North Dakota House members on Thursday passed the so-called "trespass bill," but with a division on amendments that disappointed the bill carrier.
On a 55-38 vote, the House passed a version of Senate Bill 2315 that strips the bill of a proposed "land access committee" to study trespass and hunting violations for recommendations due in 2020 on electronic land posting, as well as a "hammer" to close private land to all activities if no recommendations come.
Rep. Bill Tveit, R-Hazen, carried the bill and asked for House members to pass all amendments.
"These sections need to work together to accomplish what we need," Tveit said, invoking more than 20 hours of testimony on the bill before committees.
House lawmakers offered opposing arguments on the bill in floor debate, invoking landowners' property rights and a deep hunting heritage of the state — similar arguments made in hours of testimony on the bill in its hearings.
After the hourlong afternoon floor session — which only covered the one bill — Tveit expressed his disappointment and said he hopes a conference committee can restore previous provisions.
Rep. Ben Koppelman, R-West Fargo, brought the A and B divisions of amendments on the floor, which he said sought to address trespass and hunting, respectively.
"Those of you that are for property rights, I believe Division A is a nice compromise to supporting property rights to the extent that we can without eroding a 90-year-old right to hunt and a tradition that we have in our state, and I hope we pass it on to the next generation," Koppelman said on the floor.
House members passed Division A's provisions but rejected Division B.
As passed by the House and sent to the Senate for concurrence, Koppelman said the bill presumes private land as closed but with exception for hunting, a tradition he said most hunters have respected in asking permission of posting landowners and leaving land "as good or better than they found."
"That is what I believe the definition of a responsible hunter is," Koppelman said.
He called the bill as passed "a reasonable approach" to trespass penalties and enforcement, such as a $250 fine and non-criminal infraction for first-time offenses and a requirement to leave un-posted, private land when asked.
Various House lawmakers have said the bill has generated the most emails of any legislation this session — hundreds in some cases.
Sen. Robert Erbele, R-Lehr, brought bill, citing the many trespass charges generated from the Dakota Access Pipeline protests of 2016 and 2017, but also seeking a "bridge" between landowners and hunters. Similar legislation has been proposed in as many as eight previous sessions.