North Dakota AFl-CIO Legislature Watch Week ending 1-18-19

It’s been another week in the legislature and… let’s just say that we all should pay attention in the next few months. Along with the several bills that would restrict all North Dakotan’s rights to initiate and vote on legislation directly, there are several more that Labor is concerned about. 

First up is HB-1463, a bill that would allow Police and Firefighters to collectively bargain and give those workers a place to negotiate for better training, better equipment and better policies to work with. These workers understand their dangerous job better than anyone and need to have a stronger voice.

 HB-1463 had a full slate of sponsors from both sides of the aisle. Always supportive of workers the primary sponsor is Representative Mary Schneider. She’s followed by Representatives Adams, Dobervich, Eidson, Guggisberg, Hager along with Senators Marcellais and Hogan.  In addition, proving that supporting police and firefighter is a fully bi-partisan issue, Representatives Steve Vetter, Mary Johnson, Kathy Skroch and Sebastion Ertelt have also signed on as sponsors.

I want to deeply thank all of these sponsors for standing up for not only our police and firefighters but the rights of workers. It is important to recognize them for doing this regardless of party. Our opponents need to understand that standing by firefighters and “Backing the Blue” equals support for collective bargaining. Period!You don’t get to claim the first without the voting for the second!

There is also the Legislative response to the anti-corruption ballot measure North Dakotans approved last fall. One solution proposed by Senator Mathern, SB 2148 is a solid response that sets up an ethics commission and then studies how to best implement the transparency section until next session.  This bill deserves some serious consideration.

However, the other bill, HB-1521, is an animal of a different species. It takes the mandates laid out by the constitutional changes and waters them down so much that it stands to make transparency in North Dakota worse rather than better. In several areas the fines for violations are so low that they are ridiculous. For example, the constitution now forbids elected officials from becoming lobbyists for two years so they can’t cash out on their offices. A great idea, however HB-1521 set the fines for that violation at only $100. One Hundred dollars! This isn’t a fine. It’s just a fee for corruption. So, if HB 1521 passes you’ll be able to violate the constitution for a mere $100.

There is also a WSI bill coming up that makes an attempt to stop the rising rates of opioid addiction through work injuries. It’s a good goal, however it has terrible implementation. Under HB-1063 anyone who is injured so badly that they need a opioid prescription, they will have to return to the doctor every seven days to get the prescription renewed. That’s difficult enough for those in a lot of pain who live near their hospital. Those who live 50 or 100 miles out are going to be forced into a long painful ride to get what the doctor prescribes for them.

Forcing workers to jump through hoops to stop opioid addiction is looking at the wrong end of the problem. Doctors prescribe medicine, and addiction to prescription medication is an issue that they need to solve. Having the legislature make ad hoc rules to stop doctors from over prescribing is a terrible solution. We certainly need to to stop this rising issue, but that can’t be random solutions. The medical community needs to fix this with scientifically valid solutions or it won’t be solved at all.

This goes before the House Industry Business and Labor Committee on Tuesday, January 22 at 8:00 am and anyone who wants to hear this out should come.

In solidarity!

Waylon Hedegaard
President/Secretary Treasurer
North Dakota AFL-CIO
[email protected]
(701) 595-3334