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N.D. House rejects gutting insurance authority

BISMARCK - Calling it a "pig in a poke" and other unflattering terms, House members soundly defeated a bill that Insurance Commissioner Jim Poolman said would have gutted his power to regulate insurance companies' rate increases.

BISMARCK - Calling it a "pig in a poke" and other unflattering terms, House members soundly defeated a bill that Insurance Commissioner Jim Poolman said would have gutted his power to regulate insurance companies' rate increases.

The 67-27 vote against House Bill 1308 was a rejection of the House Industry, Business and Labor Committee and Appropriations Committee recommendations to pass the bill.

Rep. Jasper Schneider, D-Fargo, and others criticized the bill because it would allow insurance companies to enact excessive rate increases and merely notify customers afterward. Under current law, the commissioner must give prior approval.

Poolman said he is working with the Senate on another bill that modernizes rate increase authority but is not as drastic as Keiser's bill.

Teen driving

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bill fails

The Senate hit the brakes Tuesday on a bill that would increase the age for teen drivers and keep them off their cell phones.

Senate Bill 2337 would require teens to be 14½ instead of 14 before applying for a driver's permit. Once licensed, teens then would enter a provisional phase until they were 16½.

During this phase, they couldn't drive between 11 p.m. and 5 a.m. unless an adult at least 21 years old was with them. Other exemptions include driving between home, work and school.

Provisional licensed drivers also couldn't transport more than one passenger younger than age 18 unless someone seated next to them was at least 21. Siblings were exemptions.

A third stipulation to the bill was to ban provisional licensees from using cell phones or wireless devices while driving. Sen. Tim Mathern, D-Fargo, is the prime sponsor of the bill.

The Senate defeated the bill on a 16-30 vote.

CorporationsNorth Dakota could become another Mecca in which national companies will want to incorporate, similar to Delaware, some House members said Tuesday as they passed House Bill 1340 with 67 percent approval. The bill gives corporations an option to govern themselves with a method that is more shareholder-friendly.

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The bill is a follow-up to North Dakota voters' OK in June of a change in the state constitution. Under the old constitution, few corporations chose to be chartered in North Dakota because it restricted governance.

The bill now goes to the Senate.

Severing

hunting rightsThe House agreed Tuesday to study the practice of severing hunting access in real estate transactions. Rep. Shirley Meyer, D-Dickinson, explained that the practice already is going on but has caused questions among bankers whose loans are secured by land.

It is House Bill 1146, and the vote was 76-17. It now moves to the Senate.

Make U.S. 52

four-laneThe state House on Tuesday passed a bill directing the state Department of Transportation to create a plan for expanding U.S. Highway 52 to four lanes for the stretch between Minot and Voltaire, N.D.

The original version of House Bill 1166 called for four-laning the road the entire stretch from Minot to Jamestown. It was amended to the short stretch.

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The bill passed 81-12 and now moves to the Senate.

ATVs get OK

on highwaysThe House narrowly rejected, then revived, a bill Tuesday to allow some all-terrain vehicles to use most roads and highways in the state. The final vote was 54-39.

Rep. Ed Gruchalla, D-Fargo, and a slim majority of the House Transportation Department recommended House Bill 1445 be defeated, saying it would be a safety hazard for the vehicles to be on the highways.

But supporters said the vehicles are vital to farming and ranching and would be OK only on the highways with headlights and other accessories necessary for road travel.

The Senate now will consider the bill.

Barber pole

restriction passesThe House OK'd a bill Tuesday restricting the use of barber poles to use by licensed barbers. The vote on House Bill 1477 was 77-16. It now goes to the Senate.

Cole and Finneman work for Forum Communications' bureau in Bismarck. Forum Communications owns the Grand Forks Herald.

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