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Tj Jerke, Forum News Service, Published May 10 2013

Items you may have missed in the North Dakota Legislature’s 80-day session

BISMARCK – Elementary students will get their milk and North Dakotans can still own part of a cow and keep their share of the milk.

A week after the state Legislature scrambled to finish up with most of the attention on property taxes, a few things may have been missed during the 80-day session.

That includes the news about milk, which, after all, is the state’s official beverage.

Pass the milk

A bill to ensure all kindergarten through third-grade students would get milk or juice during a designated snack break got some attention early in the session when House lawmakers killed it.

Some Democrats began to collect change in empty milk cartons on their desks, saying the coins could help fund the program. Some opponents called that a childish stunt.

On the last night of the session, a provision was included in the Department of Public Instruction’s budget to give students on free or reduced-price lunches milk or juice if a midmorning snack break is provided.

Share the cow

A cattle sharing agreement is simple: Buy a portion of a cow and get a portion of the milk or beef.

But the state Department of Agriculture frowns on this practice because it can be used to bypass federal and state laws that say selling raw milk is illegal.

The issue came up in a simple bill to clean up state law to ensure the state is complying with federal regulations on transporting milk across state lines.

The Department of Agriculture wanted the Legislature to clarify whether cow sharing was a loophole to circumvent raw milk laws. The Legislature said it is not a loophole and obtaining raw milk through a cattle-sharing agreement is legal, it just can’t be sold.

Speeding fines

With North Dakota’s country roads not as lonesome as they used to be, and with some of the lowest speeding fines in the land, increasing the fines seemed like a good idea to at least a few bill sponsors.

But the bill that would have bumped up all speeding fines fell by the wayside.

Right now, if a driver is going 13 mph over the speed limit in a residential zone in North Dakota, the fine is $13, but in Minnesota it’s $120 and South Dakota it’s $110.

The bill would have increased the North Dakota violation to $26, making each mile over the limit $2 rather than the current $1.

In areas with a speed limit between 55 and 75 mph, fines would have gone up $4 for each mile an hour over the limit, and for going over 75 mph, $5 for each mile per hour over would have been assessed.

Highway Patrol

Those emergency vehicles are expensive, and the state has decided to build a training ground for the people who drive them.

The state Highway Patrol was given $5 million to build an emergency vehicle driving operation course, as well as an indoor shooting practice range with classroom space. The facility will be on a 25-acre plot near the Bismarck landfill.

Sgt. Tom Iverson, the patrol’s safety and education officer, said the project is still in its infancy stages since the initial construction plans came in at more than $5 million.

Some adjustments will need to be made to the project, Iverson said.

Firearms

Two bills on gun restrictions weren’t on the table very long.

The bills sought to ban semi-automatic rifles and high-capacity ammunition clips with more than 10 rounds that are manufactured after July 31, 2013, but were withdrawn the day after they were introduced.

Rep. Steve Zaiser, D-Fargo, introduced the two proposals Jan. 21, but said he withdrew them the next day after noticing a reluctance by lawmakers to support the proposals.

Zaiser said Friday that the proposals were similar to what have been introduced at the federal level after 26 people were shot and killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.

“I, like the majority of the country, feel we need to improve gun safety, and the Legislature is not ready for it,” he said.


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