By John Hageman

North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum signed his first bill of the 2019 session Wednesday afternoon, March 6, approving legislation removing mandatory minimum sentences for certain drug crimes, his office said.

House Bill 1183, championed by Rep. Tom Kading, R-Fargo, passed the Senate in a 44-1 vote a week ago. It deletes minimum sentencing requirements for second and subsequent offenses for manufacturing or delivering controlled substances.

The bill doesn't change the class of convictions, such as a Class B felony, but proponents argued judges needed more leeway in sentencing offenders. Under current law, a second conviction for dealing methamphetamine carries a minimum three-year sentence, which is one mandate the bill would remove.

Drug delivery crimes involving a firearm will still carry a mandatory minimum sentence, said Pat Bohn, the director of parole and probation for the state Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.