64th Legislative Assembly: Week 6 Highlights- Child Datamining, More State Health Exchange Studies, and Filling US House and Senate Vacancies

Week 6 of the 64th Legislative Assembly kicks off on Monday, February 9th. Below are just a few of the bills we are keeping an eye on this week.

Monday, February 9th

Datamining of Student Information

House Education

Pioneer

9:00am

The past couple of weeks I have written about how Common Core (and HB 1461 is supposed to be voted on Wednesday in the House) appears to be the big battle that will be waged by the Legislature this session. HB 1453 would appear to be another face off in that fight, but in reality if you dig into this bill, that isn’t the case. This bill, if passed, would limit what information state agencies and schools can collect on kids, what information could be disclosed in directories, under what circumstances information could be released, the requirement for parental permission to fill out surveys (especially those delving into to personal family matters) and other assessments, and limitations on electronic devices provided by school districts to students.

[mks_pullquote align=”right” width=”300″ size=”24″ bg_color=”#000000″ txt_color=”#ffffff”]There is simply no reason they [the education establishment] can come up with to justify mining data on kids, without parental permission, that trumps the right to privacy of the child and parents[/mks_pullquote]The debate over Common Core has brought forward many concerns over datamining of student information. With that in mind, this really doesn’t look to us at all like an anti-Common Core bill. To the contrary, this looks like a bill that those for and against Common Core can all get behind. It isn’t a Common Core bill at all; rather it is a privacy bill. The privacy of kids is especially important as the ability of the government, those acting on their behalf, or pretty much any entity who would find personal information beneficial in some way (including cyber-criminals who access the databases nefariously, and no database is ever safe from that) to track and share that information, continues to grow. Parents should have the final say on what data is mined and stored on their kids, and how it is used. This bill is a step in the right direction towards reasserting the rights of parents in that regard.

We will find it very concerning if this bill does not pass, and equally concerning if the education establishment comes out against it in any way. There is simply no reason they can come up with to justify mining data on kids, without parental permission, that trumps the right to privacy of the child and parents.

Drones

House Judiciary

Prairie

11:00am

We covered this one in last week’s update. It appears like this one had to be postponed due to other bills on the committee’s agenda. As a reminder, this bill will basically require a warrant for use of a drone in surveillance (short of emergencies). This is a concept which shouldn’t be a new one in our country.It also shouldn’t be one that needs a law to reinforce what is already addressed in the Constitution. But, unfortunately, this law needs to pass because privacy rights are seen as an inconvenience rather than, you know… a right, to those who oppose this bill. Similar to the above bill on datamining, it is quite concerning if it does not pass, and equally so that there would be opposition to it in the first place.

Tuesday, February 10th

School Data Reports

Senate Education

Missouri River

9:00am

HB 1162 is a study bill which states:

SchoolSups

Looks harmless enough, and probably is. The only thing passively interesting about this bill is that, for as uninteresting as it appears, it is already being heard in the Senate (well before crossover) after passage in the House on January 26th. Why a study bill is on some type of fast track to the Governor’s desk is puzzling.

Wednesday, February 11th

Wednesday has a bit busier schedule based on what we are monitoring.

Obamacare-related Study and Repeal Request to Congress

Senate Human Services

Red River

Starts at 9:00am

Two bills stemming from Obamacare will be heard on Wednesday by the Senate Human Services Committee.

  • SB 2174 will mandate a study during the interim on the state’s health care delivery system in the age of Obamacare
  • SCR 4015 calls on Congress to repeal those parts of Obamacare “which are overreaching and the portions which are counter to
    good governance”. That basically encompasses all of it, but no matter.

[mks_pullquote align=”right” width=”300″ size=”24″ bg_color=”#000000″ txt_color=”#ffffff”]State exchanges were a bad idea a few years ago, remain a bad idea today, and will continue to be a bad idea no matter which Democrat (regardless of letter next to their name) proposes it or signs onto a bill relating to it — even study bills[/mks_pullquote]SB 2174 is sponsored by Sens. Tim Mathern (D-Grand Forks) and Judy Lee (???-Fargo), and shares house sponsorship with Rep. George Keiser (??-Bismarck). Keiser filed HB 1378, which was heard last week, and was discussed in the Week 5 sneak preview. Both bills are studies, and include analysis of getting North Dakota into the state-based health care exchange business. State exchanges were a bad idea a few years ago, remain a bad idea today, and will continue to be a bad idea no matter which Democrat (regardless of letter next to their name) proposes it or signs onto a bill relating to it — even study bills.

