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Third time not the charm for House rep's school lunch legislation

Rep. Helen Giddings failed a third time to pass a bill that would prevent school districts from identifying students without money in their school lunch accounts — again when a member of the Freedom Caucus killed it.

State Rep. Helen Giddings, D-Desoto, holds up a sample of a piece of cheese given to students who lack money to pay for school lunches in Dallas area schools during a personal privilege speech on the House floor May 9, 2017, where she chastised House Freedom Caucus members for killing her bill on school lunches for poor kids. 

Rep. Helen Giddings, D-DeSoto, has tried three times to get the House to pass her bill that would stop school districts from identifying students without money in their school lunch accounts, and giving them a grace period to resolve an insufficient balance.

And on Friday evening the conservative Freedom Caucus successfully struck it down again, taking the bill from a sure thing to a long shot within weeks.

Rep. Diego Bernal, D-San Antonio, and Sen. Borris Miles, D-Houston, included Giddings' bill in Senate Bill 725, which was originally filed to let school districts offer uneaten or donated food to a nonprofit to give to hungry students on the school campuses.

Rep. Jonathan Stickland of Bedford, a member of the Freedom Caucus, stalled the bill on a point of order that would have killed the entire piece of legislation. Bernal begrudgingly agreed to instead just strip Giddings' provision from SB 725.

"This simply gets the representative's bill back to the way he originally intended," Stickland said, when introducing the amendment. Fellow Freedom Caucus member Rep. Matt Rinaldi, R-Irving, previously told the Tribune Giddings' bill was an expensive "mandate on local schools" that "micromanaged" them.

Bernal unhappily accepted the amendment, with a long speech chastising members for killing a bill that provided food for children. He said he had made his bill a priority after visiting all 55 schools in his district and hearing stories about educators prevented from giving extra food to children who needed it.

"I'm disappointed, not that it got stripped off but that there's a willingness to do that," he said. "Somehow taking food away from kids and not solving their hunger is a win. That any member could walk up and say, 'Good job,' that is beyond me."

After Giddings' provision was stripped out, SB 725 passed to third reading on a voice vote.

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