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Full-day kindergarten bill takes couple of small steps

BISMARCK - The state Senate has approved two small steps toward full-day kindergarten.

It passed House Bill 1230 by a 40-4 vote Friday. As originally introduced, it requires school districts to offer at least half-day kindergarten or pay tuition for students in the district to attend kindergarten in a neighboring district.

Districts are now under no obligation to offer kindergarten, though most do. The state doesn't and won't require parents to send their children to kindergarten.

The Senate added an amendment this week that requires all school districts to create a plan by Jan. 1, 2007, showing how they would operate a full-day kindergarten. They aren't required to start such a program, but legislators who want full-day kindergarten believe it will give the 2007 session more information on what it would cost the state.

The bill now returns to the House, which must decide whether to concur with the Senate amendment.

Militia amendment

North Dakota voters could soon decide if its constitution should bid adieu to antiquated language that says the state's "reserve militia" consists of all able-bodied male citizens between the ages of 18 and 45. Senators voted 32-12 to put a constitutional amendment before the voters that would excise the 1889 language.

Bridge name OK

A plan to name the new Red River bridge between Fargo and Moorhead the Veterans Memorial Bridge got another OK Friday morning.

"It's the least we can do," said Rep. LeRoy Bernstein, R-Fargo.

The House Transportation Committee voted unanimously for a do-pass recommendation on Senate Concurrent Resolution 4003. It now goes to the House floor for a vote.

The Senate has already voted to support the resolution, which notes that the request is in conjunction with the state of Minnesota.

Don't touch signals

By a vote of 44-0 Friday, the Senate OK'd House Bill 1096, which prohibits unauthorized people from interfering with traffic signals. It's one of two bills in the session prompted by the commercial availability of devices that allow civilians to change traffic signals, just as law enforcement and emergency vehicles can do. The bill has passed the House.

The second bill, which has passed the Senate but not the House, prohibits the unauthorized possession of such devices.

Officially half over

Friday was the 40th working day of the 59th Legislative Assembly. With the constitution limiting lawmakers to no more than 80 working days, the session officially enters its second half on Monday.

Of course, the observed midpoint has come and gone. That was Feb. 17-22, when legislators made "crossover." That was when the House finished bills that were introduced in the House, the Senate acted on all the bills senators introduced and the surviving bills crossed over to the other chamber.

The 80th day this year, if legislators take that long, is April 29. No session has ever lasted more than 77 days. Those were in 2001 and 2003.

Of course, the 2003 Legislature ended up working 80 days anyway by having to come back for a three-day special session in May to address bills vetoed by Gov. John Hoeven.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Janell Cole at (701) 224-0830