Capitol Comments: Legislative priorities as the new session kicks off

Published 8:45 pm Friday, January 13, 2023

Capitol Comments by Peggy Bennett

The 2023 legislative session is underway, and it’s an honor to serve as your voice in the Minnesota House. I’m looking forward to addressing our state’s challenges in the weeks and months ahead.

Peggy Bennett

Minnesota House committee assignments were recently released. I will serve as the Republican lead on the Education Policy Committee and will also serve on the Education Finance Committee and Veterans and Military Affairs Finance and Policy Committee. I am excited to get back to work with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle with the goal of producing common-sense budget and policy for Minnesota.

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Based on conversations with numerous people from our area, here are three of my top legislative priorities this year: the economy, public safety and the education of our children.

Many are concerned, especially in this time of high inflation, about being able to afford to put food on their tables and heating their homes. Farmers are worried about affording critical items like fertilizer and fuel for their farm equipment.

The state of Minnesota has over collected on taxes to the point where we now have a projected $17.6 billion budget surplus for this budget cycle. What happens when you overpay a business for a product or service? You get that overpayment back. That’s what Minnesota taxpayers deserve — and need.

There are many ways we can bring tax relief to Minnesotans, including some I’ve already proposed like repealing the tax on Social Security. I am ready to roll up my sleeves and get to work with my colleagues to find the best ways to return this overpayment to Minnesota taxpayers. We need to get this done to give people a break from the high inflation costs of living.

Public safety is critical and a core function of government. Sadly, we can’t turn on the nightly news these days without hearing of a report of a robbery, assault or murder. Even rural areas are seeing crime on rise.

Supporting law enforcement and our police officers is extremely important to me and a significant key to combating crime in our state. We should insist that law enforcement agencies receive proper funding and training, along with expanding mental health support in local communities. Most importantly, we must hold criminals accountable for their actions. Too many violent criminals are being allowed to leave jail early and then immediately reoffend.

The education of our children is an extremely important issue — it is a significant key to their success in life. Minnesota’s test scores have been on the decline for years. It saddens me greatly that only half of Minnesota students are now proficient in reading and math. This is unacceptable.

The solution is about much more than just putting additional money into education — it’s about spending smarter. For example, we spend a half a billion dollars a year to reduce the achievement gap and yet there has literally been no improvement in that gap for years. We can do better for our students.

In my classroom, if something wasn’t working, I didn’t keep doing it over and over. Government shouldn’t do that either. I have a lot of ideas for education reform. I am ready to work with my education colleagues to winnow through what’s working and not working, start thinking innovatively, and make sure we have an education system that works for Minnesota children.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention an issue that is currently a dire emergency in our state. We have nursing homes, group homes, disability services that are on the verge of closing and leaving our most vulnerable Minnesotans without care. We need to address this problem immediately with both regulatory and funding reform. We can’t keep kicking the can down the road and abandon our elderly and disabled. We must address this early in session.

There are many bills that have already been introduced in the Minnesota House and many more to come. I will try to keep you informed about the most noteworthy legislation and highlight these proposals in my weekly email updates, particularly if they are impactful to area residents and the bills are making significant movement in the House. If you haven’t yet signed up for my email updates, please feel free to do so on my webpage: www.house.mn.gov/members/profile/15430.

I will look forward to hearing from you throughout session. Please don’t hesitate to contact me at 651-296-8216 or rep.peggy.bennett@house.mn.gov.

Peggy Bennett, R-Albert Lea, is the District 23A representative.