Tuesday was Day 69 and by all accounts it is heading well into next week when 73 days had been the hope. It may be that this Friday will not count even though legislators will be working because they may not hammer in on a floor session which allows them to “cheat” on counting days. This would be done because there are many Conference Committees that need to agree on the final language and some do not go well. One that did well today was SB2144 – the Posting bill. The House and Senate conferees agreed to put in language that allows a peace officer (including game wardens, I believe) to decide which level of offense should be charged when an incident takes place. The language had stated that a trespasser crossing into fenced property without a hunting or fishing license would be charged with a Class A misdemeanor – up to $3,000 and a year in jail with a criminal record that would follow them their entire life. Given that someone legally hunting or fishing would receive a penalty of up to $250 – an infraction – seemed to be too great a disparity to the committee and so they left some discretion to the peace officer. If someone has photographed an animal, say, on the property, perhaps they would be given an infraction penalty, whereas someone in or on a vehicle spinning around and tearing up a field or doing some other serious damage could face up to a Class A misdemeanor. The bill now should have a decent chance of becoming law in the next week after any needed chamber action and pending signature by the Governor.
Also qualifying as a prediction but newsworthy to you was another Conference Committee on the NDSU Ag Research and Extension budget bill which is SB2020. Both the House and Senate added dollars to their budget which the Governor had cut. I do believe that what the committee members repeatedly referred to as “COVID dollars” was a factor in helping them fund capital projects which had separated the chambers to a relatively minor degree.
Still to be decided from my watch list is floor action on the State Water Commission budget which also seemed to wrap up Tuesday, and HB1437 – the subsurface water management bill which had a conference committee canceled today.