2013-02-07 / Columns

North Dakota Senate Report

By Sen. Robert “Bob” Erbele, District 28 1-888-635-3447  rerbele@nd.gov

We have completed the third week of session, and things are moving along quickly and orderly. There were 375 bills introduced in the Senate this session, as compared to 368 bills last session. Currently we have acted on 120 bills on the Senate floor which leaves 255 bills to act on before crossover which is 20 days away.

The Appropriations committee has heard all of the agency budgets, and we were able to spend quite a bit of time this past week digging deeper into our subcommittee assignments. We should be seeing the bills coming out of policy committees that have fiscal notes attached to them sometime this week.

The rule for the policy committees is that any bill that appropriates $5,000 or more has to be referred to Appropriations or if it has a fiscal impact to a state agency of $50,000 or more. There is a potential of 27 bills coming out of the Finance and Tax committee alone that would fall into that category. Hopefully the policy committee will get some of them weeded out before we see them.

The fast tracked highway funding bill passed both the House and Senate last week and should be ready for the Governor’s signature this week. This will allow road projects to be bid earlier, which generally creates an opportunity for lower bids, and it will enable the construction companies to move their equipment to job sites before the load restrictions go on.

This week Thursday the Senate will have four antiabortion bills on the floor for a vote. They are SCR 4009, which is a Constitutional Amendment that would put this question to a vote of the people: “The inalienable right to life of every human being at any stage of development must be recognized and protected.” If this language receives a favorable vote from the people then this language would be added to our Constitution.

SB 2302 is enabling legislation that would only go into effect if the Constitutional Amendment (SCR 4009) passes. It has two basic components. It bans abortion but provides safeguards for protecting the life of the mother in medical emergencies. It also regulates in vitro fertilization (IVF). The most controversial aspect of the bill is that embryos would no longer be allowed to be frozen, but eggs could still be frozen, so people could still conceive using in vitro techniques at a future time. As of last Friday the sponsors of the bill were considering removing the in vitro (IVF) portion of the bill, which I am hopeful that they will do. Although I am a strong pro-life proponent, I do sympathize with those couples who want a child and struggle to conceive, and I am reluctant to put roadblocks in their ability to do so.

SB 2303 will be amended to exactly mirror the personhood bill before the Senate in the last session. That bill was derailed by a motion to lay it on the table which prevented it from being brought up for a vote. There are some issues surrounding the bill as to its constitutionality but such an opinion cannot be gotten unless it is enacted.

SB 2305 would require physicians performing abortions to have hospital privileges at the local hospital.

The House has a number of pro-life, anti-abortion bills that they are considering, and I can give the details of those if and when they come to the Senate.

We have had a number of students stop by, and we are always glad to see them and discuss how our legislative process works. We encourage anyone who comes to Bismarck to stop by and look in on us and observe the work here. Until next time.

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