On Wednesday Gov. Doug Burgum vetoed House Bill 1323, which would prohibit statewide elected officials, or the state health officer, from mandating masks; and House Bill 1298, which would require transgender athletes to play on sports teams aligned with their biological sex.

In vetoing HB 1323, Burgum cited Article V, Section 9 of the state Constitution, and said the law gives the governor, and health officer, the “responsibility to minimize or avert the adverse effects of a disaster or emergency.”

Section 9. Every bill passed by the legislative assembly must be presented to the
governor for the governor’s signature. If the governor signs the bill, it becomes law.
The governor may veto a bill passed by the legislative assembly. The governor may veto
items in an appropriation bill. Portions of the bill not vetoed become law.
The governor shall return for reconsideration any vetoed item or bill, with a written
statement of the governor’s objections, to the house in which it originated. That house shall
immediately enter the governor’s objections upon its journal. If, by a recorded vote, two-thirds
of the members elected to that house pass a vetoed item or bill, it, along with the statement of
the governor’s objections, must immediately be delivered to the other house. If, by a recorded
vote, two-thirds of the members elected to the other house also pass it, the vetoed item or bill
becomes law.

He said to deny future governors and health officers the ability to mandate masks or other “low-cost tools” during a pandemic or emergency is “irresponsible” and an “unnecessary risk” to North Dakotans.

On Nov. 13, 2020, then-State Health Officer Dirk Wilke signed an order mandating masks which would be reviewed on a monthly basis. On Jan. 15, Burgum allowed the order to expire due to active coronavirus cases dropping.

In vetoing HB 1298, Burgum again cited Article V, Section 9 of the state Constitution, and said the state has a “level playing field and fairness” in girls’ sports — mostly due to the North Dakota High School Activities Association and its members.

He said that, to date, there has not been “a single recorded instance” of a transgender girl attempting to play on a North Dakota girls’ team.

Burgum also said the bill would cause a “myriad of unforeseen consequences.”

Burgum signed HB 1118, which would limit a public health-related emergency declaration to 60 days, with the possibility of an extension request by the governor. If lawmakers were to deny that request, the state of disaster or emergency would be considered over by day 60.

In a statement, he said:

“House Bill 1118 is an erosion of executive authority in reaction to an extremely challenging year of responding to a global pandemic, during which we were in frequent contact with legislative leaders and members. While we believe the current system worked well, this bill represents a compromise that allows for broader legislative involvement in future statewide health emergencies that affect all North Dakotans.”