BISMARCK – A bill to compensate legislators for educational purposes failed in the North Dakota State House Thursday.
HB1395 would have provided each legislator with an account of up to $5,000 to compensate for online training, travel to national or regional conferences, and other expenses related to legislative education by the legislator's choice.
The bill received a Do Not Pass recommendation of 12 to 2 from the House Education committee. Rep. Donald Longmuir, R-Dis. 2, Stanley, in speaking against the bill, said it would cost a total of over a million dollars per biennium.
“The committee discussed the benefits of attending national and regional conferences, and what the perception of constituents would be of legislators traveling all over the country,” said Longmuir.
Other legislators expressed concern over the possibility of a legislator using the money to travel to a destination that doesn’t have much to do with education as much as he or she simply wishes to go there.
“Historically, even though this is a big jump one time, we have not grown the legislative budget at the level that we’ve grown a lot of the other budgets,” said Rep. Ben Koppleman, R-Dis. 16, West Fargo. “What the irony of that is, our trying to be efficient in the spending on ourselves has ill-equipped us to stop the spending out-of-control growth on the executive branch.”
Rep. Jim Kasper, R-Dis. 46, Fargo, said the chairman of legislative management already sends certain legislators to take these types of trips, and found some legislators that spent upwards of $50,000 for one biennium.
“This bill allows a legislator to choose when he or she wishes to go and can spend up to $5,000,” said Kasper. “I think it’s time that we were responsible for ourselves, can choose when we wish to go, not have to ask permission of the leader, because we know whether we need the education or not. Maybe $5,000 is too much. But let’s give the opportunity for each one of us to get better educated when we choose to do it.”
The bill failed by a vote of 61 to 32.