I am so deeply moved that you have entrusted me to serve as state senator for our beloved Duluth. I was elected on my strong commitment to fight for our clean water and for working people, and to bring tangible benefits home to real Duluthians. Now that my first session in the Legislature has come to an end, I reflect on both the things that we have accomplished for our community and the obstacles encountered along the way.
As a new member of the Minnesota Senate, I expected the intensive learning curve and the many hurdles I would have to overcome, but what I could not possibly have expected was the degree to which corporate lobbies influence legislation. It was astonishing to see broadly popular ideas with bipartisan support thwarted by powerful forces in the Legislature.
Still, with incredible community engagement, activism, and outpourings of support, we successfully passed laws that will build a stronger and brighter future for Minnesota. It is my honor to share some of those successes.
I worked closely with community leaders to advance Duluth’s legislative priorities, by drafting legislation or collaborating with legislators key to their success, and I am pleased that we managed to deliver on a number of them.
We prevented cuts to Duluth’s Local Government Aid allocation and will continue working to revise the formula so it keeps pace with current trends and prevents property-tax increases. We also passed $100 million in housing infrastructure bonds to address our affordable-housing shortage, and we funded a number of programs to help local businesses create jobs in Duluth.
I championed an initiative to forgive state taxes on additional pandemic unemployment benefits for workers, which we passed into law. This individual tax relief will impact approximately 553,900 Minnesota workers and families.
I was proud to co-author the Essential Workers Emergency Leave Act. In budget negotiations, we secured a $250 million allocation for back pay to the frontline workers who took care of us and kept our economy moving throughout the pandemic.
Working with regional stakeholders, we authored and passed a bill that will allow the West Duluth paper mill to reopen under new ownership, bringing back approximately 80 high-wage jobs to the shuttered facility.
We secured significant funding to support child-care providers, by centering community solutions to increase and sustain quality child care across the state.
We passed a 15% base pay increase for direct support professionals and personal care assistants. These workers who provide indispensable services to our community, allowing people to live as independently as possible, need to make a living wage.
We funded the Lawns to Legumes program with more than $2.6 million to continue protecting the pollinators on which our food production and ecosystems depend.
The measure I authored for our Duluth Children’s Museum was funded and will help continue the wonderful educational exhibits and programs it provides our children.
Knowing the dangers the Husky Refinery explosion posed to refinery workers and our Twin Ports community, I co-authored a bill requiring that petroleum refineries contract with full-time certified fire departments.
These were just some of our accomplishments at the Legislature this year, but I wanted to share them with you out of the sheer gratitude I feel. I am humbled by the incredible hard work and support so many Duluthians gave to bring these wins home. We are incredibly fortunate to live, work, and raise our families in this beautiful community. I am proud to serve as your state senator, and I look forward to continuing this work with you.
Sen. Jen McEwen represents Duluth in the Minnesota Senate. She wrote this exclusively for the News Tribune.