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

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Legislative News from Rep. Peggy Bennett

Friday, May 12, 2023

Hello from the State Capitol,


Numerous conference committee reports have been approved on the House floor this week. These reports are negotiated as compromises by the House and Senate. Once approved by each body, the report is sent to the governor to sign into law.


Here are a few of the bills the House approved.



Legislation that funds Minnesota’s veterans and National Guard members after their service to our state and nation concludes was approved unanimously in the Minnesota House.  


Along with providing $188 million to Minnesota’s veterans’ homes, there’s also funding to create a Minnesota military museum near Camp Ripley, and to provide bonuses for those veterans who may not have enlisted in Minnesota but who are currently living here.  


Overall, I was pleased to see numerous bipartisan provisions included in the plan, and I was happy to support not only the legislation but those who have served our country.



I voted against a plan designed to address affordable housing needs over the next two years as little in this proposal would positively benefit Greater Minnesota.


While I did appreciate the funding included for the Greater Minnesota Housing Infrastructure Grant Program, far too much of this proposal was weighted towards the Metro Area for my liking. It also undermines the need for workforce housing in our rural areas and does nothing to address the burdensome regulations that impact development.  


In addition, the bill includes a ¼ cent sales tax increase in the Metro Area. At a time when we have $17.5 billion in surplus money to either spend as a state or to return to taxpayers, the majority party is still increasing taxes.



The House also approved the Legacy funding agreement this week, which allocates existing funding into areas that benefit our environment.


Nearly 15 years ago, Minnesotans voted to raise taxes on themselves in order to dedicate funding to projects relating to clean water, habitat, parks and trails and our arts and cultural heritage. Every two years, this funding must be dispersed.  


I voted for this bill as I thought it had a good environmental focus, as numerous water quality provisions are included.



My focus for any higher education bill is on putting the student first.  We do that by ensuring higher education is affordable and by holding institutions accountable. We must ensure state resources are going to students – not bureaucracies, bureaucrats, or bloated administrations.  


This higher education bill has good components – provisions like a tuition freeze for our Minnesota State schools to hold costs down for students, and funding for our current Minnesota grant program to help low-income students afford their higher education. However, this bill puts a ton of money into higher education but does nothing to curb the out-of-control costs of tuition that has far surpassed the rate of inflation. There are no accountability measures in this bill for higher education institutions and no efforts to improve the quality of education.  


Lastly, the bill starts a brand-new program called “Northstar Promise Free College” which provides “free” (taxpayer funded) college at a public post-secondary institution in our state for qualifying students. Students from families that have an adjusted gross income less than $80,000 qualify. While this might sound good on its face, there are many problematic issues with this provision. Minnesota already has an established grant program to deal with this issue. There is no need to create a new and expensive program that has less accountability guidelines and less choice for families and students.  I don’t have the space in this update to elaborate on my concerns, but will do so in a future update.


I voted NO on this higher education bill.



I have always supported farmers wholeheartedly. They are amazing people and agriculture is the lifeblood of our state. Sadly, I cannot support this agriculture bill for the very reason that I support our farmers and want the best for them.  


There are good things in this omnibus agriculture finance bill that I would support to be sure, such as additional funding for the grain indemnity fund, emerging farmers, and for agriculture emergencies. This bill also has solid funding for broadband throughout our state, which I wholeheartedly support. (Broadband should have been brought forward as a separate bill and not placed into the agriculture omnibus bill.)  


Now for what I can’t support:  it is absolutely outrageous that this bill raises additional fees on our farmers - to the tune of a $13 million increase. This bill has a 64% increase in the fertilizer inspection fee (from 39 cents to 64 cents per ton), a 5% surcharge on license and permit fees to pay for MDA’s technology upgrades, and creates a new 0.2% assessment on the value of all grain sold for the grain indemnity fund. Fees are hidden taxes. Why are we raising fees or taxes of any kind when we have an over $17 billion surplus? Farmers are also going to bear the additional weight of all the other tax increases we are seeing in the majority’s other omnibus bills. This is unacceptable, it’s not right, and I will NOT do this to our farmers. I voted no on this bill.



If there is one thing I don’t like in the legislature, it’s bringing bills to the floor that seem to be crafted to just make a political point and that will accomplish nothing. That about sums up HF197. This bill is a resolution urging the U.S. Congress to adopt the Equal Rights Amendment (passed in the early 1970s stating that men and women are equal) as an amendment to the U.S. Constitution.  


Minnesota already ratified the ERA in 1973. The problem is, this ratification effort in congress expired over 30 years ago. Even Supreme Court Judge Ruth Badger-Ginsburg, back in 2020, stated that the deadline had passed for this constitutional amendment and the process would have to start over again from the very beginning. So, why are we wasting the legislature’s time with a ridiculous resolution that will do nothing?  I don’t need a piece of paper to tell me that I have equal rights as a woman. Women already have equal rights. I voted NO on this bill.



It was so nice to see all of these amazing young people from the NRHEG Schools at the Capitol this week.

These students, along with staff and parent chaperones, came to learn more about their government. I know I’ve said this before, but I love it when young people take the time to learn about their government. This is foundational to the constitutional republic that we live in. Thank you for coming to visit NRHEG!  

I’d also like to wish all of our mothers a Happy Mother’s Day this Sunday!


Have a good weekend,