Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Legislature Finalizes Radio Funding, Voter ID, and DOCR budget

Lawmakers Pass Interoperable Radio Funding
Legislators approved an across the board increase 911fees .50 per line. This is the first step in ugrading to an interoperable radio system statewide. HB 1178 authorizes a $15 million loan from the Bank of North Dakota to get the project jump started. Under this plan the revenues from the 911 fee will be pooled into the Statewide Interoperable Radio Network (SIRN) fund. When purchasing equipment for the SIRN the equipment must be compatible with the trunk system.

ND Legislature Approves New Voter ID Law Allows for Set Aside Ballots
After having North Dakota's current voter ID law challenged in court, the 65th Legislative Assembly passed a bill that will hopefully appease the Court. Last year, Judge Hoveland issued a temporary injunction - reverting ND's voter ID laws back to to 2013 status. With the passage of House Bill 1369, if a voter's information on their ID is outdated, they will be allowed to provide other supportive documents to show they live in that precinct or that they have changed their name. For those who do not have the supportive documents or a current ID, the voter can fill out their ballot and have it "set aside" until a voter's eligibility is confirmed. The voter has six days to show evidence of their identification. It is only at that time when the ballot will be counted.
This last election, affidavits were used to allow voters who couldn't provide a valid form of ID. 16,000 North Dakotan's voted using affidavits in the November General Election. County auditors were tasked with verifying those affidavits. Many counties were unable to validate many of the affidavits, regardless all ballots were counted on Election Day. 

DOCR Budget Includes Funding for Community Based Programs
In response to the behavior and mental health crisis in the state, the DOCR budget includes $7 million to provide services across the state. The goal here is to address these needs and provide treatment options outside of prison. The overarching message this session has been that prison should be for violent offenders. The community based programs will be established in partnership with Department of Human Services in hopes of reducing the number of inmates with behavior health issues who are sentenced to prison because there are few other options. This is a major piece of the Justice Reinvention initiative that was studied during the interim.
SB 2015 authorizes DOCR to refuse inmates sentenced to prison if the prison is at capacity. Counties expect this to impact their jails as inmates may be held there until space is realized. DOCR will develop a prioritization of admissions based on sentence. The DOCR budget also allows correctional facilities including county jails to adopt an inmate population management plan and to provide alternatives to jail time. 

Confidential Informant Bill Passes
The house and senate have passed a bill that establishes protections for confidential drug informants. The bill has been refered to as "Andrew's Law" and was brought forward by the family of Andrew Sadek. Sadek was found dead in the Red River three years ago. At the time Sadek was a confidential informant.
The bill prohibits law enforcement from using a juvenille 15 years or younger as a confidential informant. For those over 15 but under the age of 18 may also not be used except under special exemptions highlighted in the bill. The bill also sets forward training requirements for law enforcement who wish to use CI's.

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