"I held fast to our core principles and worked to ensure our community shares in the state's growing prosperity," said Hayden. "From raising the minimum wage to passing the Women's Economic Security Act, from new funding for the Homeless Youth Act to legalizing medical cannabis, from second chance expungement reforms to stronger protections for victims of domestic violence—Minnesota is a better state now than it was two years ago."
Hayden personally led the charge in the state senate this year to achieve Minnesota's first minimum wage hike in nearly a decade, which will increase to $9.50 per hour over the next three years with future raises tied to inflation.
"A meaningful increase to the minimum wage is part of our larger effort to lift up the working poor and create pathways out of poverty. All Minnesotans deserve the opportunity to do an honest day's work and receive a living wage," he said.
The first bump in the minimum wage will come later this summer, when the rate increases to $8.00 per hour on August 1. The increase to $9.00 per hour follows a year later, and the increase to $9.50 the following August.
Hayden said the 2014 Legislature also provided tax relief for millions of working class families, passed a robust construction bill that will put thousands to work, and approved critical investments in priorities like early education and human services.
"There are two other bills, in particular, that I was honored to author and see signed into law," added Hayden. "One bill guarantees school lunch to all children regardless of ability to pay. The other bill allows MFIP recipients to count secondary schooling toward their work requirements. This historic policy change will allow women and men to go to vocational school or college and provide a real chance for families to become self-sufficient."
Hayden also secured passage of the new Housing Opportunities Made Equitable (HOME) law, which aims to close the disparity in homeownership for people of color in Minnesota.
"Minnesota has the greatest gap between white and non-white homeownership in the county," said Hayden. "The HOME law will provide education for potential home buyers and target mortgage financing support in communities of color. More than just addressing the racial disparity, by creating more opportunities for people of color to attain affordable homeownership, we are supporting our families and helping turn around neighborhoods struggling from the foreclosure crisis."
For Hayden, the work to close racial disparities in Minnesota is ongoing. This session he and colleague Senator Bobby Champion launched the Senate Select Committee on Disparities and Opportunities, bringing together a bi-partisan group of legislators from across the state to craft real legislative solutions to address Minnesota's many racial disparities.
"Statistically, our state enjoys one of the highest standards of living in the nation, but there remains a disproportionate number of Minnesotans in minority communities who don't share in this prosperity," Hayden said. "I think we're past the point of studying the problem—it's time to roll up our sleeves and figure out how the legislature can be a partner in solving the problem."
With Hayden and Champion serving as co-chairs, the Select Committee on Disparities and Opportunities will meet throughout the summer and fall. Interested persons can sign up for email updates by choosing Select Committee on Disparities and Opportunities from the drop down menu at http://www.senate.mn/schedule/subscribe.php).
"I'm proud to represent a community that's engaged in Minnesota politics, and I'm grateful to everyone who wrote, called or visited my office to make your voices heard. Our democracy works because of active, participating citizens, and I can never thank my constituents enough for entrusting me to advocate for our shared values at the Capitol," Hayden said.
The 2015 Legislative Session will convene on January 6, 2015.