North Dakota Lawmakers will be packing their bags and heading to their hometowns by Friday, as the first half of the 2019 session comes to a close.
Lawmakers share some of the successes and failures so far:
We sat down with both Senators and Representatives, Democrats and Republicans. Maybe it’s the end in sight, but all lawmakers we spoke with are pleased with the first half of a long session, and they’re optimistic about the second half ahead.
Democratic Senator Kathy Hogan shares, “I’m so excited about what’s happened in the area of behavioral health. Because this session we had maybe 15 bills introduced, addressing a range of behavioral health issues, and all of them have passed in some way or been merged into budget bills.”
Out of all of our conversations, this was a hot topic.
Republican Senator Dick Dever says funds were set aside in the Human Services budget for a social detox facility to be opened in Bismarck.
Senator Dever explains, “It’s necessary because law enforcement picks somebody up off the street, and they don’t necessarily have some place to take them.”
The bills range from mental health and substance abuse services to early childhood prevention and intervention, and school-based behavioral health services.
Democratic Representative Josh Boschee adds, “We’re finally at a point where we’re implementing.”
There was a focus on North Dakota kids overall.
Republican Representative Lisa Meier merged her favorite bill with a Senate bill to create a Children’s Commission that would bring professionals together to discuss what our kids need. The Commission would include adoption agencies, foster parents, counselors and anyone who works with kids on a daily basis.
Representative Meier adds, “You know, for the betterment of kids, because they are our future.”
There was only one major disappointment from the House. Representative Boschee was hoping for the passage of a non-discrimination bill, that ultimately failed.
He shares, “This is a real workforce development issue, and as North Dakota competes for retaining our talented students that we educate for 16 years, and recruiting talented workforce, this is something that we need to get done.”
Friday is the deadline for the House and Senate to get through all proposed bills. While the Senate has two more to go, the House has much more to go through.
Everyone we spoke with is confident they will finish on time, no matter what it takes. They’ll reconvene next Wednesday after a much-needed break.