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North Dakota lawmakers weigh meaty issues in session infancy

January 13, 2019

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — Guns, blue laws and Bibles in public schools: North Dakota lawmakers are considering some weighty issues as the legislative session enters its second full week. A look at what’s expected:

BILL DROP DEADLINE

Monday is the deadline for House members to introduce bills. And after that, senators are limited to three new bills.

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SUNDAY SHOPPING

The House is expected to vote on legislation to repeal the state’s longstanding Sunday business restrictions that are rooted in religious tradition.

The Republican-led Legislature has defeated several measures over the years to end the Sunday morning shopping prohibition, most recently two years ago when it was narrowly defeated in the Senate. Proponents believe this may be the year.

The National Conference of State Legislatures says North Dakota is the only state that prohibits shopping on Sunday morning.

Such restrictions have existed since North Dakota became a state in 1889, stemming from fears that shopping on Sunday morning would compete with church and erode family values.

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PACKING HEAT

Lawmakers in both chambers are considering a spate of gun-rights measures, even after legislation passed last session that allows people over the age of 21 to carry concealed firearms without a permit.

The House Energy and Natural Resources Committee, led by GOP pro-gun chairman Todd Porter of Mandan, has a full agenda Thursday of gun bills ranging from a measure relating to the definition of a machine gun to rules pertaining to “firearm accessories.”

The Senate will consider bills that include making it mandatory to have a firearm that is manufactured in the state to have “Made in North Dakota” clearly stamped on the weapon.

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“ANCIENT HISTORY”

The North Dakota lawmaker behind a bill that would require all schools to offer classes on the Bible says he’s thinking about changing the title of his measure.

Republican Sen. Oley Larson jokingly says he may start calling the classes on the Bible “ancient history” after the criticism he’s been getting on the proposal.

The American Civil Liberties Union’s North Dakota chapter says the measure is “blatantly unconstitutional” and would likely lead to litigation if approved by the Legislature.

Larson is a former teacher from Minot. He wants schools to offer curriculum that covers the Old Testament, the New Testament or a combination of the two. But he says students would not have to take it.

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COWBOYS AND A QUARTERBACK

North Dakota’s Senate is expected to adopt a resolution this week designating the fourth Saturday in July as “National Day of the Cowboy.” Not to be outdone, the North Dakota House is expected to pass a resolution congratulating Bismarck native and Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz for his “outstanding season, culminating with a 2018 NFL Super Bowl championship.” Nick Foles stepped in after Wentz went down with an injury, leading the Eagles to their first NFL title since 1960. Foles was the Super Bowl MVP.

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Follow James MacPherson on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/macphersonja .

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