Jails, schools and U.S. 85 among floor topics

BISMARCK—The state Senate unanimously approved a bill Tuesday aimed at reducing the burden of inmate medical costs for jails.

Senate Bill 2024 aims to make it clear that it is not the responsibility of the jail to pay for medical costs for someone supervised under home detention, electronic monitoring or a similar program that doesn’t involve jail confinement.

The rest of the bill tries to clarify inmate medical responsibility and limits the jail’s financial responsibility to costs at Medicare program rates.

In other floor action, the House voted 90-0 to approve a bill requiring lockdown drills at public and private schools.

“Given the current landscape of school-related violence, along with natural disasters, it is imperative for every school building and district to be prepared for a crisis situation,” said Rep. Lisa Meier, R-Bismarck.

Also Tuesday, the House killed a bill that would have required the Department of Transportation to put a W on the license plate of those receiving multiple driving while under the influence violations.

“Although safety was the primary purpose of this bill, the committee discussion pointed out several problems to implement this policy,” said Rep. Brenda Heller, R-Beulah.

Some may already have vanity plates that start with a W, she said. People may also own multiple vehicles, creating confusion of which vehicle would get the license plate, she said.

The House also voted 14-77 against a bill to provide for a portion of a paved four-lane highway for U.S. 85.

Rep. RaeAnn Kelsch, R-Mandan, said the bill sets a precedent that the Legislature “has said time and time again we’re not willing to do.”

There have been numerous bills to tell the Department of Transportation what it should prioritize. However, the department has specialists already to prioritize projects based on data like crash reports, road conditions and traffic counts, she said.

“We know that there’s a need out in that area, but this is not the right avenue to take to get a stretch of highway done the way you would like it to be,” Kelsch said.

Rep. Keith Kempenich, R-Bowman, said a problem is that DOT data isn’t always current.

Rep. Mike Schatz, R-New England, said U.S. 85 from Williston to Belfield “is one of the most dangerous places you can drive” and stressed the need for a four-lane highway.

The bills that passed Tuesday will now make their way to the other chamber for review.