September 8, 2021

Legislative Session Recap, Town Hall Saturday, Biggest Accomplishments, and Reflecting on the Year

The phrase ‘unprecedented times’ has quickly become a cliche this last year, but when my first legislative session adjourned without a conclusion to our work on the budget for Minnesota, and then the special session blew past any projected end points, I find that phrase comes readily to mind. 

Image(ID: Senator Jen McEwen taking the oath of office)

It has been quite a journey these past 8 months since I was sworn into office, but I remain deeply humbled to be entrusted with this opportunity to serve our beloved community in Duluth. It was a joy to work with so many Duluthians and Minnesotans on policy that benefits us all, and I am excited to share some of the successes we managed to bring home this session.

Duluth legislators to hold Sept. 11 Virtual Town Hall Meeting

Your Duluth legislative team, Rep. Jen Schultz, Rep. Liz Olson, and I invite you, our community members to attend a Virtual Town Hall Meeting this Saturday, September 11 at 10:30 a.m. We will recap the 2021 legislative session, discuss our goals for the future at the Capitol, and answer questions from constituents.

The event will be held on Zoom, and those who wish to attend can pre-register at Constituents are also able to submit questions for the legislators via the registration form. Additionally, the town hall will be livestreamed on Facebook Live, available on Rep. Schultz and Sen. McEwen’s Facebook pages. Questions are also welcome there. I hope to see you virtually this weekend!

Biggest Accomplishments

My provision to forgive state taxes on additional pandemic unemployment benefits for individual workers was passed into law and will provide some relief to an estimated 553,900 Minnesota workers and families.

I co-authored the Essential Worker Emergency Leave Act, which provides back pay to the frontline workers who had to self-isolate or take leave to care for a family member. In negotiations, we received $250 million to support these workers who took care of us. This is a big win toward taking care of our essential workers, but not enough to meaningfully compensate the workers performing essential work throughout the pandemic. 

Image(ID: Steelworkers picket on Miller Trunk Hwy on behalf of Essentia Health workers for fair wages and work conditions)

We passed a 15% increase to the base compensation rates for direct support professionals and personal care assistants. These individuals provide invaluable services to community members who wish to live as independently as possible. Raising their base wage to a living wage is a significant step in the right direction to honor the essential work these individuals do.

We secured significant funding to support childcare providers to increase the supply of childcare in Minnesota, and to advance community solutions to sustain and grow access to childcare across the state.

Image(ID: Senator McEwen stands with indigenous legislators and allies at a rally to establish an Office of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women)

Following the tireless advocacy of my friend and colleague Senator Mary Kunesh, other indigenous legislators, and a groundswell of community support, funding was allocated to establish the Office of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women. 

Together with the Duluth delegation, I authored and passed a bill that helped the shuttered West Duluth paper mill reopen under new ownership and retain at least 80 full time, high-wage jobs. 

Image(ID: Sens. Bigham, Johnson Stewart, Pappas, McEwen, and Marty in the final days of state budget negotiations)

Reflecting on the Year

We are in the midst of the extreme weather events that scientists predicted and warned us about since I was a child. We see economic disparities in our society exacerbated by the pandemic. We continue to grapple with racial inequities and injustices here in Duluth and across Minnesota. 

We live in the wealthiest country in the world, yet we pay twice as much for healthcare that provides lesser health outcomes than peer nations. In a society with such abundance, no one should have to choose between addressing a health concern and putting food on the table. 

We are up against the power and influence of billionaires and corporate lobbies, but at the end of the day, we the people get to decide who speaks for us and whose interests are represented in our government.

Image(ID: Senator McEwen speaking on court ruling on PolyMet permit and its significance to Duluth)

It was deeply inspiring to see all of the activism for change in our community; to engage with advocates to advance forward-looking ideas; and to work with Duluthians to help shape and bring about a brighter future for our community. 

There is so much more that we have to accomplish for Duluth and Minnesota, but I believe what we achieved this legislative session is a good step in that direction. I look forward to continuing this work with you this year and in the next session.

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