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GOP jokes trigger etiquette reminder

A string of jokes on the House floor during recent debate on Sunday blue laws led to distribution of copies of a single-page document titled “Communication 101” for lawmaker reference.

The document provides pointers on speaking with the media, how to present oneself on the chamber floor and etiquette for posting to social media.

“Think before posting, never respond when you’re angry and always re-read,” the document states. “Anything you say is public, even things you said years ago.”

The House votes on the blue laws drew headlines based on comments by a pair of Republican lawmakers regarding women.

One lawmaker cracked a joke about the time being spent could include having a wife making breakfast in bed, while another joked about his wife spending all his money the other six and a half days of the week, so why not have some time without businesses open.

Carlson said he recalled laughing momentarily, but then shaking his head at the remarks being out of place. The Communication 101 document refers to the blue laws incident, warning that lawmakers are always on camera while in the chamber and “what you say can be taken out of context.”

“I wouldn’t have thought you’d have to do that,” Carlson said of issuing the reminder.

Notices on etiquette aren’t unique to this session. During the 2013 session, the Associated Press reported on a dress code notice outlining attire considered inappropriate, such as wearing tube tops and tank tops as well as trekking around the Capitol without shoes.

On schedule

Leadership in both legislative chambers say the plan is to complete the first half of 2017 session work, known as crossover, on Feb. 23.

North Dakota Legislative Council numbers put the Senate at exactly 100 bills left to act on prior to the Friday floor session, as well as three resolutions.

Senate Majority Leader Rich Wardner, R-Dickinson, said the chamber will try to average 10 bills a day on the floor using only afternoon sessions before crossover. If things stay on track, Wardner said, the Senate’s first-half work will be completed by the morning of Feb. 23.

Wardner credited the Senate’s pace to the decision by leadership to do committee work for two days the first week of the session and not gavel in for legislative days on Jan. 4-5.

“Those two days when we went right to work, that really moved us,” Wardner said of getting a steady stream of bills moved to the floor. “It just seems like we’ve been ahead ever since.”

House Majority Leader Al Carlson, R-Fargo, said they plan to work into the afternoon or evening of the same day.

“Ten to 15 bills a day. If we have to, we’ll go longer,” Carlson said.

Next week, the House will stick to two-hour floor sessions in the afternoon. Depending on how quickly work is going in appropriations, morning floor sessions may be added in the final days before crossover.

North Dakota Legislative Council numbers showed that, prior to Friday’s floor session, the House had 168 bills remaining and 17 resolutions.

(Reach Nick Smith at 701-250-8255 or 701-223-8482 or at nick.smith@bismarcktribune.com.)

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