During their floor session today the North Dakota House of Representatives took up a number of bills inspired by the turbulent, often unlawful #NoDAPL protests of the last several months.
Here’s what they considered:
- HB1193, sponsored by Rep. Lawrence Klemin, a Republican from Bismarck
This bill makes it a Class C Felony to purposefully cause economic harm with the commission of a misdemeanor crime. One example would be chaining yourself to construction equipment. The legislation has three requirements before it could kick in: 1) There must be at least $1000 in economic damages 2) there must be an underlying misdemeanor and 3) the activity in question cannot be constitutionally protected.
By far this legislation got the most debate of the day. Rep. Steve Vetter, a Republican from Grand Forks, said the bill is “reactionary and not a solution to the problem.” He pointed out that the state is struggling with increasing jail populations and related expenses. “I believe these bills are coming at times out of anger,” he said, adding that the #NoDAPL protesters are “mostly gone.”
“Do we want to be a police state or do we want to be a free state?” he asked.
[mks_pullquote align=”left” width=”300″ size=”24″ bg_color=”#ffffff” txt_color=”#000000″]”I don’t consider these knee jerk bills,” Rep. Kim Koppelman, a Republican from West Fargo and chairman of the Judiciary Committee, told the House floor. He pointed out that the legislature often reacts to changing circumstances such as technology. [/mks_pullquote]
But Rep. Todd Porter, a Republican from Mandan, disagreed. “I don’t think anyone was angry,” he said. He went on to note that this bill kicks in only for unlawful protests where people are trying to create economic harms for businesses. “Those sort of actions are not free,” he said, pointing out that the pipeline protesters raised millions of dollars specifically to fund repeat criminal offenses.
But Rep. Rick Becker said he’s opposed to “knee jerk legislation,” saying he’d “like to see if these bills would pass in two years when we’re not right on the back side of DAPL.”
Rep. Jim Schmidt, a Republican from Huff who pointed out he lives closer to the site of the pipeline protests than anyone else in the Legislature, said it’s about giving the state the tools to protect against future protests like #NoDAPL. When you feel your courts can’t protect you and give you what you need…something has to change,” he said.
“I don’t consider these knee jerk bills,” Rep. Kim Koppelman, a Republican from West Fargo and chairman of the Judiciary Committee, told the House floor. He pointed out that the legislature often reacts to changing circumstances such as technology. “If there’s a gap or hole in our laws…that needs to be addressed,” he said. He added that it’s already “a Class C Felony if you steal a thousand dollars worth of goods,” and wondered why it shouldn’t be the same for causing that dollar amount in economic harm.
This passed 72-19.
Here’s video of the floor debate:
The next three bills all passed with pretty much zero debate. Which surprised me in the case of the face mask bill:
- HB1304, sponsored by House Majority Leader Al Carlson, a Republican from Fargo, makes it a Class A Misdemeanor to wear a mask while committing a crime. This was amended quite a bit from its original form, making it a much simpler bill. This passed 69-22.
- HB1293, sponsored by Rep. Jim Gruenrich, a Republican from Jamestown, makes trespassing on posted property an infraction akin to a speeding ticket. The idea, according to the bill carrier, is to lighten the burden on the courts by taking putting this charge into a forfeited bond situation. Meaning you don’t have to come to court if you’re not going to fight it, you just forfeit your bond as the fine.
- HB1383, sponsored by Rep. Todd Porter, a Republican from Mandan, makes “loitering” or “prowling” a Class B Misdemeanor.
On HB1293, Rep. Marvin Nelson, a Democrat from Rolla, rose to make a good point. He pointed out that HB1193, the first protest bill today which got lots of debate, requires a misdemeanor charge in order for the additional economic harm charge to kick in. But HB1293 takes the charge for trespassing on posted land down to a non-criminal infraction. Which means you couldn’t get the economic harm charge in that situation.
But Nelson was the only lawmaker to speak on any of these three bills other than the bill carriers. Here’s the video:
HB1426, also sponsored by Rep. Porter, raises the offenses for various charges related to rioting.
This one got a little bit of debate. Porter said the legislation was intended to make penalties tougher for rioting “with intent to do deadly harm.”
“We’ve been really lucky down there…that we haven’t had any of our law enforcement officers killed,” he said, noting that protesters tried to harm officers with propane tanks hidden in hay bales and by lighting cars on fire.
He said the bill “puts a little teeth into our rioting laws.”
But Rep. Vetter again opposed the bill. He said the rioting laws are too vague.
Carlson ended debate on the package of bills by rising to point out that the State of North Dakota will likely have spent some $40 million on the #NoDAPL protests by the time everything is over. He said he expects all of that to be reimbursed by the federal government.
Here’s the video: