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Legislative News and Views - Rep. Peggy Bennett (R)

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Legislative News from Rep. Peggy Bennett

Friday, July 2, 2021

Dear Friends,


On July 1, the Minnesota Legislature ended its special session after approving spending bills for all state government program areas. 


It’s good to have this work completed. A global agreement between the House Speaker, Senate Majority Leader and Governor ensured we would finish with compromises. I’m happy with some but not others. 


It’s very clear this process is not transparent and needs to be changed. Very few are making decisions and deciding what goes into these big bills. We shouldn’t have to wait until the very end to see the final product and be forced to weigh the good and bad. If state lawmakers are scrambling to determine what’s in the budget bills prior to voting on them, how is this good for the public? 


Regarding the budget bills, there are numerous points of interest. In K-12 Education, the good news is our schools will be receiving funding increases. However, I’m disappointed we could not find solid reform for the overall education system. Let me be clear, our schools should be adequately funded, as public education is a primary responsibility of government. We have incredibly talented teachers in our state who work very hard, but our system is “stuck” and not working for a significant segment of the children in our state. Pouring money into a system that is not meeting the needs of all students, while ignoring why that system isn’t working for every child in Minnesota, is not good. I want all kids to be successful, and it’s very clear the model Minnesota is currently using is not working for far too many of them. 


I was pleased that the final K-12 legislation included my “evidence-based grants” bill, a provision I chief authored to help ensure that the educational programs we are funding through government grants are actually working to increase student achievement. Taxpayers want to know that their tax dollars are being spent wisely and on things that work, and this is a step in the right direction to make sure that happens. 


During the floor debate on the education omnibus bill, I offered an amendment that would provide parents greater involvement in what curriculum is chosen in their local schools. During my 33 years of teaching elementary school, I personally witnessed how powerful parent involvement is in a child’s educational success and achievement. I believe that it is incredibly important that we do all we can to empower parents and engage them in their children’s education. 


My amendment would have established a subcommittee to the currently required district advisory committee for school districts. The subcommittee would be comprised entirely of parents who have children enrolled in the district and would review and recommend curriculum, textbooks, and other instructional materials to the district advisory committee. The subcommittee would be purely advisory in nature and would give parents a strong voice into what kind of curriculum and instructional materials are used in the education of their children - something many parents have indicated they want. 


Parents deserve a place in the “driver’s seat” of their child’s education, working alongside teachers and administrators to direct their child’s education. This is the right thing to do, and a key to successful education. Unfortunately, my amendment failed on a party line vote. If you’d like, you can watch my floor debate on this amendment here.


After calls from many on the left to defund the police, and watching crime rates skyrocket in the Metro Area, public safety was another budget area that drew significant scrutiny this session. 


I was pleased we were able to block numerous anti-police measures that would have made it harder for law enforcement to do their jobs and keep our communities safe. I was also extremely happy to see legislation I co-authored become law which strengthens penalties for the murder or attempted murder law enforcement. 


Officer Arik Matson was ambushed while on duty and shot in the head by a criminal with several previous violent convictions. The sentence imposed on this criminal was far too weak in my opinion. The bill I co-authored addresses this problem by strengthening state criminal penalties against individuals who are convicted of attempted first-degree murder of a police officer, judge, prosecutor, or correctional officer. The bill was supported by Arik and Megan Matson, who live in our legislative district, along with the Minnesota Police and Peace Officers Association. 


Even though Minnesota had a $4 billion surplus, Democrats in the House pushed for billions in tax hikes that would have made life more expensive for Minnesota families of all income levels. None of these unnecessary plans made the final budget deal. In fact, we delivered long overdue tax relief to both businesses and unemployed Minnesotans who struggled through the COVID-19 pandemic. 


It’s worth noting that no bonding bill was brought forward during special session. That said, I remain focused on the Fountain Lake Phase 3 dredging project and will push for full funding in next session’s capital investment plan. 


As expected, there’s good news and bad news within each of these bills. It took way too long to get a budget approved, but the deal is finally done and Minnesota can move forward. 


Have a wonderful 4th of July weekend!