UPDATED: Senate kills bill allowing minors to eat in bars

BISMARCK—North Dakota should not have a law allowing minors to eat in bars, the North Dakota Senate decided Wednesday.

The Senate voted 30-17 to defeat a bill that would have allowed this if the bar serves tabletop food prepared in a kitchen with at least an indoor grill. The bar also needed to be smoke-free.

Sen. Margaret Sitte, R-Bismarck, said the bill allowed anyone under 21 to enter a bar and stay there indefinitely as long as they eat a meal. She opposed the idea due to the issues it would cause for law enforcement and what the exposure would mean for minors.

“Familiarity with high-risk activities is often a precursor to young people’s actual risk-taking behaviors,” she said.

The state spends money every year trying to reduce the number of underage drinkers, she said.

Sen. Joe Miller, R-Park River, also opposed the bill. However, he pointed out that youth are exposed to the same situation when they go to family restaurants with bars in the state’s larger cities.

Sen. Terry Wanzek, R-Jamestown, supported the bill, saying the local bar is the only place left for people to gather in some small communities. House supporters have also said bars are the only places to eat in some rural North Dakota towns.

Sen. Randy Christmann, R-Hazen, said kids see drinking on TV and online and said it would be “a whole lot less destructive or damaging” to see it in a bar.

Sen. Curtis Olafson, R-Edinburg, said the bill had merit for rural towns, but he opposed the bill without a requirement that minors be accompanied by parents or guardians.

Bill sponsor Rep. Jon Nelson, R-Rugby, tried to make the bill more favorable by suggesting this amendment. He also proposed limiting the bill to communities with populations of 5,000 or fewer to keep to the bill’s intent to address rural communities. He also suggested adding time restrictions.

However, Sen. Dave Nething, R-Jamestown, said the suggestions weren’t included because the Legislature needs to create policy for the entire state.

It’s difficult to come up with legislation that fits every situation, and choosing a population limit creates problems with what population to choose, he said.

“The point is that do you want to have these minors in bars? Is that good? Is that good public policy for the state of North Dakota?” Nething said. “Is it good public policy to have children exposed, minors exposed to what goes on in a bar? We don’t think it is.”

Suicide funding

In other action, the Senate unanimously agreed to restore the suicide prevention funding reduced by the House in the Indian Affairs Commission budget.

Gov. Jack Dalrymple recommended $100,000 for a suicide prevention program, including outreach, education, administration and implementation of grants for the next two years.

The House cut the funding to $50,000. The chambers now need to work to determine the final amount.

Oil and gas

The Senate also approved a bill aimed at improving relations between the oil industry and landowners.

House Bills 1241 relates to notice of oil and gas drilling operations and compensation for loss of agricultural production and income caused by oil and gas production. The House unanimously passed the bill last month.

The Senate approved an amended version of the bill earlier this week but decided Wednesday to return it to the version approved by the House.


Vote breakdown for minors in bars bill:

Yeas: 17
Andrist, Berry, Christmann, Dotzenrod, Erbele, Fischer, Holmberg, Klein, Murphy, Nodland, O’Connell, Schneider, Stenehjem, Taylor, Triplett, Wanzek, Warner

Nays: 30

Bowman, Burckhard, Cook, Dever, Flakoll, Freborg, G. Lee, Grindberg, Heckaman, Hogue, J. Lee, Kilzer, Krebsbach, Laffen, Larsen, Luick, Lyson, Marcellais, Mathern, Miller, Nelson, Nething, Oehlke, Olafson, Robinson, Schaible, Sitte, Sorvaag, Uglem, Wardner

Legislative update: pharmacy, social host, Internet hunting, divorce

BISMARCK—Chain retailers may not want to think about opening pharmacies in North Dakota just yet.

The House Industry, Business and Labor Committee gave a 10-3 do-not pass recommendation to the idea on Wednesday.

House Bill 1434 deletes wording in North Dakota law that requires pharmacies be majority-owned by pharmacists licensed in the state. This would have allowed retailers like Target and Walmart to open their own pharmacies in the state.

Committee Chairman Rep. George Keiser, R-Bismarck, said he voted against the bill based on testimony that current law serves the state’s residents well.

