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Capitol notebook: Lawmakers want to lift North Dakota's parking meter ban

A parking meter (file photo)

BISMARCK — A group of North Dakota lawmakers are seeking to lift the state's ban on parking meters.

Sen. Jessica Unruh, R-Beulah, said her bill is a matter of local control and not of raising revenue. Senate Bill 2247 would repeal a section of state law that makes it unlawful for the state, political subdivisions, counties, cities and the state Department of Transportation to establish parking meters that require "coins or tokens for the privilege of parking cars or other vehicles" on streets or highways.

"As a state, we don't necessarily need to dictate that sort of thing to local political subdivisions," Unruh said.

In a 2014 column, former Grand Forks Herald publisher Mike Jacobs traced the history of the parking meter ban to 1948, when farmer and businessman Howard Henry of Westhope, N.D., went to Minot for some shopping. He put money in the meter, but still received a ticket because the device malfunctioned.

Jacobs, quoting a former state senator who was Henry's granddaughter, wrote that Henry didn't feel he should have to pay to do business in another city. Henry, the Democrats' candidate for governor at the time, started a petition drive that ultimately resulted in voters instituting the ban, Jacobs wrote.

The bill is scheduled for a hearing in the Senate Transportation Committee Thursday, Jan. 26.

Oil spill bill amended

A bill that would change the threshold for reporting oil-related spills got a do-pass recommendation from committee, but after significant amendments were introduced.

House Bill 1151 from Rep. Roscoe Streyle, R-Minot, would no longer require oil companies to report spills of crude oil, produced water or natural gas that remain on the facility or site and are less than 10 barrels, or 420 gallons.

The reporting exemption only applies to oil and gas wells and saltwater disposal wells constructed with containment berms and impermeable base material. Older sites without those safeguards would either have to be upgraded or continue to report all spills.

If a company has small spills within 15 days that cumulatively are 10 barrels or more, those would still need to be reported.

The bill, supported by the House Energy and Natural Resources Committee, would still require all quantities of other chemicals, such as those used in hydraulic fracturing, to be reported.

The bill does not change requirements for companies to clean up all spills.

Any written violation issued by the North Dakota Industrial Commission must be available for the landowner to review.

Stiffer penalties for giving alcohol to minors proposed

Citing a consistent problem of underage drinking, a North Dakota lawmaker is seeking tougher penalties on adults who supply alcohol to minors.

Rep. Chuck Damschen, R-Hampden, is the primary sponsor of House Bill 1422, which increases the penalty for those over the age of 21 who "knowingly" deliver alcoholic beverages to somebody under the age of 21 from a Class A misdemeanor to a Class C felony.

"Underage drinking is such an issue in North Dakota," Damschen said. "A good way to address the problem is the supplier."

Damschen said the bill has been introduced in previously but has been defeated.

"I hope it will be a different this time," he said.

Damschen's bill hasn't been scheduled for a hearing.

Proposal to eliminate treasurer gets hearing

Lawmakers will hold a hearing Thursday, Jan. 26, on a resolution that, if approved by North Dakota voters in 2018, would eliminate the Office of the State Treasurer.

The bipartisan proposal would amend the state Constitution to remove the treasurer as an elected constitutional officer effective Jan. 1, 2021. Another resolution involves studying the statutory changes needed to transfer duties to other state agencies.

Proponents have cited tough fiscal times and a need for a more efficient government, while Treasurer Kelly Schmidt, a Republican, said her office doesn't duplicate services but rather provides transparency in government spending.

The House Government and Veterans Affairs Committee will hear the bill Thursday.

Conceal carry bill to be debated

A bill allowing North Dakota gun owners to carry a concealed firearm without a permit will be brought up in a committee hearing Thursday, Jan. 26.

The bill, introduced by Rep. Rick Becker, R-Bismarck, would keep the current permitting process in place. North Dakota offers Class 1 and Class 2 licenses for carrying a concealed weapon.

But House Bill 1169 would allow legal U.S residents who are at least 21 years old to carry "any firearm or dangerous weapon concealed unless otherwise prohibited by law."

The House Energy and Natural Resources Committee will hear Becker's bill Thursday.