This week, the 65th North Dakota Legislative Assembly reaches its "Crossover" break.
Crossover is the point during each Legislative session by which the House of Representatives
must have acted upon all House bills introduced and those which have passed must be sent to
the Senate and by which the Senate, likewise, must have dealt with all its bills and sent those which passed across Memorial Hall to the House.
The House Judiciary Committee, which I chair, and the House Political Subdivisions Committee, upon which I serve, have dealt with several important issues, ranging from criminal justice to landlord-tenant law. The Judiciary Committee was among the busiest at the Capitol, having been assigned 55 bills during the initial phase of the session.
One of the major issues we dealt with was several bills introduced in response to the violent protests at the site of the Dakota Access Pipeline south of Mandan. As you may know, peaceful protests led by Native American tribes began this summer but they attracted others from throughout the nation and deteriorated into illegal occupation of sites on federal land, trespassing on private land, blocking of roadways and some incidents of violence. The Obama administration took the unusual steps of refusing to enforce laws against trespassing on federal land and instructing federal officials to deny the final easement necessary to complete the project. This led to a standoff spanning several months, costing millions of dollars and involving law enforcement officials from throughout the state, including our local area, as well as many from around the nation, who came to help the Morton County Sheriff's Department, as it
attempted to police the protests and protect area residents and the public.
Early in the session, the Legislature approved more than $30 million to help defray the costs incurred. More has since been spent. The cleanup is beginning but, ironically, some claiming to be there to protect the environment have left a mess which endangers the environment and will also be very costly to clean up before the area floods.
The bills in response to DAPL dealt with topics such as trespassing, intentional economic harm and concealing one's identity in the commission of a crime. Some were reactionary and were defeated. Others were amended and passed. The final products struck a good balance to ensure everyone's constitutional right to peacefully protest, which we cherish, but to provide for appropriate consequences when anyone crosses the line into anarchy, terrorizing or destruction of property. These bills have been fast tracked to give law enforcement the tools they need should violence erupt when the easement granted by the Donald Trump administration is enforced so the pipeline can be completed and the order to evacuate the federal land is enforced.
Work continues on the Justice Reinvestment project,which I'll share more about in a future report.
The budget continues to be a challenge. At crossover, a deficiency of more than $400 million must be resolved before the end of the session, but the Legislature will balance the budget before completing its work.
When we return, after Crossover, the House will begin dealing with the bills which have passed the Senate and the Senate will focus upon House bills. Your legislators appreciate hearing from you. You may contact Rep. Christopher Olson at email@example.com, Sen. Judy Lee at firstname.lastname@example.org, and me at email@example.com.
Rep. Kim Koppelman, R-13