Earlier this week, we published an article featuring House Bill 1505. The bill proposed to offer meal reimbursements — at the rate of $35/day — during the legislative session for those legislators who do not live in the Bismarck area. It came out this week with an 8-6 Do Not Pass recommendation from the House Government and Veterans Affairs Committee and hit the floor for consideration yesterday.
With such a close vote out of committee, I wondered what the outcome would be after floor debate. But the vote wasn’t close at all. The bill went down by a margin of 6-85.
Perhaps the most odd comments in regards to HB 1505 came from Rep. Keith Kempenich (R – District 39)— who also happens to have been the primary sponsor of the bill. You can see his comments in their entirety here. But after making a decent argument, in terms of the legislature not necessarily being a place for those of significant financial means, Kempenich’s remarks took a turn for the worse:
“I’ve had some e-mails from people back in my district— you know, not many, a couple. And, you know, they kind of complain ‘free lunch.’ You know, kinda surprising. One of ’em, he’s about 300 lbs. I don’t think he’s ever had a job in his life. The other one that I had, he’s a young guy. He was comparing— he’s going to school. You know, that’s another conversation. You know… that’s the choice. You know, truthfully, he’s just starting out.”
So, in other words, the one is just a fat lazy guy and the other is young and ignorant? I don’t want to put words in Rep. Kempenich’s mouth, but those comments certainly didn’t come across real well. I have no problem if he has a disagreement with his constituents on matters of legislation, but insulting them on the House floor probably isn’t a great move on his part. Or do legislators who’ve been in office since 1993 get a pass on those kinds of things?
But the best comments during the floor debate actually came from Rep. Mary Adams— a Democrat from District 43:
“I want to say this— that I think it’s wrong that we would pay ourselves $175 a week, when a family of four making $2,600 a month gets $160 a week in food assistance.”
I think it’s a fair point.
As I suggested earlier this week, I certainly don’t think any of our legislators are getting rich while serving in Bismarck. But I do think they’re being compensated fairly well. And because of that, I think the House got it right by defeating this bill.
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