Rep. Thomas Beadle, R-Fargo, said he sponsored the bill on behalf of more than 40 constituents who want to see the law changed.

This same issue came up during the 2009 Legislature and failed to make it on the 2010 ballot due to a flaw in the way petitions were circulated. North Dakota is the only state in the nation with this law.

The bill now goes to the House floor for a full vote.

Social host

The state Senate killed the “social host” bill on Wednesday that would have punished those providing a location for underage drinking.

Senate Bill 2257 states someone who possesses or controls private property may not knowingly allow minors to drink on that property. They must also make a reasonable effort to stop the underage drinking, including calling the police.

Those who violated the proposed law would face a $500 fine.

Sen. Margaret Sitte, R-Bismarck, called the bill a “well-intentioned effort to find a solution to underage drinking.” However, the Judiciary Committee had concerns and many questions about putting the responsibility on property owners, she said.

“What we’re doing is shifting the responsibility from the guilty underage drinker to the property owner,” she said.

Bill sponsor Sen. Jim Dotzenrod, D-Wyndmere, said the bill was a result of a series of meetings that involved residents, law enforcement and legislators in southeastern North Dakota.

He said North Dakota has a problem with underage drinking, and other states and cities have similar social host regulations.

“I do think eventually we’ll go this way,” he said.

The bill failed on an 11-34 vote.

Internet hunting

The North Dakota Senate voted Wednesday to ban Internet hunting.

Senate Bill 2352 bans hunting wildlife in real time using Internet services to remotely control firearms and discharge live ammunition, thus allowing someone not physically present to kill wildlife.

This also includes using any remotely-controlled device to hunt.

The bill also bans hosting an Internet hunt, enabling someone else to hunt through the Internet, and importing, exporting or possessing wildlife that’s been killed by an Internet hunt.

A violation of the proposed law would be a Class C felony.

The Senate passed the bill on a 43-2 vote. It now moves to the House.

Divorce study

North Dakota senators think it’s worthwhile to study divorce.

On a 41-4 vote, the Senate approved a 2011-12 interim state study looking into the physical, emotional and financial effects associated with divorces involving dependent children.

The study asks for legislative policy solutions, including divorce reform legislation and marriage education.

Sitte of Bismarck said there’s data showing divorce costs the government money due to increased use of food stamps and public housing and increased juvenile delinquency. She said it’s in the state’s interest to study the matter.

However, Sen. Carolyn Nelson, D-Fargo, said there have already been a number of family law studies.

“We’ve discussed this topic. I don’t think we need to discuss it again,” she said.

The bill now moves to the House.

N.D. legislative update: Day 20

BISMARCK—North Dakota senators debated the potential problems with allowing businesses to seize what they think is a fake ID but agreed to approve the bill on Tuesday.

In a 37-10 vote, Senate Bill 2133 passed and will now move to the House for debate.

The bill allows businesses to seize an ID if there is reasonable belief that it’s been altered, falsified or is being used to unlawfully obtain alcohol.

The business must notify law enforcement within 24 hours, and law enforcement must respond within 24 hours.

Sen. Dwight Cook, R-Mandan, expressed concern about legitimate IDs being seized and asked what those people were supposed to do for 24 hours without identification.

Sen. Curtis Olafson, R-Edinburg, said those with legitimate identification will stand there and protest.

“If it’s fake, they’re gone like lightning,” he said.

Sen. Connie Triplett, D-Grand Forks, asked if there was discussion about penalizing an employee who seized a legitimate ID to harass someone.

“(The bill) puts a lot of power in the hands of bartenders,” she said.

Sen. Stan Lyson, R-Williston, a former sheriff, said law enforcement could find a way to charge the employee if those instances occurred.

Sen. Ryan Taylor, D-Towner, said the bill “seems fairly heavy-handed” and also expressed concern about innocent people having their identification taken.

Sen. Tim Flakoll, R-Fargo, said the point of the bill is to get fake IDs off the streets.

