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Published July 31, 2011, 04:55 PM

ND's New Laws: No Texting While Driving

North Dakota has more than 300 new laws taking effect Monday, including a ban on texting while driving, limits on protests at funerals and a measure that allows most employees to keep guns in their vehicles while they're at work

By: Associated Press,

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — North Dakota has more than 300 new laws taking effect Monday, including a ban on texting while driving, limits on protests at funerals and a measure that allows most employees to keep guns in their vehicles while they're at work.

Measures that establish the ladybug as the new state insect and a new state Latin motto that means, "One sows for the benefit of another age," make their debut Monday.

Secretary of State Al Jaeger will now also be known as North Dakota's commissioner of combative sports, rather than as the state athletic commissioner.

Jaeger's office is known mostly for regulating elections and keeping business records. But his office also licenses boxing and mixed martial arts fighting matches, and the former title implied that he had a much broader regulatory reach, Jaeger said.

"There have been occasions over the years where people have contacted this office and were wondering about, for instance, do we give grants for a new football field?" Jaeger said. "The state athletic commissioner is really a misleading title, because it could infer that I actually regulate varsity sports."

The law that institutes the title change includes a $500 minimum fee for licensing fights.

Another new law orders protesters at funerals to stay at least 1,000 feet from a church or burial site. It amended a former law that required a 300-foot minimum distance.

The measure was aimed at followers of a Kansas church that have staged protests at funerals of veterans killed in Iraq and Afghanistan. The church members believe the soldiers' deaths represent God's punishment of the United States for its tolerance of homosexuality.

Employees at businesses that normally ban firearms on their property are now required to allow employees to bring guns to work, as long as they are left locked in the worker's vehicle.

The measure doesn't apply to schools, jails, colleges or to companies that work with explosives. It was approved overwhelmingly in both the North Dakota House and Senate despite strong opposition from business interests.

North Dakota's new statewide ban on texting while driving, which carries a $100 fine for violators, is likely to get the most attention.

Until Monday, only the cities of Bismarck and Grand Forks had bans, and both had more lenient penalties than the state law requires. North Dakota joins a group of more than 30 states that have banned texting while driving, according to the Governors Highway Safety Association in Washington, D.C.

Lt. Jody Skogen, the North Dakota Highway Patrol's safety and education officer, said he believed the law would deter motorists who now send text messages as they drive from doing so in the future.

"The vast majority of the motorists, I feel, are concerned about violating traffic laws," Skogen said. "Now that there is a specific ordinance that covers the act of texting, that group of people will now refrain from texting."

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