MINOT, N.D. — Last week I wrote about the potential for a political donnybrook over a potential mask mandate at the Legislature next year.
That drama will play out in the Legislature’s rules committees, but already this week we have some drama over masking at caucus organizational meetings.
With the election come and gone, North Dakota lawmakers are beginning the process of organizing themselves for the next legislative session which commences in January.
The COVID-19 pandemic, which is both severe here in North Dakota and showing few signs of abating, adds an extra degree of complexity to that process.
One of the first steps lawmakers must take is electing the leadership of their partisan caucuses. To that end, the House Republican Caucus has scheduled a reorganization meeting in Bismarck on November 11 at leadership positions such as Speaker of the House, Majority Leader, and other caucus business will be attended to.
Typically, to vote at these meetings, attendance is mandatory. This year the caucus changed the rules to allow for remote attendance and voting (an allowance that’s expected when the full Legislature meets next year). They also implemented a requirement for masks in accordance with the City of Bismarck’s local ordinance.
“Face masks are required for all members attending the meeting physically in person as mandated by the Bismarck Pandemic Mitigation Strategy dated October 27, 2020,” the meeting notice, sent out by Rep. Shannon Roers Jones (R-Fargo) states. “No one will be admitted to the meeting without wearing a face mask. Anyone who removes a face mask after entering the meeting room will be required to leave the meeting.”