The North Dakota Senate has passed a bill to give its members more free meals — after rejecting a proposal to increase free lunches for hungry students.
On Thursday, the GOP-led chamber voted 26-21 to allow state employees to collect up to $45 a day to pay for meals while traveling in North Dakota, up from $35 currently. The bill, which will 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 percent of the federal poverty level . It would expand a federal program that already provides meals to students living below 130 percent of the poverty level.
The bill failed by just one vote.
It should be noted that 13 Republicans voted against the school meal proposal, while supporting state employee reimbursement. No Democrat has done the same.
“I thought today’s vote was very selfish,” Senate Minority Leader Cathy Hogan (D) said Thursday, according to regional outlet The Forum. “How can we vote for ourselves when we cannot vote for children?
One of the 13 GOP lawmakers, Republican Assistant Majority Leader Jerry Klein, said he could not see “any connection” between the two bills, The Forum reported.
“Yes, I can understand kids going hungry, but is that really the school district’s problem? Is that North Dakota State’s problem?” Wobema asked.
“It’s really a problem for parents to be neglectful of their children if their children choose to eat in the first place.”