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.

Pharmacy bill hearing set for Tuesday

BISMARCK – A bill that would allow chain retailers like Walmart and Target to open pharmacies in the state is up for debate on Tuesday.

House Bill 1434 deletes wording in North Dakota law that requires pharmacies to be majority-owned by pharmacists licensed in the state.

The bill hearing is scheduled for 8 a.m. CT in the Brynhild Haugland Room in the state Capitol.

Bill sponsor Rep. Thomas Beadle, R-Fargo, called the legislation “a consumer bill,” saying competition is good for prices and provides more options.

Brad Morrison of Market Pharmacy in Minot, however, wants to keep the current law as is.

“It’s my feeling that the patient care is improved when the owner/manager has a pharmacist’s perspective,” he said.

The 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.

Beadle said he isn’t pushing the bill on behalf of big business. He said he’s doing it for the more than 40 constituents who asked him to change the pharmacy law when he was campaigning.

“This is purely a consumer-driven initiative this time around because they recognize the need for it,” Beadle said.

Supporters and opponents won’t have to wait long to see how the House responds to the bill. All bills must go to a floor vote within the next two weeks.

Petition turned in

Secretary of State Al Jaeger says the committee proposing the statutory initiative relating to the operation of a pharmacy has turned in its signatures.

The committee told Jaeger they collected about 12,905 signatures. To be placed on the November ballot, the committee needs 12,844 signatures of qualified North Dakota voters.

For more on the topic, read the official wording here and the Forum story here.