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A farmer's take on the 2017 North Dakota Legislature

We are well into the 65th North Dakota Legislative Assembly. Here is a farmer's perspective of some legislation working its way through the sausage maker.

This column has focused upon estate planning and probate from time to time. One often-used tool of estate planning is a durable power of attorney, which gives one person the legal authority to perform certain acts for another person. A durable power of attorney can be a useful tool for someone who needs a little extra help with certain decisions, including financial, medical and legal decisions.

A guardianship is sort of a cousin to a durable power of attorney. With a guardianship, there is a person who is somehow incapacitated — the "ward" — and another person who has court authority to make decisions for the ward — the "guardian." The guardian must petition the court for this authority, and a judge must order the authority only after exercising considered judgment after a full and fair hearing of the merits of the petition. The guardian's authority is as limited or as broad as the court sees fit.

Paul Harvey used to provide wonderful commentary on many topics, including absurdities in the law. He would have a field day with a particular area involving guardianships, and it has to do with the matter of medicating wards who don't want to take their medications. There are presently two pieces of legislation regarding this topic that are working their way through the Legislature.

The two pieces of legislation are House Bill 1365 and Senate Bill 2291. Each of these bills has provisions that permit medical professionals to administer medications to wards who aren't able to make medical decisions, but who have guardians who want the medications administered to the ward.

Sounds simple, yes? Why would we even need such legislation? The answer is because the North Dakota State Hospital has a policy that doesn't recognize a guardian's authority to make such decisions on behalf of the ward. Instead, the NDSH requires a separate judicial proceeding to be commenced, requiring a judge to issue a redundant order permitting such medications to be administered, even though the original guardianship judge ordered such permission in the original guardianship!

I testified in favor of HB 1365, in front of the Senate Human Services Committee. Hats off to that committee, and to the legislators who support this legislation. To require a guardian to file and process additional court paperwork just to permit medical professionals to treat a sick person is wrong. It is expensive, both for the affected family and for the public. Most importantly it deprives treatment to patients who suffer real, permanent damage from any delay in their treatment.

On a different topic, all farmers know when it is sunny, we must make hay. And that sometimes means a work week that isn't limited to 40 hours and isn't limited to just Monday through Friday. So it is with great interest that I followed the debate concerning a bill that was voted down in the Senate this week. The bill would have expanded the hours of retail sales on Sundays and would have expanded the types of retailers who could be open on Sundays. The debate was heated in the Senate, with proponents advocating for equal treatment amongst retailers — presently only a select few are permitted to be open on Sundays — and opponents citing religious considerations, amongst other concerns.

I like to work. And most farmers like to work. If farmers weren't permitted to work on Sundays, this debate would be even more interesting!

Finally, many bills are still being considered regarding loosening requirements for permitting and training to carry a concealed weapon. My two cents: I own several guns, but driving a car is like driving a weapon. I'm delighted my children cannot legally drive without a license. If you had seen them drive, you'd be delighted they need a license, as well.

Editor's note: Welte is an attorney with the Vogel Law Firm in Grand Forks, N.D., and a small grains farmer in Grand Forks County.

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