Bennett: There is a need for transparent process

Published 7:01 am Saturday, February 27, 2021

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By David Mayberry

Better government is the focus of bills authored by Rep. Peggy Bennett, even as she works from a minority position in the House of Representatives.

The Albert Lea Republican is the leading figure on five bills in St. Paul. She’s also added her name to 33 other bills.

Rep. Peggy Bennett (R-27A)

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Bennett said she’d prefer to avoid a repeat of 2020, where chamber leaders and the governor hashed out details and finally ended the session. But she’s not optimistic.

“No closed doors this year; we need a transparent process,” she said. “It’s time the Legislature becomes part of the solution in the COVID recovery process.”

At the top of the to-do list is the budget. With so many parts, Bennett would like to see fewer all-encompassing omnibus bills and more individual bills. Residents, she said, deserve that debate on specific issues.

“There is very little time for questions, and it’s not a good process,” Bennett said. “It’s happening with just about all of them.”

She’s pushing to fund the final section of dredging at Fountain Lake in Albert Lea and called it “vital” to the area.

But not surprisingly, most of the former teacher’s written focus is on education. Two bills stand out.

One would require recipients of state education grants to set and measure data. Bennett, in her seventh year in the Legislature and a regular member of education committees, said while “a lot of the programs are good at providing data and specific goals,” she wanted more information on the groups’ effectiveness.

She’s pitched the bill before.

“Grant programs should be doing what we’re doing in the classroom,” Bennett said, noting the range of metrics educators are mandated to measure and meet.

Her other big education effort shifts the education research pilot program into a funded “Innovation Zone Program.” It allows school districts to partner with nonschool entities for unique educational plans and focuses. It would also remove required approval from the Commissioner of Education and dissolve an advisory board of state officials and representatives from statewide organizations.

“We have a lot of very professional teachers, administrators and school board members,” Bennett said. “We should trust them to do what they’re able to do.”

Bennett also authored a bill to limit terms of statewide elected officials, as well as members of the Legislature.

“It would give other people an opportunity to step up and be leaders,” she said. “It’s a good way to do government.”

The cap time in the Legislature would be 20 years. It has bipartisan support among its authors.

“There’s enough time in the bill for people to do the job well,” Bennett said. “In some cases, we get a little stagnant with good government.”