Highly Contested Ethics Bill Passes North Dakota Senate

In continuing coverage: A highly contested bill passed the Senate, 39 to 8.

Last week we shared the differences between the House and Senate versions of an ethics bill.

When Measure 1 passed, it became Article 14 in the State Constitution. One of the requirements is for lawmakers to hammer out the details, including the creation of an ethics commission.

Today, House Bill 1521 was on the table. Several amendments were made about an hour before the Senate gaveled in.

A couple of these include a process to remove commission members, as the Legislature feels fit. Another will implement a study to find out if the law now matches up with Article 14.

Much of the debate centered around including the word ‘solely’ in the bill. 

Some lawmakers argue keeping that word means lobbyists and other influencers would only have to report direct contributions. They say that leaves many funds unreported.

Democratic Senator Erin Oban says the word will allow government influencers to leave money unreported.

Democratic Senator Tim Mathern says he doesn’t believe the House Bill up-holds the language of the constitution.

The District 11 Senator explains, “This creates a huge loophole in terms of what must be reported. In fact, I think it suggests that less will be reported, or need to be reported with the passage of this bill than under current law.”

Republican Senator Dick Dever was critical of Senator Oban, for ultimately placing a do-not-pass on a bill she helped amend.

Senator Oban says it’s become obvious to her that this legislation is tough to implement, and she wishes they would take more of the three years allotted in Article 14, to come up with answers to questions, still up in the air.

Republican Senate Majority Leader Rich Wardner commended the ethics committee for their hard work. He says any final decision making will be up to the commission, whoever they may be.

Senator Wardner adds, “The Minority Leader and I, and the Governor are looking forward to getting this going, and getting these five people in position to work because I agree with the Senator from 35, it’s going to take two years to come up with something that’s going to work. They are the ones that are going to have the final say.”

The Senate bill, 2148 will be in committee hearings tomorrow afternoon.

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