“If they (bars) turn them down and can’t take that (fake) ID, they just move on to the next bar or the next bar … until they get in the door,” Flakoll said. “It’s not going to solve all the problems related to underage drinking or drinking inappropriately. This is just one method to help lessen that.”


A bill that would allow employers to withhold payment of employees’ accrued paid time off has a do-pass committee recommendation.

The amended bill says employers would need to provide written notice to employees at the time of hiring that their PTO payment could be withheld without proper notice of quitting.

The bill is aimed at workers employed less than two years who give their employer less than 10 days written or verbal notice.

The bill now moves to the full Senate for a vote.


The Senate unanimously passed a bill Tuesday aimed at better protecting student athletes against concussions.

Senate Bill 2281 would require school districts to follow a concussion management program if they sponsor or sanction athletic activities that require students to regularly practice, train and compete.

Students would be removed from practice or competition if they exhibit or report any symptoms of a concussion. They then must be examined by a licensed health care provider and would need written clearance to return to the sport.

The bill also requires coaches to receive biennial training about the nature and risk of concussion, including the risk of play after a concussion or head injury.

The bill now moves to the House.

Rural N.D. lawmaker proposes social host drinking law

BISMARCK – A Wyndmere lawmaker wants North Dakota to adopt a “social host” law to crack down on underage drinking parties.

Senate Bill 2257 states someone who possesses or controls private property may not knowingly allow minors to drink on that property. They must also make a reasonable effort to stop the underage drinking, including calling the police.

Those who violate the proposed law would face a $500 fine, said bill sponsor Sen. Jim Dotzenrod, D-Wyndmere.

“We’ve got adults out there that are encouraging, participating, hosting these things, in a way encouraging it, and that has been frustrating for law enforcement. They feel this (law) would be a tool,” Dotzenrod said.

The bill is the result of meetings in the Wyndmere area, where some residents are exploring solutions to underage drinking, he said. They reviewed state laws and city ordinances in other states relating to social hosting and created this proposal.

“This was more to fix the responsibility for underage drinking on those people that are hosting these events. A lot of them are really rural area beer parties,” Dotzenrod said.

Some of his fellow lawmakers expressed concerns about the bill on Monday and the liability for property owners. Sen. Carolyn Nelson, D-Fargo, asked if apartment managers were supposed to monitor all of their units to see if there was underage drinking.

Dotzenrod said the law wouldn’t add responsibility for monitoring, but would make them halt a violation if they know about it.

Sen. Curtis Olafson, R-Edinburg, said North Dakota already has laws dealing with contributing to the delinquency of a minor. He also expressed concern about increased liability for pasture owners if the bill passes and minors are caught drinking in fields.

Dotzenrod emphasized the bill says “may not knowingly allow,” but said he is aware of the concern.

“If you all in your judgment think this is going to operate that way and it’s going to become a liability exposure, then you may not want to pass this,” he said. “I certainly, as a sponsor, am not intending that to be one of the consequences.”

Sen. Stan Lyson, R-Williston, said proving a property owner gave permission to underage drinkers is “almost unheard of.”

“Pretty soon, we better start putting the burden on the people that are drinking and the parents,” he said.

He suggested charging every person at the party with trespassing if law enforcement can’t prove the owner had knowledge the minors were there.

The bill also worries Sandy Clark of the North Dakota Farm Bureau. It isn’t landowners’ responsibility to do law enforcement’s job, she said.

“We in no way condone underage drinking. We don’t want these parties on our land, either,” she said. “But we don’t think this bill’s going to stop partying one little bit. All it’s going to do is put an undue burden on the landowner.”

The Senate Judiciary Committee did act on the bill on Monday.

N.D. lawmakers discuss fake ID bill

BISMARCK – North Dakota lawmakers want to crack down on the more than 2,300 college students in the state who have used fake IDs.

On Monday, legislators discussed Senate Bill 2133 that says businesses can seize an ID if they think it’s fake. They then must report it to law enforcement within 24 hours.

Bill sponsor Sen. Tim Flakoll, R-Fargo, said there isn’t one action or law that can solve alcohol abuse.

“We can, however, do things to chip away and reduce the problem,” he said. “We can reduce the incidence of underage drinking (and) binge drinking – because, essentially, if someone is underage and gets into the bar, they’re going to make, in their estimation, the best use of their time while they’re there.”

