House Defeats Bill Proposing Reimbursement for Legislator’s Meals

Rep. Keith Kempenich (R - District 39) speaks in support of HB 1505, which dealt with meal reimbursements for legislators. (Photo via screenshot.)

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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About T. Arthur Mason 883 Articles
T. Arthur Mason is a native North Dakotan who has spent nearly all of his life in the Peace Garden State. As the third of four children in Western North Dakota, Mason grew to appreciate family and the outdoors. Some of his fondest memories are annual deer hunts with family and friends. In his early teenage years, faith became a central part of T. Arthur Mason's life. He and the majority of his family attend church together on a weekly basis and find this a fulfilling aspect of their lives. Through the influence of his father, T. Arthur Mason became intrigued with politics. As a boy, he attended political events with his father and enjoyed the friendships that resulted as a byproduct of those political associations. As Mason grew older, he became convinced that the quote often attributed to Thomas Jefferson was true, "That government is best which governs least." Today, T. Arthur Mason enjoys time with his wife and children, an occasional hunt, and an increasingly active life on the political scene. This blog is the fulfillment of a dream to design a web site in the realm of politics and to advocate for the principles of Liberty and constitutionally limited government. On behalf of all those that contribute to The Minuteman, we hope you enjoy your time on the site and will share the message with others.