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Lawmakers not seeking override of North Dakota governor's partial veto on college penalties for abortion ties

The North Dakota Senate would need to initiate efforts to override Gov. Doug Burgum's partial veto of the bill, and Senate Majority Leader Rich Wardner said the majority of senators accept the veto.

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North Dakota State University students and professors hold signs at a rally for academic freedom held in response to legislation aimed at an NDSU sex-ed program that involves Planned Parenthood on April 22, 2021, at NDSU’s Memorial Union in Fargo. Alyssa Goelzer / The Forum
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BISMARCK — State lawmakers do not plan to override Gov. Doug Burgum's partial veto of a bill that restricts North Dakota State University and the University of North Dakota from partnering with abortion providers or supporters.

On Friday, May 7, the Republican governor vetoed the part of Senate Bill 2030 that would have punished any of the 11 schools in the North Dakota University System for partnering with an abortion provider or supporter. He nixed the bill's penalties: a $2.8 million deduction in state funds for a university if it entered into such a partnership, and a Class B misdemeanor charge, with a maximum penalty of 30 days in jail and a $1,500 fine, for whoever signed a contract with an abortion-supporting group.

Burgum's partial veto came a week after the Legislature adjourned on April 30. Consequently, a special session would need to be called to hold a vote on a possible override of Burgum's partial veto.

Because it's a Senate bill, the Senate would need to initiate any override efforts.

Senate Majority Leader Rich Wardner, R-Dickinson, on Monday said the majority of his fellow senators are OK with the partial veto and that the Senate does not intend to call for a special session.

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Wardner said there's a chance of a possible override vote later this year when the Legislature meets to discuss redistricting, but in speaking to senators he said he doesn't think lawmakers are in favor of pursuing that as of right now. The Legislature has four of its total 80 regular session days left to tackle redistricting and anything else that may arise.

To override the partial veto, a two-thirds majority in the Senate and House is needed.

House Majority Leader Chet Pollert said he spoke to a few of his fellow representatives about a possible override if the Senate were to take action. He said "it would be close" for the House to reach the two-thirds majority needed.

Burgum did sign into law the provision of Senate Bill 2030 that restricts NDSU and UND from entering into a partnership with an abortion provider or supporter, in order to be eligible for funds under the Higher Education Challenge Grant.

The grant program awards the two schools $1 in state funding for every $2 the universities' foundations raise in donations, and the universities are to spend the funds for the "advancement of academics." If either school were enter into an agreement with an abortion provider or supporter, they would not able to receive the grant funds.

Lawmakers were clear in their discussions of the bill that it targets NDSU and its partnership with Planned Parenthood through a federal research grant. The grant, much to many of the lawmakers’ dissatisfaction, funds an evidence-based sex education program for at-risk youth that's administered by Planned Parenthood, the nation’s largest abortion provider.

Many in academia have said the restriction on UND and NDSU is an affront to academic freedom.

Readers can reach reporter Michelle Griffith, a Report for America corps member, at mgriffith@forumcomm.com.

Michelle (she/her, English speaker) is a Bismarck-based journalist for The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead and Report for America, a national service organization that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on under-covered topics and communities.
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