Bills create, amend, or repeal law. To become law, a bill must pass the House of Representatives and the Senate by a majority vote of the members-elect in each house. Bills may be introduced by members of the Legislative Assembly, standing committees, or the Legislative Management. A state executive agency or the North Dakota Supreme Court can have bills automatically introduced in the name of the standing committee to which the bill will be referred. House bills begin with the number 1001, and Senate bills begin with the number 2001. The Constitution of North Dakota (Article IV, Section 13) provides that bills adopted by the Legislative Assembly generally take effect August 1 after filing with the Secretary of State. However, certain appropriations and tax measures become effective July 1. The effective date may be later if specifically written into a bill. The effective date may be earlier if the Legislative Assembly declares an “emergency” and the measure receives a two-thirds vote of the members-elect in each house.
Resolutions propose constitutional amendments, express opinions, request actions, congratulate, or console. Resolutions do not have the effect of law. Resolutions are the vehicles used to propose constitutional amendments for voter consideration. Resolutions are used to request an interim study by the Legislative Management on a specific subject. Resolutions frequently express legislative opinion to Congress or other federal offices with regard to federal programs or policies. House concurrent resolutions begin with the number 3001, and Senate concurrent resolutions begin with the number 4001. Concurrent means that a particular resolution must be approved by both the House and Senate. The House or Senate may use resolutions for their own separate business such as memorial resolutions for deceased members, e.g., House Memorial Resolution 7001 and Senate Memorial Resolution 8001.
Session Laws (the popular name for Laws of North Dakota)
Session Laws contain the text of all measures enacted (bills) or adopted (resolutions) by a particular Legislative Assembly. Session Laws also include:
- Constitutional amendments proposed by the Legislative Assembly. Vote totals are provided for those “approved” or “disapproved” since publication of the preceding Session Laws.
- Initiated laws or constitutional amendments and referred bills submitted to voters since publication of the preceding Session Laws (includes vote totals).
- Governor’s veto messages.
- Lists of House and Senate members.
- A statewide legislative district map.
Recent Session Laws are online at: http://www.legis.nd.gov.
Statutes provide written organized law. Since becoming a state in 1889, North Dakota law has been codified as the:
- Revised Codes of 1895.
- Revised Codes of 1899.
- Revised Codes of 1905.
- Compiled Laws of North Dakota 1913, with 1925 supplement.
- North Dakota Revised Code of 1943 with 1947, 1949, 1953, and 1957 supplements.
- North Dakota Century Code.
The North Dakota Century Code is the codification of general and permanent law. The Century Code was published between 1959 and 1960 and was named to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the establishment of Dakota Territory in 1861.
The Century Code is arranged systematically under broad titles such as Title 23 – Health and Safety, Title 39 – Motor Vehicles, Title 54 – State Government, and Title 65 – Workers Compensation. Laws with specific expiration dates usually are not codified in the Century Code. Following each Legislative Assembly, the Century Code is updated to reflect changes. Volumes are either reprinted or supplemented with a pocket part. Volume 13 of the Century Code contains the United States and the North Dakota Constitutions as well as other historic documents, including the Magna Carta, Articles of Confederation, and Declaration of Independence.
The Century Code is available online at www.legis.nd.gov.
How to Testify Before a North Dakota Legislative Committee
You have the right...
You have the right, as do all citizens, to testify before the North Dakota Legislative Assembly on any bill or resolution.
North Dakota has one of the most open legislatures in the nation. Every bill must have a public hearing before a legislative committee, must be publicly voted upon by the committee, and then must come before the full House or Senate for still another public vote.
Your opportunity to testify on a bill comes at the committee hearing.
Legislative committees meet in rooms on the ground floor or in the legislative wing of the State Capitol. You can come into a committee meeting at any time, even if the door is closed or a hearing is in progress.
