North Dakota Senate Votes To Expand Free Meals For Its Members — And Not For Kids

Lawmakers killed a bill to give free lunches to more K-12 students but passed legislation to boost meal reimbursements for state employees.

North Dakota’s Senate has passed a bill to give its members more free food — after killing a proposal to boost free lunches for hungry school kids.

On Thursday, the GOP-led chamber voted 26-21 to let state employees collect up to $45 a day to pay for meals while traveling within North Dakota, up from $35 currently. The bill, which would cost $1 million in taxpayer money over the next two years, now heads to the desk of Gov. Doug Burgum (R) to be signed into law.

But less than two weeks ago, the Senate rejected a separate bill that would have allocated $6 million over the next two years to provide free school lunches to all K-12 students living at or below 200% of the federal poverty level. This would expand on a federal program that already provides meals to students living below 130% of the poverty level.

The bill failed by a single vote.

Notably, 13 Republicans voted against the school meal proposal while also backing the reimbursement for state employees. No Democrats did the same.

“I thought today’s vote was very self-serving,” Senate Minority Leader Kathy Hogan (D) said Thursday, according to regional outlet The Forum. “How can we vote for ourselves when we can’t vote for children?”

One of the 13 GOP legislators, Republican Assistant Majority Leader Jerry Klein, said he couldn’t see “any correlation whatsoever” between the two bills, The Forum reported.

Another, state Sen. Mike Wobbema, cited “personal responsibility” for why kids shouldn’t get free meals.

“Yes, I can understand kids going hungry, but is that really the problem of the school district? Is that the problem of the state of North Dakota?” Wobbema asked.

“It’s really the problem of parents being negligent with their kids, if their kids are choosing to eat in the first place.”

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