Legislature working together in 1st month
Published 4:51 pm Saturday, January 31, 2015
Capitol Comments, by Peggy Bennett
It’s hard to believe, but the first month of the legislative session is already coming to an end. As a newcomer to politics, I wasn’t sure what to expect when voters decided on divided government when they elected a
Republican House and re-elected DFL Governor Dayton to work with the DFL Senate.
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I’m happy to report, however that the Legislature has so far been able to find agreement and work well together to pass legislation that’s going to help Minnesota families.
In just the second week of session, the House unanimously passed $20 million in immediate tax relief for Minnesota families. Teachers, homeowners and college students will all be able to take advantage of tax deductions thanks to this bill, which also passed the Senate unanimously and was signed by the governor.
As a teacher, I always appreciated being able to take advantage of tax write-offs for out-of-pocket classroom expenses. I know dozens of other teachers who spend their hard-earned money to buy supplies and improve their classrooms for their students, and this small provision will help them keep a bit more money in their pockets come tax season.
I hope the legislature can keep working on ways to put more money back in the pockets of hardworking Minnesotans as session continues.
The second major bill passed thanks to good, bipartisan cooperation was a disaster relief bill to help counties offset costs for cleanup and rebuilding after severe flooding last summer.
Southern Minnesota was hit especially hard by these storms, and every single county in our district — Freeborn, Faribault, Mower, Dodge and Steele counties — all will receive funding thanks to this legislation. It was exhilarating, but a bit nerve-racking to give my first-ever floor speech in support of this bill, which also passed the House with unanimous support.
The flood relief bill was unique in that much of the funding came from unspent funds from previous disaster relief bills. This allowed Minnesota to receive the federal disaster relief funding from FEMA disaster declaration at minimal cost to Minnesota taxpayers.
While bills and work like this may not get all the headlines and news coverage, these are still examples of important work that will have a positive impact on counties, cities and families across the state. I’m quickly learning that bipartisan cooperation is required to move bills this quickly, making these accomplishments all the more impressive.
Instead of gridlock, Minnesotans are seeing early on the kind of good work the Legislature can do when both parties are asked to come to the table, roll up their sleeves and get to work solving the problems and passing legislation that will help our state.
Finally, I wanted to say a big thank you to everyone who took time out of their busy lives to attend last weekend’s property tax hearing in Albert Lea. More than 70 residents from communities across our district came to listen and share their frustrations with rising property taxes, and offer ideas on ways to address the problem.
It was so wonderful to see people around the community coming to offer their two cents and share their stories. Events like this help give perspective to members of the committee as we work on legislation, and are often the source of good ideas for us to consider. We do our best work when the public is engaged and involved in the work we’re doing at the Capitol.
I’m grateful to the members of the Property Tax Committee, and to our neighboring Rep. Jeanne Poppe for coming out and listening to the concerns of our neighbors. Your input is valuable, and helps us do the best job we can representing you at the Legislature. As session continues, I want you to know that your opinions, suggestions and questions are welcome and that I truly appreciate every email, call and conversation I get to have as I travel around our district.
My door is always open and I hope you’ll contact me at any time at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 651-296-8216.
Peggy Bennett, R-Albert Lea, is the House representative for District 27A.