Lists of the legislative committees, committee members, and the days and places committees meet are available on this website and at the legislative information kiosk in the hall between the Senate and House chambers. Committee hearing schedules are available on this website and can be viewed on the monitors by the information kiosk and in the hall of the ground floor at the Capitol.
Most current versions of bills and amendments are available on this website. You can also get copies of bills from the Bill and Journal Room. However, if the bill has been amended, the printed bill may not include the amendments.
Hearings Before North Dakota Legislative Committees Are Generally Informal and Few Rules Need Be Observed!
Before the Hearing You Should...
- Find out when and where your bill will be heard. Be on time for the hearing. Usually, once a hearing is closed on a particular bill, no further testimony is heard.
- Plan your testimony. It is not necessary, but it is helpful, to have written copies of your comments available.
- See if other persons will be testifying on your bill. If so, try to coordinate your testimony before the hearing to avoid duplication.
- Contact the Secretary of State's office if you are going to testify on behalf of anyone but yourself to see if you must register as a lobbyist.
At the Hearing You Should...
- Be present at the start of the hearing. All persons present usually get a chance to speak, but sometimes because of large turnouts it is not possible to give everyone a chance to speak. If you do not get a chance to testify, your presence may be acknowledged and you might be asked if you favor or oppose the bill. Also, you can always submit written testimony.
- Sign the witness sheet at the lectern. Give the bill number, whether you favor or oppose the bill, your name, your lobbyist registration number if you have one, and who you represent if other than yourself.
- Wait your turn. The chairman announces the beginning of the hearing on a particular bill. The clerk will read the bill. The first speaker is usually the bill's sponsor. The chairman then asks for testimony first from proponents and then opponents.
- Plan on following the custom (although it is not absolutely necessary) of beginning your remarks by addressing the chairman and committee members, giving your name and address, and why you are there. For example: "Mr. or Madam Chairman and members of the committee, my name is John Q. Public from Edwinton. I'm in favor of this bill because, etc."
- Be brief. Do not repeat what others have said. The hearings are informal so be conversational. Avoid being too technical. Avoid using acronyms or technical references unless you first explain what they mean.
- Do not be nervous or worried about doing something wrong. There are no "rights and wrongs" about testifying. Legislators are just your friends and neighbors who want to hear what you have to say.
- Expect some questions and comments from committee members. These questions are not designed to embarrass you but merely to provide additional information.
- Avoid any clapping, cheering, booing, or other demonstrations.
After the Hearing...
- Some committees vote right after a hearing. Others wait until the end of the meeting. Some postpone voting until another meeting.
- All committee action is public so you can stay to listen to committee debate and its vote even though the public comment portion of the hearing is over.
- One or two days later you can check with the committee clerk, your legislator, or the legislative information kiosk to find out how the committee voted on your bill.
You have a right to testify on any bill before a legislative committee. Legislators want to hear what you have to say.
State law (North Dakota Century Code Chapter 54-05.1) requires most persons to register as lobbyists if they (1) attempt to secure the passage, amendment, or defeat of any legislation by the Legislative Assembly or the approval or veto of any legislation by the Governor; or (2) attempt to influence decisions made by the Legislative Management or by an interim committee of the Legislative Management. Registration requirements do not apply to:
- A legislator.
- A private citizen appearing on the citizen's own behalf.
- An employee, officer, board member, volunteer, or agent of the state or its political subdivisions whether elected or appointed and whether or not compensated, who is acting in that person's official capacity.
- An individual Invited by the chairman of the legislative management, an interim committee of the legislative management, or a standing committee of the legislative assembly to appear before the legislative management, interim committee, or standing committee for the purpose of providing information.
- An individual who appears before a legislative committee for the sole purpose of presenting testimony on behalf of a trade or professional organization or a business or industry if the individual is introduced to the committee by the registered lobbyist for the trade or professional organization or the business or industry.
The North Dakota Secretary of State administers the lobbyist registration law. Information on lobbyist registration is available from the Secretary of State.