Another ridiculous attempt by lawmakers to get free meals has been submitted in Bismarck. Well free for them, not for us. Our taxes are expected to pick up their open tab. This is the second time in as many sessions a bill like this has been submitted. These legislators are faulting taxpayers for the disappearance of their “fancy” meals paid for by lobbyists. Now, they want to force those same taxpayers to bail them out. What a shame.

The prime sponsor of this bill (HB 1424) is Keith Kempenich. In reports, Kempenich whined how, “he used to get fancy dinners from lobbyists, but that now he has to eat spaghetti out of a can.” Keith might be surprised that Chef Boyardee isn’t the only thing that comes in a can at a low price. Soup. Vienna sausages. SPAM. Tuna. Vegetables. The list goes on. These are items many North Dakotans have likely had at one time in their life – paid for out-of-their-own-pocket – but didn’t bitch and moan about it. They just finished their meal and got back to work.

Kempenich from Bowman is a rancher, crop adjuster, and business owner who is not alone on this self-pitying bill. Here are the names of other lawmakers on the bill. Republican  Michael Brandenburg a farmer from Edgeley. Republican Jim Kasper of Fargo, the face of questionable ethics in ND politics when it comes to meals, wine, and trips from lobbyists. Democrat Corey Mock, a Realtor from Grand Forks. Republican Emily O’Brien of Grand Forks who was granted paid leave for a lot of last session, and is currently trying to prevent other state employees who aren’t entitled members of the ND House or Senate the same benefit. Republican Brad Bekkedahl, a dentist out of Williston.

The ND Legislature has previously rejected calls to provide free meals for students in public education. Children who, at no fault of their own, may rely on schools for a warm meal. The financial situation of some families brought on by this pandemic may make that need more widespread. How is it that children don’t meet the food emergency relief but these lawmakers do? Apparently, those children should pull themselves up by their bootstraps while the adult lawmakers straighten their tie and go back for seconds because the tab is on us. Luckily, there is a bill to get school meals done. HB 1413 introduced by Democratic-NPL Rep. Laurie Beth Hager. Mock is also a cosponsor of that bill.

How many private-sector jobs provide free meals for their employees every workday? Rather than adding more perks to their own jobs that include daily pay, paid-time-off, and exceptional health insurance, we should consider asking them to justify earning those benefits. After all, they chose to run for the job and asked people to vote for them.

What if we create a system to make lawmakers punch-in and punch-out of a time clock every day of the legislative session? Let’s see how many hours they work on a given day in Bismarck. That is a common requirement for private-sector employees. Taxpayers will be shocked at who is exceeding daily hours worked because they care about the state’s work and who is simply there for 80-days to collect their taxpayer-funded benefits.