MINOT, N.D. (KXNET) — Lawmakers have been busy at the state capitol, facing several controversial bills this year. But what does it take to decide on a bill?
In Minot, our local lawmakers talked with the public at a meeting on Tuesday to explain firsthand the thought process behind their decisions.
One major question that arose during this session concerned the free school lunch bill that has now been put to rest. Lawmakers say shooting it down wasn’t an easy decision — but that when looking at the big picture, parents who can pay for their child’s lunch would still receive a subsidized lunch check. Legislators say the additional bill would make the poverty range skyrocket for current lunch programs that are already helping children with meal payments.
“The issue isn’t about feeding poor kids,” argued Representative Dan Ruby. “We have programs right now in place that pays kids to 130% of poverty. What this did was move it up to 200% of poverty.”
“These are difficult issues,” added Senator Randy Burckhard, “because nobody wants kids to go to school and not be fed — but there are many programs for that. So, this is kind of one of those you can’t win kind of votes.”
Some residents questioned the library book ban, explaining the pressures the bill puts on library staff to remove every book in violation. Rep. Ruby says the book ban is no different than certain websites being banned on library computers. Amendments to the bill also state that library staff would not be held responsible for missing a book with forbidden content.
“An employee of a school district or state agency or public library who willfully exposes sexually explicit material to a minor of violations is guilty of a class B misdemeanor,” explained Representative Ruby. “So, the big word there is willful. If they inadvertently get something, something gets missed, and they have to prove willful intent. And that’s a pretty high bar.”
Lawmakers are also weighing the pros and cons of extending the legislative session, as House Concurrent Resolution 3020 states. Those in opposition feel the longer the session, the less urgency some may have to create policy. On the other hand, some say if term limits stay put in our state, the session must be extended to give new bees the proper time to keep up.
“The amount of time to get geared up and get knowledgeable on the most critical parts of operating our government is not going to be done as well as it has been in the past with the limited amount of time that’s there,” argued Rep. Paul Thomas.
A hearing regarding term limits and action on future session dates is set for April 6.
Legislators also touched on foreign adversaries owning property and businesses in North Dakota. They say the bills are not black and white — and they are working with the Attorney General to ensure the best policies are implemented in the best ways.