Speak out against ALEC intimidation and violation of free speech. SB 2044 passed the Senate today and will be introduced in the House.
Write or call ND House Representatives and tell them to vote no on SB2044. Write and call your district representatives, write and call the House Energy and Natural Resources Committee members, write and call every damn legislator in the House. Contact info you need is at the links below.
The ACLU of North Dakota opposes this bill. Senate Bill 2044 punishes association, and will almost certainly stifle protected speech. It would criminalize activity far beyond the intentional causing of property damage, extending penalties to activity such as “interfering with” or “inhibiting” the operations of critical infrastructure, terms so vague as to be nearly meaningless and criminal penalties may be imposed without evidence of any intent at all. This is unconstitutional.
Additionally, SB 2044 would punish organizations “found to be a conspirator” with those individuals found to be in violation of the new prohibitions ten times over, a provision aimed squarely at punishing associational activities. Making an organization criminally liable for all damage would impermissibly burden the rights of political association that are protected by the First Amendment – the literal embodiment of guilt by association.
At best, this bill is entirely unnecessary. At worst, it is meant to chill speech.
Below is a vid by the Executive Director of the Dakota Resource Council, Scott Skokos, who provides an update and some analysis.
“An organization that has pled guilty or been convicted of a violation under section12.1-06-04 for conspiring with an individual who has pled guilty or been convicted under subsection 1 must be assessed a fine equivalent to the penalty authorized by subsection 2 for each individual who has pled guilty or been convicted under subsection 1, not to exceed one hundred thousand dollars.”
HOW YOUR SENATOR VOTED:
Some North Dakota legislators are trying to create new crimes with stiff penalties for “critical infrastructure trespass” and “impeding critical infrastructure.” According to the sponsor, Sen. Janne Myrdal, R-Edinburg, the bill seeks to prevent damage to energy operations, telecommunications infrastructure and other “critical” facilities. In reality, it would continue bestowing special treatment for energy companies over agriculture and other businesses while intimidating law-abiding citizens from exercising their constitutional right to free speech.
Senate Bill 2044 is nearly identical to one promoted by the American Legislative Exchange Council, an out-of-state lobby group dedicated to advancing large corporate interests in state legislatures. Recently, this legislation was introduced in Wyoming, Colorado, Oklahoma, Ohio, and Idaho. In 2018, Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead vetoed a nearly identical bill calling it “flawed,” citing adverse impacts to farmers, ranchers, and landowners. It is referred to as the “zombie bill” after being defeated again in 2019, for good reason.
North Dakota already has strict laws criminalizing vandalism, trespass, and property destruction – and rightly so. This legislation is just plain unnecessary.
This bill doesn’t actually make people safer. Rather, it allows energy companies to trample on those who disagree with them. If legislators really want to make us safer, they should adequately maintain our roads and bridges and ensure infrastructure is secure from cyber-attacks.
A “conspirator” clause in the bill would put churches and nonprofit organizations at risk for a fine up to $100,000. An organization could provide food and water or help plan turnout for a peaceful demonstration and then be guilty if someone there happens to commit an unlawful offense. That’s chilling.
Now, more than ever, we need to stand together to protect basic freedoms that are crucial to our democracy. Please call or write your legislators and ask them to oppose SB 2044.
Don Morrison, Bismarck
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