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TJ Jerke, Forum News Service, Published February 19 2013

Tougher DUI penalties advance in the Senate

BISMARCK - Penalties for multiple offenses for driving under the influence would increase and the state’s 24-7 sobriety program would be used more often under a bill passed Tuesday.

Senate Bill 2240 would make a second or third DUI offense in a seven-year period a class A misdemeanor and a fourth or subsequent offense a class C felony regardless of the time between offenses.

A fee for a first-time offender would be raised from $250 to $500 and if the individual has a blood alcohol content of at least .18, the sentence would include two days in prison or 20 hours of community service.

A second offense in seven years would include 10 days in jail and a $1,000 fine, up from $500, and require 12 months participation in the 24-7 program.

A third offense in seven years would carry a 120 day prison sentence, up from 60 days, and at least a $2,000 fine and at least two years of supervised probation and participation in the 24-7 program.

Individuals guilty of a DUI would be able to obtain a temporary restricted driver’s license through an application process, if the individual participates in the state’s 24-7 sobriety program.

The bill was sent to the House with a unanimous vote.

Higher education

The State Board of Higher Education may have to seek approval from legislators to impose an assessment, or require one of the 11 universities to pay for goods or services through the University System’s office.

An amendment stripped House Bill 1281 of its original language Tuesday morning in the House Education Committee to ensure the chancellor doesn’t increase fees to cover office expenses. The bill allows flexibility for universities to share services.

The amendment added an emergency clause that would make the policy law immediately after the House and Senate approve the measure and its signed into law by Gov. Jack Dalrymple.

If passed, the law would end on June 30, 2015, forcing lawmakers to re-examine the law and ensure the policy is working properly.

The bill was sent to the House floor with a 10-2 do pass recommendation.

School funding

North Dakota voters could shift money from an emergency fund for the state’s schools, a fund that has accumulated more money than anticipated, to another state fund that could provide more immediate benefits to K-12 education.

Senate Concurrent Resolution 4010, which puts the plan to a statewide vote, passed the Senate Tuesday and was sent to the House.

The Foundation Aid Stabilization Fund has accumulated more than $300 million since it was created in 1994 and is slated to reach more than $600 million during the next biennium as interest continues to accrue.

The fund was created to act as a safety net if the state fell into a revenue shortfall and couldn’t ensure public education funding.

The state has only used $1.5 million from it.

Only a portion of the money in the fund could be moved to a different fund in each budget cycle.

Voters would not choose which fund the money would go into, as the specific fund was purposely left out of the bill to give the Legislature more options.

Money could go into the Common Schools Trust Fund.

Smoking

The House passed two bills that lawmakers say address the unintended consequences of the 2012 vote to ban smoking in all businesses.

House Bill 1292, passed by a 72-22 vote, addresses the regulations that placed, “an unnecessary and overreaching burden on all businesses that hire employees,” said Rep. Vernon Laning, R-Bismarck.

The bill provides a definition of a building entrance, excludes roll-up doors and personal vehicles from no-smoking signs and eliminates the provision that requires a factory ashtray be placed in each vehicle.

“It applies common sense to the law by easing some of the signing requirements,” Laning said.

Businesses complying with the statewide smoking ban by putting up no-smoking signs may be able to be reimbursed for the purchase of those signs.

House Bill 1252 passed 68-26. It drew opposition based on the increased fiscal burden it would place on the state’s Center for Tobacco Prevention and Control Policy. The center championed the ballot measure in 2012.

The bill would require the organization to supply a no-smoking sign to each requesting business.

Rep. Eliot Glassheim, D-Grand Forks, said the bill, “seems like an attempt to put an unknown, unlimited burden on tobacco control.”