Bill to prevent state restriction of business hours or capacity fails

A bill to prevent state and local government from restricting business hours or limiting capacity failed in the Senate Wednesday.

This comes as bars and restaurants have been affected by mandates from the governor a few months ago limiting in-person dining capacity and closing times. During hearings, Minot and Fargo’s mayors opposed the bill saying it restricted local authority’s ability to act in an emergency situation, like a flood or natural disaster.

Bismarck Mayor Steve Bakken says it would’ve made it difficult for local leaders to do what’s best for their area.

“What happens if we have a flooding event, or we have to close a road? We need to limit the capacity of a business. That would never be our intent, but there are certain public safety issues, and things that could preclude a business from being open, and we have to have that ability,” Bakken said.

But those who supported the bill said it would have addressed government overreach the state experienced during the past year.

“This bill is here because it’s trying to get rid of the nonsense that happened this last year. It makes no sense that we can fill one building due to the fire department’s guidelines and architectural guidelines, but we can have someone come in and say, no we don’t want anyone in after 10 o’clock,” Sen. Oley Larsen said.

The bill failed 15 to 32, after having passed in the House 54 to 39. Cities will maintain the authority to regulate business hours and capacity.

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