Also covered under the bill would be the illegal use of an underage sibling using an older sibling’s ID, Flakoll said.

There are countless sources online for minors to buy fake IDs, which range in price from $50 to $200, Flakoll said.

“So, when you have a $200 ID that’s a fake one, by taking it off the street you really limit their wanting to keep doing that over and over and over again,” he said.

The hospitality and retail associations, higher education officials and law enforcement voiced support for the bill during Monday’s hearing.

A 2008 survey of North Dakota college students found 6.6 percent – or more than 2,300 students – admitted to using a fake ID to obtain alcohol, said Jane Vangsness Frisch of the North Dakota Higher Education Consortium for Substance Abuse Prevention.

“Although we know this is not the majority of our students that are engaging in this illegal behavior, it is a critical mass of our young people and is concerning,” she said.

In submitted testimony, North Dakota State University Police Chief Bill Vandal said he’s received many phone calls over the years from concerned parents about the use and availability of fake IDs.

One minor successfully purchasing alcohol with a fake ID usually means many of the student’s minor friends now have access to alcohol, he said.

Current server training instructs servers to only keep the fake ID if the person abandons it or willingly surrenders it, Vandal said. The proposed bill would empower servers and retailers to seize the ID and notify law enforcement, he said.

Rudie Martinson of the North Dakota Hospitality Association said the industry suppports the bill.

“We in the industry have no interest in selling alcohol to people that aren’t legally qualified to buy it,” he said. “And so this bill puts a tool in our toolbox to prevent that, that we as an industry would very much like to have.”

One parent at the hearing said he is concerned his son would have his valid ID taken away. Myron Blumhagen of Drake said his son is about to turn 21, but looks young.

“If he goes into any establishment and tries to buy alcohol and they confiscate his ID and he can’t get it back for 24 hours and he’s going to drive home, he’s going to be driving home without a valid driver’s license,” Blumhagen said.

Lawmakers discussed several possible amendments to the bill – including one that would include tobacco – but did not take any action.

Week 3: Legislative week ahead

BISMARCK — We’re entering Week 3 of the North Dakota Legislature, and drinking, school bullying and bad driving are among this week’s highlights.

On Monday, lawmakers will hear Senate Bill 2133 related to using fake IDs to buy alcohol.

Businesses can seize the ID if they think it’s fake and must notify law enforcement within 24 hours.

Also Monday, lawmakers will discuss requiring lockdown drills at schools.

House Bill 1215 says the drills would need to occur at least twice each school year.

On the higher education side, North Dakota colleges will have hearings throughout the week about their funding requests.

On Tuesday, lawmakers will also discuss House Bill 1212 banning alcohol at college sporting events.

On Wednesday, Senate Bill 2167--one of the school bullying bills—will have its first hearing.

Lawmakers will also tackle some bad driving bills Thursday, with Senate Bill 2157 proposing a $100 fine for entering a road closed due to hazardous conditions.

Senate Bill 2177 would require at least 3 feet between vehicles and bicycles on the road.

Fargo leaders will be in town Thursday to discuss long-term flood protection in Cass County.

For the full list of bill hearings, go to www.legis.nd.gov. Click on Session Quick Links and then House (or Senate) Committee Hearings.

Summit looks at substance abuse in N.D.

BISMARCK — “Not a worry in the world, a cold beer in my hand. Life is good today.”

A catchy country music song … or another sign of alcohol’s prevalence in the country’s culture?

About 250 people are attending the Alcohol and Substance Abuse Summit this week in Bismarck. Substance abuse prevention and treatment professionals are exploring intervention, treatment and recovery options during the annual event.

One presentation included multiple examples of song lyrics that make alcohol sound attractive, including the above lyrics by the Zac Brown Band.

The song was played during a North Dakota high school sporting event, said Pam Sagness of the North Dakota Department of Human Services.

Concerts, sports stadiums, celebrities and music lyrics show alcohol as being part of having a good time.

People can say that’s how it’s always been, or that’s just the way it is, Sagness said. Or, they can start looking at how to change the culture.

