Written by, Mason Sisk (Assistant to the House Majority Leader)
The 65th Legislative Assembly has come to a close. Over the course of the past few months, over 400 bills have been passed by this body and signed into law by the Governor. Given our revenue shortfall, many budgets were cut but in the end, we balanced the budget while funding our priorities and without burdening the tax payers.
During the session, it was our responsibility to make the implementation of medical marijuana in our state possible. The changes to the original measure ensure that the medicine is regulated from seed to distribution. It also restricts access to minors, requiring a parent or caregiver to purchase and administer the medication. According to the original measure, children could have full access without the consent of a parent or guardian. The bill limits the amount of care centers and provides a list of ailments that can qualify a patient for a medical marijuana recommendation.
During the session, we were also able to avoid making budget cuts to our k-12 funding. We said from the beginning that the education of our children is a priority and we held their budget whole. Another priority of ours was to provide relief for property tax. With the State’s takeover of county social services, along with other legislation, we were able to provide over $1 billion in property tax relief over the next biennium with what is true property tax reform. The bill that passed is a two-year pilot program that will be studied in order to develop a plan for permanent implementation.
Another central issue during this session was criminal justice reinvestment. As a legislature, we passed a package of bills into law that focuses on the rehabilitation of low-risk felons with drug violations. It also provides lesser penalties for drug offenses and provides more discretion to courtrooms. Our jails and prisons are filled with non-violent drug offenders that cost taxpayers money and we need to make rehabilitation a priority rather than incarceration.
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This assembly is also responsible for the creation of the Department of Environmental Quality. The department was created to promote efficiency and effectiveness in state government. This legislation ensures North Dakota is equipped to take control of its own environmental future and improves our state’s ability to retain primacy in implementing regulations and preventing federal overreach.
In the State of North Dakota, our citizens take their second amendment rights very seriously. This session, we passed laws that expand gun rights to ensure that the true intent of the second amendment is supported that include the right to carry a concealed weapon without a permit. It is important to remember that this law only applies to people who are not otherwise restricted from owning a firearm. The law also requires someone to notify a police officer of any concealed weapon they are carrying in the event of a traffic stop.
These are only a few of the highlights from this session. We have finished our work on day 77, giving us 3 days to return for a special session if needed. This assembly worked very hard to pass good public policy that addresses the concerns of our constituents and as always, we thank you for your support.
*Mason Sisk is serving as the Assistant to the House Majority Leader.
*Ian Grande is the Editor of the Stanley Gazette. Feel free to reach out with any comments/concerns (StanleyGazette@gmail.com)
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