Marijuana Possession

House Judiciary

Prairie

9:30am

I wrote in last week’s highlights about the medical marijuana bill up for consideration, and how the true absurdity relating to this drug is we continue to outlaw the use of it by consenting adults. HB 1394 will be heard this week by the House Judiciary Committee. It takes some common sense steps to right-size the punishment for possession of marijuana, short of the step making the most common sense — legalization.

The changes are simple. Punishments for possessions based on amounts and locations go from felonies to misdemeanors and misdemeanors to infractions. If you have been caught with a half-ounce or less and are convicted or plead guilty, that conviction is sealed by the court. This bill will in short go a long ways towards unclogging the courts and corrections systems of people who are otherwise likely to be pretty harmless. It is a good step, even if legalization is a ways off still in this state.

Thursday, February 12th

Campaign Finance, Changing How State Reps are Elected, Voting Eligibility, Lobbying, and Filling Vacancies for the US House and US Senate

If you have nothing better planned for Thursday, go hang out at the House Government and Veterans Affairs Committee meeting all day. They have a full roster of interesting bills. The activity starts at 8:30am in the Fort Union room, and continues after the floor session (around 2:30PM) in the afternoon.

The morning schedule…

  • HB 1290 relates to campaign finance reporting requirements
  • HB 1289 addresses campaign contribution reporting requirements for legislative candidates
  • HB 1253 will if passed place several restrictions on personal uses of campaign contributions
  • HB 1181 would change how vacancies for the offices of US Representative and US Senate are filled in the state

Scheduled for the afternoon…

  • HB 1292 attempts to tighten up the requirements surrounding what makes one a lobbyist, and what further constitutes lobbyist funding
  • HB 1302 is a continued effort by the District 42 delegation in the vicinity of UND to loosen up the state’s already lax voting requirements, so tuned out college students can tune out even more and still vote (even if maybe they shouldn’t be voting)
  • HB 1412 will make, if passed, some interesting changes to how state representatives and senators are elected.

My guess is that all the bills on the schedule will not be heard Thursday. They have a lot lined up, and I fully expect HB 1181 to suck a lot of oxygen out of the room; perhaps spilling into the afternoon. This bill, if passed, will take away the Governor’s authority to fill vacancies created should a US Representative or Senator vacate their office before their term expires, and actually trust voters to make this decision (as it should be).

Of course, this bill has Sen. Heitkamp (who is on a shortlist to run for Governor in 2016) somewhat irked; if by chance she wins the Governor’s chair, she could not appoint her replacement to Senate should this bill become law. All the more reason it should pass; after all, how dare the electorate elect someone to an elected office anyways.

HB 1412 is an example of proposed legislation where, even in a state like ours which has single subject plain language, the bill title does not lend well to the actual bill context. That title says it is “relating to legislative redistricting requirements”, but attempts to tie some big changes for how we elect state representatives to those requirements. The only real redistricting issue at hand is the fact that these changes will take place as part of the next redistricting efforts in conjunction with the 2020 census.

[mks_pullquote align=”right” width=”300″ size=”24″ bg_color=”#000000″ txt_color=”#ffffff”]With the exception of one Republican, all sponsors are Democrats and I am sure this change is their attempt to pick up some seats which they otherwise can’t win on a straight at-large vote[/mks_pullquote]This bill will require representatives to be elected from subdistricts instead of at-large from within the district as they are now (although the option for subdistricts does currently exist). It also changes the name of districts from Legislative to Senatorial. With the exception of one Republican, all sponsors are Democrats and I am sure this change is their attempt to pick up some seats which they otherwise can’t win on a straight at-large vote. And shouldn’t districts be represented by those candidates who get the most votes, regardless of if the winners live across the street or across town from each other?

Friday, February 13th

Despite the date, there isn’t anything too frightening on the schedule.

Public Records Held Outside the State

House Political Subdivisions

Priarie

10:00am

HB 1465 is one of several bills pertaining to Open Meetings and Open Records this session. This one addresses the following:

OpenRecordOutStateThis is a good upgrade to the law. With more and more electronic information moving to “the cloud” (with many cloud servers out of state), the need to ensure such information remains open to all who want to see it is more of a need than ever. The areas outside the political boundaries of our state should not be a sanctuary to hide records in, especially for a University System who spends more time trying to skirt the Open Records law than follow it.

Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com, a columnist for the Forum News Service, and host of the Plain Talk Podcast which you can subscribe to by clicking here.

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