In North Dakota, underage drinking costs the state about $141 million per year, she said. Almost half of all arrests are alcohol related. Alcohol is a contributing factor in 35 percent of domestic violence incidents.

The state is also No. 1 in binge-drinking rates for ages 18 to 25.

Yet, a survey of North Dakotans found 65.2 percent said adult alcohol use was a minor to moderate problem in their community.

“This tells you there is a lack of awareness of the extent of the problem in the state,” said JoAnne Hoesel, director of the state’s Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services Division.

The state is looking into targeted strategies and new treatments, as well as acknowledging there are differences among communities and one size doesn’t fit all, she said.

“We have some issues here in North Dakota, but we’re going to be part of that solution,” Hoesel told conference participants.

One of the day’s speakers was Ken Winters of the University of Minnesota, who spoke about working with teens and young adults.

Adolescents may be the toughest age group to treat because they may go back to the same problems at school or home that contributed to the alcohol or drug use, he said.

The progress of brain maturation also makes this group susceptible to alcohol and drug use, Winters said. Young people have a preference for high excitement and low-effort activities and for activities with peers that trigger high intensity. There’s also less consideration of negative consequences.

When helping youth with alcohol or drug problems, express empathy and avoid arguing, Winters said. Try to get the person to realize the addiction is getting in the way of goals and include parents with the treatment process.

Ask the young person what they like about drugs or alcohol and why they keep doing it, and then ask what other things could fulfill those benefits, he said.

Other ideas include connecting teens with support groups, showing them healthier ways to cope with anxiety and depression, and helping them return to something they gave up because of their addition

The Alcohol and Substance Abuse Summit continues today in Bismarck.

Bars vs. grocery stores

This morning, I attended the Alcohol and Substance Abuse Summit here in Bismarck.

At the morning welcome, this map was shown to conference attendees. It shows where bars outnumber grocery stores in the country.


This chart is also included:

Rank   State            Bars per 10,000 Population
1 North Dakota             6.54
2 Montana                    6.34
3 Wisconsin                 5.88
4 South Dakota           4.73
5 Iowa                          3.73
6 Nebraska                 3.68
7 Wyoming                  3.4

Communities raise awareness about alcohol/drug recovery

From a news release:

To help raise awareness about the importance of recovery, Gov. John Hoeven has proclaimed September as Alcohol and Drug Addiction Recovery Month in North Dakota. 

“Recovery has positively transformed the lives of thousands of individuals and families in North Dakota,” said JoAnne Hoesel, director of the Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services Division of the state Department of Human Services.  “We need to recognize these individual successes and educate others about options available.” 

Several communities in North Dakota are spearheading recovery events to honor individuals living healthy and productive lives in long-term recovery, individuals in treatment, as well as those who provide recovery services. 

The Region VII Safe and Drug Free Communities Coalition will host a recovery walk at 6 p.m. CT Tuesday at the state Capitol mall in Bismarck.  The event will feature speakers, followed by a walk down Fifth Street to the Best Western Ramkota Hotel where there will be live music and pizza. 

Along the trek, walkers will carry signs with names of loved ones who benefited from treatment and sobriety. 

The North Dakota Addiction Counselors Association will host a recovery walk at 6 p.m. CT Sept. 15 at the Jamestown Reservoir.  The gathering will include a picnic, guest speakers and entertainment.

Alcohol abuse prevention campaign launches Friday

The North Dakota Department of Human Services will launch a new alcohol abuse prevention campaign Friday at the State Fair in Minot.

The goal is to encourage individuals to "Take A Closer Look" at the effects alcohol abuse has on children, teens, families and communities in North Dakota, said Pamela Sagness, prevention administrator with the department.

"Alcohol is often glamorized in the media and in advertising. Kids are exposed to these messages. We want to remind people about the very real and negative consequences of alcohol abuse. In North Dakota, it’s time to say ‘Not Our Kids,’" Sagness said in a statement.

Sagness said almost half of all arrests are alcohol and drug related, and 20 percent of all arrests are DUIs. Alcohol is also a contributing factor in 35 percent of domestic violence cases.