Time is running out to get everything done. Amazing what has been done yet much remains. Sometimes it seems chaos but reality it is a controlled movement toward a positive end.

This week the Members of the North Dakota House of Representatives continued their work on the floor, debating a number of important topics. Several of the House Committees have completed work and we are quickly approaching the time for conference committees to meet.

On Friday the House overwhelmingly passed Senate Bill 2181 by a vote of 88-4. This bill aims to restrict the ability of the State Health Officer to interfere with religious practices during a declared state of emergency. Specifically, under this legislation the State Health Officer cannot burden a person’s freedom to practice their religion unless there is a compelling government interest to do so.

Additionally, the bill mandates that religious conduct cannot be treated more restrictively than similar secular conduct. Supporters of the bill argued that the COVID-19 pandemic has shed light on the need for additional protections of religious freedom in our state. The bill now heads to the Governor’s desk for consideration.

On Monday, the House members gave their approval to SB 2226 which will allow North Dakota residents to utilize end of life facilities. The intent of the legislation is to provide more care options for patients facing end-of-life situations in a less restrictive environment.

At least one non-profit in the state plans to start raising funds to create this type of facility in some of our major cities. Many families do not want to place a family member into an assisted-living facility or nursing home at this stage of their life. However, they do want options other than continued hospital confinement or home stay, which doesn’t always work for many families.

A person utilizing an end-of-life facility would be able choose the hospice provider they prefer and then receive round-the-clock care from register nurses, CNAs and LPNs. Family members would be welcome to visit as often as they want or even move into the facility with their loved one.

On Tuesday SB 2121 failed in a close vote of 45-49. This bill would have changed our state’s law to make failure to wear a seatbelt a primary offense, as opposed to a secondary offense. It also would have made it a citable offense if a vehicles backseat passengers fail to wear a seatbelt.

Under current law, only a vehicles front seat passengers are legally required to wear a seatbelt, with the exception of children. Opponents of the bill felt that although passengers in a vehicle may take the personal responsibility to wear a seatbelt, it is not the place of government to force them to. Supporters of the bill argued that by requiring the usage of seatbelts by all passengers, this legislation could potentially save lives or prevent certain injuries in the event of an accident. Ultimately the bill failed to gain the support needed to pass.

On Wednesday, The House approved SB 2265 by a vote of 66-28. The goal of the bill is to allow unaccompanied homeless minors to access healthcare without parental consent. Supporters of the bill pointed out that many of these minors do not have adult guardians who can sign off on health treatments on their behalf. They cited concerns for the safety of these minors if they cannot access the healthcare they need. The Governor will now consider signing the bill into law.

You can contact Rep. Hatlestad at phatlestad@nd.gov and Rep. Richter at dwrichter@nd.gov. During the session, mail can be sent to us at: ND House of Representatives, 600 East Boulevard, Bismarck, ND 58505-0360. If you want to leave a phone message you can call the incoming toll-free number 1-888-NDLEGIS (1-888-635-3447). For hearing-impaired individuals, the TTY toll-free number is 1-800-366-6888 to reach a relay operator. If you wish to watch videos of the floor session and committee hearings, you can access that at legis.nd.gov.

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