North Dakota State Senators in the region were split in voting over a bill to expand a free lunch program for schoolchildren from low-income families, a bill that failed by one vote.

On Monday, March 27, the Republican-controlled Senate defeated House Bill 1491 by a margin of 23 to 24. According to the idea, $6 million over the following two academic years would have been set aside to pay for K–12 pupils' lunches if their family's income is less than twice the federal poverty threshold. The law was passed by the House last month.

Senators Brad Bekkedahl (R-1) and Dale Patten (R-26) voted for the legislation while their colleagues Todd Beard (R-23) and David Rust (R-2) were on the opposing side.

According to the current poverty level income numbers, families of four would have been eligible for the free lunch program in North Dakota if their income was at or below $60,000. The state allocation would have applied to children with family incomes between 130 and 200% of the federal poverty level because a federal program currently gives free meals to students from families making less than 130% of the federal poverty level.

A motion to reconsider the bill on Tuesday also failed to garner any additional votes, however another school lunch bill is still alive and has been sent back to the house after being amended by the Senate.

While HB 1494 would not alleviate any of the financial burden that some North Dakotan parents feel, it would prevent school districts from denying, limiting, or otherwise altering students access to lunches.

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