In a nutshell

The happenings during the 2021 North Dakota special session

Several issues were addressed by the North Dakota Legislature as it held its special session in the beginning of November. During the special session, the House and Senate voted on 26 different bills.

Critical Race Theory 

The North Dakota Legislature banned the teaching of Critical Race Theory during this special session. Although CRT is not currently part of North Dakota teaching curriculum, it will be banned for future teaching and lesson plans. 

According to the N.D. legislature, “[CRT] means the theory that racism is not merely the product of individual bias or prejudice, but that racism is systemically embedded in American society and the American legal system to facilitate racial inequality.”

CRT has been banned in nine states with many more states on their way or considering its banning. The bill bans the teaching of CRT in K-12 schools. 


After the results of the North Dakota Census, the special session decided on redistricting for the North Dakota Legislature. The redistricting may put more N.D. representatives into different districts. The result of the census showed the movement of people out of rural districts and into urban areas. Due to this movement and population shift, districting in North Dakota saw change. 

The 2020 census resulted in urban areas adding more districts, while the rural districts became bigger in area. Each district is designed to contain the same number of people in which each district contains around 16,576 people.

The legislature also introduced split districts this session to give Native American populations more representation in North Dakota. Split districts divide districts giving populous Native groups a greater opportunity to be represented.  


The Legislature also appropriated nearly $1 billion during the legislative session. “The main purpose of the special session is to decide what to do with up to a billion dollars in federal COVID-19 relief money and the state’s redistricting,” according to News Dakota. Much of this money went to Natural Gas Infrastructure, which was pushed by Gov. Doug Burgum. 

The major industries that were given appropriations included: higher education, career technologies, water infrastructure, natural gas pipeline infrastructure and broadband.

$1.64 million of the appropriation’s money from the federal coronavirus funds were given to North Dakota State University. This money needs to be spent by 2026 and will be used for High-Speed Computing. 

Vaccine mandates

The legislature had nine bills regarding COVID-19 and vaccine mandates within the state. Only one of these, House Bill 1511, passed through the House and the Senate. This bill prohibited the ordering of a vaccine mandate by the state and local governments in North Dakota. 

Private companies and institutions are still able to enforce mandates; however, the bill prohibits state government interference with the mandates. “Higher education is also exempt from the bill to avoid conflicts with NCAA rules for athletes and research using federal grants,” according to KFYR.

The bill enforces opt-out options for people who many need exemptions due to health or religious reasons. Those who do not receive the vaccine under a mandate will need to undergo proof of antibodies, weekly testing or a doctor’s note.

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