North Dakota Leaders Pledge COVID-19 Liability Reform

DEVILS LAKE NEWS ROOM SPECIAL FEATURE

Special to Devils Lake

BISMARCK– As part of NFIB, or the National Federation of Independent Business’ Small Business Day, NFIB members here in North Dakota engaged with lawmakers about issues that will help them recover from the COVID-19 pandemic. At top of mind was passing important legislation that would protect small business owners from frivolous lawsuits linked to the COVID-19 pandemic. Right now, as small businesses focus on keeping their employees and customers safe from the pandemic, the last thing they need is the threat of an unfounded, threatening lawsuit. Our small business owners were encouraged to hear both House and Senate Majority Leaders pledge to help pass this important legislation. Today, the House will hear two COVID liability bills, which you can watch here.         

“North Dakota’s 2021 Small Business Day was a positive experience for our small business owners across the state. The past year has been challenging for many of our entrepreneurs,” said Alison Ritter, NFIB State Director in North Dakota. “The COVID-19 pandemic has thrown many small business owners for a loop. They are now looking to state legislators and the governor for help as they recover. During our 2021 Small Business Day, NIFB members were encouraged to hear from House Majority Leader Chet Pollert and Senate Majority Leader Rich Wardner, who both committed to passing liability protections for small business owners here in North Dakota.”

The North Dakota House passed two important COVID-19 liability reforms legislation bills during the first half of the legislative session that would shield small businesses, health care professional and first responders from lawsuits resulting from COVID-19 exposure. Today, both HB 1175 and HB 1376, will be heard in a Senate committee. As part of Small Business Day here in North Dakota, both House Majority Leader Chet Pollert and Senate Majority Leader Rich Wardner expressed their support for getting this important legislation across the finish line. HB 1175 is the main COVID-19 liability bill that a coalition of business groups, schools and hospitals have rallied behind. It relates to business immunity from COVID-19 liability claims and provides for retroactive application. HB1376 is a similar bill that relates to employer liability protections.   Both bills will be heard in the Senate Industry, Business and Labor Committee at 8:30 this morning. You can watch here.

“Businesses want to be able to stay open and this was a challenge. This is needed for us to have some protection for these businesses and I think that’s what’s vitally important so they can continue on,” said House Majority Leader Chet Pollert, who was a small business owner and NFIB member himself for more than 20 years. Pollert owned G + R grain and Feed in New Rockford. He bought the business, which sells custom mixed feed, livestock supplies and fertilizer 24 years ago. Pollert, who applied for both the Paycheck Protection Program and Economic Injury Disaster Loans through the Small Business Administration, understands the hardships North Dakota small businesses are going through right now.

“They don’t need frivolous lawsuits coming against them. We live in a day where people can find any reason to bring a lawsuit and I tell you most of our small business owners, who are the backbone of the economy, we need to keep them going! They don’t need this in their life, and we don’t need even one to shut down. They have enough challenges dealing with the pandemic let alone deal with a lawsuit. So I am completely behind these bills,” said Senate Majority Leader Rich Wardner.

K. William Boyer is the Managing Editor of the Devils Lake News Journal. He can be reached at kboyer@gannett.com, or by phone at (701) 662-2127.  

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