Human rights bills at HoDo

The Human Rights Coalition re-grouped at Hotel Donaldson to discuss bills

Leaders and legislators from the Fargo area gathered at the Hotel Donaldson in downtown Fargo for the “Legislative Crossover and Mid-Winter Gathering.” The event was put on by the North Dakota Human Rights Coalition.

The purpose of the event was to give members and the general public a chance to get a progress report on the first half of the North Dakota legislative session. At this point, bills that have been passed in the House of Representatives are on their way to the Senate and vice versa. Rep. Carla Rose Hanson, Rep. Ruth Buffalo and Sen. Tim Mathern all attended the event.

Buffalo spoke about the six bills she had introduced to the House and the five that were actually passed. The bill that failed was concerned with child care assistance. Buffalo said 850 children were kicked off the program because of a change in the state medium income.

The newly elected representative also introduced multiple bills that are concerned with Savanna LaFontaine-Greywind and the missing and murdered indigenous people movement. Buffalo said her history with the issue goes back to when she was part of the search for LaFontaine-Greywind. The bill she has introduced would create training for officers and a database for missing people that would include classification for tribal membership.

“All of the issues before us in the legislature come down to whether or not we have appropriate ethics legislation.”

– Sen. Tim Mathern

Buffalo also discussed a bill that would allow high school students to wear tribal dress to graduation. The bill was initially supposed to allow all tribal regalia, but was amended to exclude beads to avoid noise disruption.

The bills that have passed have all changed during the process. “Basically, all the bills I have introduced have been amended,” Buffalo said. “But I think the amendments are still OK because it’s a start.” The freshman representative said she has been learning the art of compromise through her mentor Kathy Hogan.

Mathern said he considers himself and Rep. Buffalo to be a sort of book-ends in the legislature. The senator is the longest serving Democrat in the senatorial chambers and had a lot to say about ethics and the inner workings of the North Dakota Legislature. 

The senator said that despite Buffalo’s efforts, the fact remains that around half of bills introduced will die while transitioning between the House and Senate. Mathern also said a lot of decisions in the legislature are made in backdoor deals that involve big money interests and lobbyists. 

“All of the issues before us in the legislature come down to whether or not we have appropriate ethics legislation,” Mathern said. The senator has introduced a bill that would uphold Measure 1 that was passed during the midterms, becoming Article XIV of the North Dakota Constitution. According to Mathern, this article is already under attack from another bill that is looking to weaken its effects. 

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