From Rep. Esther Agbaje <[email protected]>
Subject Legislative Update 3.21.2023
Date March 21, 2023 8:45 PM
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Friends and Neighbors,  

As we near the halfway point of the legislative session, committee hearings are getting longer, more bills are being heard, and we’re beginning to set the framework for our new state budget. It’s good work, and I’m grateful for the opportunity to discuss our progress. Here is what me and my colleagues have been working on at the Capitol:  


*Reproductive Freedom Defense Act * 

Last night, the Minnesota House of Representatives passed my Reproductive Freedom Defense Act legislation with a 68-62 vote. The bill protects the privacy and rights of persons receiving or providing reproductive health care in the state.  

Bodily autonomy is a right, and today we took a critical step in protecting that for more people and providers. The Reproductive Freedom Defense Act will protect the fundamental rights of Minnesota healthcare providers and patients from legal attacks and criminal penalties imposed by anti-abortion extremists in other states. With the overturning of "Roe v. Wade", we must ensure all Minnesotans have equitable access to reproductive healthcare. 


*Residential Landlord and Tenant Law* 

On March 14, my bill, HF 917 [ [link removed] ], was heard in the House Housing Policy & Finance Committee. The legislation makes changes to various tenant’s rights provisions, amends the existing chapter on landlord and tenant’s rights related to lease terminations, evictions, and eviction expungements, and amends discrimination provisions related to housing discrimination. 

It’s been too long since Minnesota has updated its laws, and we have an opportunity to ensure that renters have more access to justice in the court system regarding their housing. This is important for our Black and Brown communities, who throughout history have been denied access to dignified housing. Through this bill, I hope that more renters will have the ability to communicate with their landlords, find alternatives to court, and care. 

*Minnesota African American Heritage Museum and Gallery* 

On Friday, March 17, I presented HF 588, in the House Legacy Finance Committee. I am championing this legislation because it is important that our state celebrate African American heritage by showcasing the contributions, achievements, and experiences of African Americans throughout Minnesota history. The proposed funding would sustain the Minnesota African American Heritage Museum and Gallery to recognize ongoing struggles and injustices, increase pride, self-esteem, and a sense of community among those who celebrate this rich cultural heritage. 

*Board of Pardons* 

Last week, I also introduced HF 2788 [ [link removed] ]. This bill modifies the Board of Pardons’ operations as well as the petition review and disposition process. The bill creates a Clemency Review Commission to make recommendations on petitions to the Board of Pardons and requires a majority vote, with the governor required to vote in the majority, on applications. 

The pardon process can be daunting and fraught with complex barriers. People seeking pardons need supports like language/translation services, writing/reading support, coaching, and gathering their data and records for submission. We must improve the pardon process to ensure everyone is given the opportunity to advocate for their redemption with dignity.  


*Temporary Sales Tax Exemption* 

Under current law, natural gas used as a primary source of residential heating, and any fees associated with the sale and purchase of that natural gas, is exempt from sales tax during November through April. This bill would provide a sales tax exemption for fees related to natural gas used as a primary source of residential heating during the polar vortex storm in February 2021 that was applied to customers’ billing statements in the nonexempt months of May to October.   

*Women’s History Month*  

March is Women's History Month! Let’s use this month to remember and honor all of the amazing women who paved the way for us. There is still a lot of work we need to do to stand up for equal rights in Minnesota and I am committed to pursuing this important work at the Capitol.   

Women throughout history have created opportunities for me and so many others. This month is an opportunity to learn about our great leaders, activists, and pioneers who have worked hard to ensure women are recognized and that future generations will learn (with accuracy) the contributions women throughout the world have made. Women’s History Month empowers young girls around the nation with courage, self-esteem, and willpower to walk in our ancestors’ footsteps. Our history will also inspire current and future generations to emulate the women who laid the framework for us to succeed, be treated equitably, and be recognized in society. 


*$50 million in Emergency Rental Assistance* 

In the face of skyrocketing evictions and rent increases, the Minnesota House of Representatives passed House File 1440, which delivers $50 million in emergency rental assistance to the state’s Family Homeless Prevention and Assistance Program. The bill passed on a bipartisan vote of 73-50.  

Through much of the pandemic, federal rental assistance allowed Minnesotans to maintain housing stability. Many of those funds dried up in January of 2022, but the economic challenges facing low-income families did not. As a result, Minnesota experienced a skyrocketing eviction rate last year with more than 20,000 filed. Many counties across the state have seen 100% increases in eviction filings over pre-pandemic levels including Pipestone, Grant, Olmstead, Clay, Wadena, Chippewa, Roseau, Jackson and Yellow Medicine County. In the metro area, Hennepin County experienced a 268% increase in families experiencing homelessness, highlighting the immense and growing crisis.  Every Minnesotan deserves a safe, warm roof over their head, and this funding will help many families who are in need. 

In community, 

Rep. Esther Agbaje 

Minnesota House of Representatives  

Committee Assignments: 

* *Vice *Chair Housing Finance and Policy 
* Taxes 

* Ways and Means 
* Elections Finance and Policy 

*Legislative Assistance * 

Shamat Abraha 

[email protected] 


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