North Dakota governor vetoes 1 library bill, signs another

Apr 26, 2023, 3:37 PM

FILE - North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum speaks at the state Capitol on April 10, 2020, in Bismarck, N....

FILE - North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum speaks at the state Capitol on April 10, 2020, in Bismarck, N.D. Burgum has vetoed a bill Wednesday, April 26, 2023, that would have criminalized librarians for willfully displaying sexually explicit materials, and signed a bill that prohibits those materials in children's sections of local and school libraries. (Mike McCleary/The Bismarck Tribune via AP, File)

(Mike McCleary/The Bismarck Tribune via AP, File)

North Dakota’s governor vetoed a bill Wednesday that would have required librarians under threat of criminal penalty to screen sexually explicit materials from children, but signed another barring explicit materials from the children’s sections of local and school libraries.

The Senate voted 33-14 to override Republican Gov. Doug Burgum’s veto hours later, though a similar House vote would be needed to make a veto override successful. The House had passed the bill on a 54-38 vote last week, several votes shy of a veto-proof majority.

“Protecting children from explicit sexual material is common sense,” Burgum said in a statement explaining why he signed one of the bills into law.

But he said the bill he vetoed would have created “an enormous burden” on hundreds of public libraries by imposing — under the threat of criminal prosecution — an expensive requirement that libraries review materials that have already been screened for age appropriateness. His statement said it would cost the state $300,000 initially to conduct such screening and $150,000 per year thereafter.

“This bill is unnecessary, vague, and will not only cause immediate hardship to our schools and libraries, but also opens the door to costly, and unnecessary litigation,” library coordinator Misti Frink had said in testimony against the bill this month. “Robust checks and balances are already in place for print and digital resource selections.”

Republican Sen. Janne Myrdal, of Edinburg, spoke on the Senate floor in urging her colleagues to override the governor’s veto, saying exposure to sexually explicit material “is devastating for young people’s brains and lives.”

“We deal with millions of dollars here. $150,000 is like a drop in the bucket to protect our children,” Myrdal said.

Language in the vetoed bill said prosecutors could charge a person with a class B misdemeanor — up to 30 days in prison and $1,500 in fines — for willfully displaying sexually explicit material at newsstands or any other business establishment visited by minors. It said this would not include colleges, universities, museums or art galleries but would include public libraries and public school libraries, among some other places.

Opponents, including the American Civil Liberties Union of North Dakota, have said the now-vetoed bill would promote government censorship and violate First Amendment rights to say, think, read and write whatever one wants without fear of government retaliation.

Across the country, attempted book bans and restrictions on libraries have surged, setting a record in 2022, according to a recent report by the American Library Association.

Some books have been targeted by liberals citing racist language — notably Mark Twain’s “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” — according to Deborah Caldwell-Stone, who directs the ALA’s Office for Intellectual Freedom.

But the vast majority of complaints have come from conservatives, directed at works with LGBTQIA+ or racial themes, Caldwell-Stone has said.

Bills to restrict books have been proposed or passed in Arizona, Iowa, Texas, Missouri, Oklahoma, Florida and other states.


Trisha Ahmed is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues. Follow Trisha Ahmed on Twitter: @TrishaAhmed15

National News

FILE - Susana Lujano, left, a dreamer from Mexico who lives in Houston, joins other activists to ra...

Associated Press

Revised DACA program to be debated before Texas judge who previously ruled against it

HOUSTON (AP) — A revised version of a federal policy that prevents the deportation of hundreds of thousands of immigrants brought to the U.S. as children is set to be debated Thursday before a federal judge who previously ruled the program illegal. Attorneys representing the nine states that have sued to end the Deferred Action […]

22 hours ago

FILE - Jim Obergefell, the named plaintiff in the Obergefell v. Hodges Supreme Court case that lega...

Associated Press

LGBTQ+ Pride month kicks off with protests, parades, parties

NEW YORK (AP) — The start of June marks the beginning of Pride month around the U.S. and some parts of the world, a season to celebrate the lives and experiences of LGBTQ+ communities and to protest against recent attacks on hard-won civil rights gains. This year’s Pride takes place in a contentious political climate […]

22 hours ago

Associated Press

After sailing though House on bipartisan vote, Biden-McCarthy debt ceiling deal now goes to Senate

WASHINGTON (AP) — Veering away from a default crisis, the House overwhelmingly approved a debt ceiling and budget cuts package, sending the deal that President Joe Biden and Speaker Kevin McCarthy negotiated to the Senate for swift passage in a matter of days, before a fast-approaching deadline. The hard-fought compromise pleased few, but lawmakers assessed […]

22 hours ago

FILE - A statue of Walt Disney and Micky Mouse stands in front of the Cinderella Castle at the Magi...

Associated Press

LGBTQ+ people flock to Florida for Gay Days festival

ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — Tens of thousands of LGBTQ+ people are flocking to central Florida this weekend to go on theme park rides, mingle with costumed performers, dance at all-night parties and lounge poolside at hotels during Gay Days, a decades-long tradition. Even though Gov. Ron DeSantis and Florida lawmakers have championed a slew of […]

22 hours ago

FILE - Sections of pipe are lined off of Cove Hollow Road in Elliston, in Montgomery County, Va., o...

Associated Press

Debt ceiling deal advances pipeline and tweaks environmental rules. But more work remains.

WASHINGTON (AP) — Despite weeks of negotiations, the White House and House Republicans were unable to reach a comprehensive agreement to overhaul environmental regulations and streamline federal permitting as part of their debt ceiling deal, instead settling for limited changes that could simplify some project reviews. The final legislation, approved late Wednesday by the House, […]

22 hours ago

FILE - A sign is displayed outside the Internal Revenue Service building on May 4, 2021, in Washing...

Associated Press

Republicans get their IRS cuts; Democrats say they expect little near-term impact

WASHINGTON (AP) — House Republicans are seeking to make good on their campaign promise to rein in the IRS with cutbacks built into the debt ceiling and budget cuts package moving through Congress. The bill rescinds $1.4 billion given to federal tax collector in the Democrats’ health and energy package that was approved last year […]

22 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

Internet Washington...

Major Internet Upgrade and Expansion Planned This Year in Washington State

Comcast is investing $280 million this year to offer multi-gigabit Internet speeds to more than four million locations.

Compassion International...

Brock Huard and Friends Rally Around The Fight for First Campaign

Professional athletes are teaming up to prevent infant mortality and empower women at risk in communities facing severe poverty.

Emergency Preparedness...

Prepare for the next disaster at the Emergency Preparedness Conference

Being prepared before the next emergency arrives is key to preserving businesses and organizations of many kinds.

SHIBA volunteer...

Volunteer to help people understand their Medicare options!

If you’re retired or getting ready to retire and looking for new ways to stay active, becoming a SHIBA volunteer could be for you!

safety from crime...

As crime increases, our safety measures must too

It's easy to be accused of fearmongering regarding crime, but Seattle residents might have good reason to be concerned for their safety.

Comcast Ready for Business Fund...

Ilona Lohrey | President and CEO, GSBA

GSBA is closing the disparity gap with Ready for Business Fund

GSBA, Comcast, and other partners are working to address disparities in access to financial resources with the Ready for Business fund.

North Dakota governor vetoes 1 library bill, signs another