NDGOP’s Legislative Priorities: Thoughts and Prayers, but No Protections for Essential Workers

Bismarck, ND – Yesterday, as the Republican supermajority in the Senate voted in favor of an unconstitutional bill that would allow public schools to push theocracy on students without a parent’s permission, the Republican supermajority in the House was busy deciding that essential workers – which make up 57% of North Dakota’s workforce – were not worthy of Workforce Safety and Insurance benefits if they contracted Coronavirus on the job.

Sen. Janne Myrdal (R-Edinburg), finding nothing better to do as the Coronavirus continues to threaten public health, job security, and small businesses across the state, sponsored a so-called “Ten Commandments bill” that would permit public schools to post the Ten Commandments. The bill, which would directly violate a U.S. Supreme Court ruling also drew criticism from Republican Senators who painted a clear picture of future lawsuits, regardless of any immunity language. The bill passed the ND State Senate by a vote of 34-13.

Meanwhile, a bill introduced by Rep. Zac Ista (D-Grand Forks) that would have allowed essential workers to claim WSI benefits if they were infected with the Coronavirus while on the job was overwhelmingly opposed by Republican legislators, failing to pass the ND State House by a vote of 16-77.

Representative Ista, whose passionate advocacy on behalf of our frontline workers has become a top priority for the Dem-NPL this legislative session, did not mince words:

“Our essential workers have stepped up in unprecedented times, risking their lives everyday so that all of us can live ours with some sense of normalcy and continuity. The absolute least that the state can do is step up for these unsung heroes by making sure they are protected in the event that they are forced to miss work or become hospitalized due to COVID-19.”

Democratic-NPL Executive Director, Michael Taylor, addressed both bills, saying:

“There is a tragic irony here that Republican Legislators wish to use their power to push their beliefs, but refuse to use that same power to practice what they preach. Like many North Dakotans, my faith was instilled in me by my parents and local church. My religious beliefs are deeply personal to me. And, like many North Dakotans, I believe that instead of wasting taxpayer money on doomed lawsuits that only serve to give our state negative publicity, a child’s parents should be able to decide what religious beliefs and moral foundations they wish to pass along to their children, not the government.”

Taylor Continued:

“Sen. Myrdal wants to take away your religious freedom, while trivializing a sacred religious text as merely a historical document to be taped up on a classroom whiteboard. If the NDGOP truly wants to express their faith, they can start by giving back to the heroes on the frontlines who serve us every single day; allowing them access to basic WSI benefits, so that we may all get through this pandemic together faster and safer.”