Incumbent's View: Focus continues to be on veterans, laborers, families in northern Minnesota
ABOUT THIS RACE: Minnesota House District 3A is massive. It runs up the North Shore from northeast of Duluth and across the Canadian border to as far west as almost Baudette. The district is represented by DFL Rep. Rob Ecklund of International Falls, who is being challenged in the Nov. 8 election by Republican Roger Skraba of Ely. Early voting begins Friday, Sept. 23.
It has been an honor and privilege to serve as the District 3A state representative for the last seven years. I thank the constituents for your helpful feedback and communication — and for placing your trust in me.
As a state, we are in good shape financially. We are poised to move forward, delivering the things that are important to all of us citizens.
In District 3A, we are seeing a huge amount of long-needed broadband work getting done. Broadband and the infrastructure to promote these projects has been one of my top priorities since taking office. In the past two years alone, we have seen record investment in the state in this needed part of everyday life. We are not done yet, but we are getting closer to true border-to-border broadband.
Working on veterans issues is a passion of mine. As chair of the House Labor, Industry, Veterans and Military Affairs Finance and Policy Committee, I have been able to work closely with our veterans community to have meaningful and positive impacts for veterans in Minnesota. This year we passed a Veterans Omnibus Bill, which funded three new veterans homes, focused on veterans homelessness initiatives, and provided for post-9/11 signing bonuses and enlistment bonuses for our Minnesota National Guard troops. As a veteran, I know how important it is to take care of those who served our state and nation.
The labor side of this same committee I am fortunate enough to chair is also very special to me. I spent many years of my professional life working alongside and representing my union brothers and sisters in the paper mill in International Falls. The past two years we have been successful in stopping any changes in the landmark wage-theft legislation passed three years ago. We have also been able to make building-code changes that help communities develop and compete with neighboring states. Closer to home, we invested $1 million in safety grants to help with the needs of our logging industry.
Moving forward, my top priority is to pass an unemployment-insurance extension for the men and women who work at North Shore Mining in Babbitt and Silver Bay.
There is also more work to do on broadband issues, especially with the large amount of federal funding that is in the pipeline headed our way. There are infrastructure improvements needed in many communities in the district, from water and sewer upgrades to trail projects, arena upgrades, and harbor improvements.
Getting a bonding bill done sooner rather than later is essential. We also need to pass the tax bill that was agreed to during the regular legislative session. This bill would provide real tax relief for low- and middle-income folks in our district. This bill also would eliminate the Social Security income tax on our senior citizens. We need to get this over the finish line.
Finally, I have always supported our police, firefighters, and emergency-services personnel. Public safety is a top priority for the communities I represent. I want to make sure our men and women in law enforcement continue to have funding and the tools they need to keep our streets safe.
As I travel throughout the district, I feel fortunate to represent such a beautiful and diverse part of our state. I look forward to continuing to do so and ask for your vote this November.
Rob Ecklund of International Falls is the DFL representative of Minnesota House District 3A. He wrote this exclusively for the News Tribune at the request of the Opinion page.