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article imageN.D. Lawmakers vote 'No' on protecting drivers who hit protesters

By Karen Graham     Feb 14, 2017 in Politics
North Dakota House Bill 1203, intended to shield motorists from liability if they unintentionally hit a protester on a roadway, injuring or killing them didn't have enough backing by lawmakers, failing to pass.
HB 1203 was introduced in January this year but was voted down 40-51 by North Dakota House lawmakers on Monday, reports Reuters. The House Transportation Committee had previously voted it down because of the "negative perception" passing it would create.
In January, Digital Journal's Brett Wilkins wrote that the co-sponsor of the controversial bill admitted the legislation was "a response to the Dakota Access Pipeline protests at Standing Rock."
The bill was co-sponsored by Rep. Keith Kempenich (R-Bowman), who said it was about "shifting the burden of proof from the motor vehicle driver to the pedestrian." Kempenich cited incidents where DAPL protesters had run out in front of vehicles on purpose. “They’re intentionally putting themselves in danger," Kempenich said of the demonstrators, adding that public roads are "not there for the protesters."
North Dakota had been at the center of protests for several months over the Dakota Access Pipeline, drawing support from environmentalists, U.S. military veterans, and other groups worldwide. The protests also resulted in a drop in Wells Fargo checking accounts and Seattle, Washington divesting $3 billion in City of Seattle money out of Wells Fargo over the bank's role as a lender for the Dakota Access Pipeline.
But while North Dakota lawmakers voted the bill down, there are a number of similar bills in other central U.S. states that legislators are pushing that are supposed to crack down on protests, reports Raw Story. The proposed legislative actions have drawn criticism from free speech advocates, bringing some clarity to the polarization over protests now that the Trump years have started.
Kempenich defended the bill Monday right up to the time the vote was held, arguing that current law failed to protect citizens and the much-criticized bill had been misrepresented in the media. "I'd like to see this bill passed forward. I think that it shows that we are willing to stand up for the citizens of this state," he said.
Some people might want to ask Mr. Kempenish where he thinks the Standing Rock Sioux live and are they considered "citizens of this state?"
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