Legislative Report District 13: As session closes, North Dakota preserves rights, fights crime
By Rep. Kim Koppelman
You’ve heard reports about the North Dakota Legislative session, completed weeks ago. What you may not have heard is the work that was done to preserve citizens’ rights and to fight crime. Much of that work went on in the Judiciary Committee, where we focused upon these important legislative responsibilities. As its Chairman, I appreciated the good work of its members from across our state.
At a time when much of the nation was clamoring to restrict the Constitutional Right to Keep and Bear Arms, bills threatening to do so were quickly withdrawn and, instead, the North Dakota Legislature passed several bills to protect, preserve, and enhance Second Amendment Rights.State and local governments will not be allowed to confiscate or register weapons in a declared emergency, preserving North Dakota citizens’ rights to keep their guns in times of crisis.North Dakota churches have been gun free zones, which flies in the face of both the First and Second Amendment to the United States Constitution. New legislation empowers church leaders to decide whether to allow those with concealed carry permits to carry a gun in their church. Under the bill, law enforcement would also be notified so they would be aware, should they need to respond to an emergency in the church.Other pieces of legislation streamlined the process for concealed carry weapons permits (aimed even further increasing North Dakota’s reciprocity with other states), broadened locations where concealed weapons are allowed, and gave courts latitude to restore gun rightsNorth Dakota voters will have the opportunity to decide upon several Constitutional matters in upcoming elections. Reporting the abuse or neglect of a vulnerable adult will become mandatory for caregivers, clergy, emergency responders and medical providers.Penalties for identity theft, drunk driving, and insurance fraud were strengthened, as were “designer drug” laws, while criminal penalties for property crimes were streamlined and made more consistent.North Dakota’s identity theft laws will now focus not only upon the common crime of stealing one’s identity for monetary gain, but also upon growing non-monetary offenses like hacking into someone’s Facebook account.Our state is one of the worst for drunk driving. Drunk drivers now face more serious fines and jail time.Laws against selling products as “incense” or “bath salts” which are clearly intended, instead, to be used as harmful drugs (some of which have caused serious problems and even death) are enhanced through new legislation which clarifies the definition of such illegal products.The limit of small claims court will increase from $10,000 to $15,000, to keep pace with inflation, to alleviate some of the strain on district courts and to allow claims to be settled more quickly.Three new judgeships will be created in North Dakota, to keep pace with population growth and the increased criminal activity. Judges’ workloads have increased, as felony cases are up 17 percent in one year. There are 186,000 court cases per year, and justice is being delayed because of it, giving rise to the age-old adage that “justice delayed is justice denied”.<em>Your legislators are always interested in your comments and questions. Contact us at: Senator Jude Lee, firstname.lastname@example.org, 282-6512; Rep. Kim Koppelman, email@example.com, 282-9267, Rep. Alon Wieland, firstname.lastname@example.org, 282-9470.</em>