Legislative Update

Jordan Kannianen

District 4 Senator

Redistricting and Masks

Redistricting will occur towards the end of this year once final census results are released. A redistricting committee will be organized (with 8 Senators and 8 Representatives) to hold public meetings and go through the redistricting process. Every district in the state needs to have the same population (+ or – 5%), so lines will be redrawn to account for the strong growth in population throughout western ND and in certain areas of our largest cities and the declining population everywhere else. The state Constitution allows for up to 54 legislative districts, and we’re currently at 47, so one question is whether we should increase the number of districts in the state.

HB 1397 (heard in the Political Subdivisions Committee) was introduced by leadership to create the structure and set the policy for the upcoming redistricting process. In regards to the five reservations in the state, they are all currently within their own district (none of them are split up into separate districts), and this will be maintained. For example, it makes it challenging for me to drive through Districts 39 and 36 to get back into District 4 on the south side of the lake to visit those communities, but that’s what needs to continue in order to keep Twin Buttes in the same legislative district as the rest of Fort Berthold.

Please pay attention to this process in the fall and communicate with me and whoever is on the committee with any thoughts you have on redistricting and boundary changes. Draft maps will be posted online at the appropriate times and public hearings will be held in various parts of the state. 

HB 1323 was also heard in PolySubs, and it would prohibit any local or state elected official from implementing any type of mask mandate. It would also prohibit using a mask as a requirement for employment, education, or entry into any building. The business community and schools are opposed to the bill as written because the government shouldn’t tell businesses what they can and cannot do within their own buildings/facilities regarding masks or protective equipment, and many schools probably wouldn’t have met in person last fall if it weren’t for masks (based on local decisions). The language in this bill may prohibit businesses from requiring even simple dust masks for employees who work amidst dust or fumes. There is certainly disagreement on the efficacy of masks, but if that’s the best tool schools have to stay open, for example, I believe it should be left to individual school boards and communities to make their own decisions. An amendment was offered in committee which would’ve focused the bill on banning any statewide mask mandate and leaving businesses, local political subdivisions and schools to make their own decisions, but this was defeated 4-3 (I voted in favor). With that being the case, I eventually voted in favor of the Do Not Pass motion that was made, which passed 6-1. The amendment will probably be attempted again on the Senate floor, which I will support.

I have received numerous messages about my committee vote, and I understand and appreciate the passion behind this issue, and for me it boils down to not wanting to interfere with private businesses and allowing local school districts, counties, and cities to make their own decisions. If local citizens don’t like what their local governments are doing, then that’s what elections are for. If the floor amendment can pass to restrict statewide mandates, I will vote for that. I believe that is a fair middle ground. As a small-government Republican, I believe the best government is that closest to the people, and I don’t see the need to tie the hands of local governments and schools in the decades to come (when healthcare and PPE product advancements will be beyond our current imagination).  I don’t need to tell you that this is a hot-button issue that brings out the emotions (mostly angry ones). History tells us that this is a once-in-a-century event, so we would do well to put this past year, and our reactions to things, in that perspective. 

I hope everyone had a happy and blessed Easter. Have a great week!

Jordan Kannianen, District 4 Senator

701.421.8813, [email protected]