Capitol Comments: Veterans bipartisan work is a breath of fresh air

Published 8:45 pm Friday, February 24, 2023

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Capitol Comments by Peggy Bennett

Almost every law we pass as legislators has far-reaching ramifications beyond its original intent — the domino effect, as I call it. When considering new legislation, it is my job as a legislator to do my research and ferret out and consider those ramifications, both for our state and for our local communities. It’s also my job as a legislator to consider whether the legislation will actually fix the issue it’s addressing or not.

Peggy Bennett

A number of bills come to the House floor each week since the 2023 session began. I have supported some of them. Others I have not.

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I want you, my constituents, to know that I do not make these decisions lightly. It is my desire to work in a bipartisan manner whenever I’m able. I don’t decide to vote yes or no based on which side of the aisle authored the particular provision. I decide based on the merits of the legislation, and I take that job very seriously. If this means I need to vote no — and I feel like I’m having to do that often lately — then so be it. I will always stand up for what I believe is right for the people of our area and for our state.

Service bonuses to post 9/11 veterans

This year, I am privileged to serve on the Minnesota House Veterans and Military Affairs Finance and Policy Committee. The committee itself is such a breath of fresh air, and I so enjoy our hearings. It is the rare committee that looks for ways to act and pass legislation in a bipartisan manner. Every Republican and Democrat that serves here wants to do what’s right for veterans and military members and find ways to thank them for their service to our state and nation.

Veterans and military members hold a special place in my heart. These people have sacrificed much for their service to our country and to protect our precious freedoms. I want to honor that sacrifice and say a big “thank you” to all who have and do serve.

I have greatly enjoyed spending time with our local veterans. They are awesome people! I have often visited many American Legions, from Albert Lea, Glenville, Wells, Kiester and more. I love chatting with these men and women who have lived such rich lives and hold such a passionate love our country. Taking part in events with the Chapter 56 American Legion Riders has also been a privilege and joy for me.

It’s an honor to carry legislation for our veterans and military members. I have sponsored two separate bills that have received hearings in our House Veterans and Military Affairs Committee.

Last year’s omnibus veterans and military affairs finance law included a $24 million appropriation for service bonuses to post 9/11 veterans and Gold Star families.

Veterans who served honorably between Sept. 11, 2001, and Aug. 30, 2021, are now eligible for at least a $600 bonus. The $24 million was not enough to cover all of the veterans who are eligible for this program.

Because no eligible veteran should be left out of this bonus that recognizes their important service to our state and nation, I am sponsoring legislation that would add an additional $22 million to the bonus program to ensure eligible veterans get their bonuses.

Another veterans bill I’m sponsoring would provide a special purple heart medal license plate that would say “Combat Wounded Vet” free of charge to those vets who apply and qualify for this by being recipient of a Purple Heart medal.

Hopefully, both of these proposals will clear the House floor and be signed into law before session ends.

Thank you for giving me the opportunity to serve you as our state legislator. It is an honor to work for the people of this area!

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