?

“I need to declare a conflict of interest on this — as a farmer,” Rep. Clayton Fegley, R-Berthold, said during floor debate on SB 2360, a bill that would redefine farming income for the purpose of tax breaks. Representatives will often stand and declare a conflict of interest on bills that affect them personally. “How many farmers are in this chamber?” asked Speaker of the House Law- rence Klemin, R-Bismarck, to which a significant number of reps raised their hands. “We likely we would not have enough members voting if everyone declared the same exemp- tion,” Klemin said. “You will be required to vote.”

Chips ahoy!

On March 19, the Legislature was visited by USS North Dakota Commander Mark Robinson. “From the early days, I recognized the incredible relationship we’ve had with the state of North Dakota,” said Robinson, who took command of the nuclear-powered attack submarine in 2017. On July 12, 2018, the subma- rine was sent on a 184-day deploy- ment during which it traveled 34,000 miles. Robinson shared many im- pressive stats from the journey, but the one that delighted the crowd the most might be the fact that the crew ate 47,000 chocolate chip cookies.

Side e ects may include …

On March 15, the Legislature passed an abortion bill, the first in six years, which would require women undergoing a drug-induced abortion be informed that they could reverse the abortion if they changed their minds. The bill’s carrier, Rep. Janne Myrdal, R-Edinburg, argued that

it’s only a notification. “All of us go to a doctor, right? You get medica- tion and you get 15 pages from the pharmacy saying basically, ‘If you take this medication you will kill your dog and your husband, and you will not be happy anymore.’” Myrdal said. “This is just giving the woman all the information she needs.”

Homecoming king

“I miss you all very, very much,” U.S. Rep. Kelly Armstrong said as he addressed a light-hearted state Senate from his old desk on the Senate floor on March 19. North Dakota’s lone member of congress spoke for 14 minutes, unscripted, touching on such topics as the opioid crisis, workforce shortage issues and sticking up for farmers and energy producers in the state. Armstrong said that representatives from other states are dumbfounded when he tells them the North Dakota Legis- lature only meets for 80 days every two years. “It really truly is a better way to govern,” Armstrong said, complimenting legislators on their hard work.

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