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Legislative News and Views - Rep. Esther Agbaje (DFL)

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History in the Making: Black Women Chair Minnesota Legislature Conference Committee for the First Time

Monday, May 13, 2024

ST. PAUL, Minn. — On Monday, May 13, a legislative conference committee convened to discuss the Tenants’ Rights Bill before the Minnesota Legislature. For the first time in Minnesota history, two Black women of African heritage – one Nigerian, one Somali – co-chair a conference committee, marking a significant milestone for BIPOC women in the state of Minnesota. 

Senator Zaynab Mohamed (DFL - Minneapolis) was elected in 2022 and has a legislative focus on tenants’ rights and was the chief author of the Driver’s Licenses for All legislation that became law in 2023. She is one of the first three Black women elected to the Minnesota Senate in 2022, the first hijabi ever to serve in the body, and the youngest woman ever elected to the body.

“Today, marks another milestone for Black women in Minnesota,” said Sen. Mohamed. “Representation matters, and the diversity of backgrounds we bring to the legislature makes us stronger. I am honored to be part of this historic conference committee to show other Minnesotans that they too can lead.”

Representative Esther Agbaje (DFL - Minneapolis) was first elected in 2020 and is serving her second term in the legislature. Rep. Agbaje is also an attorney, and before that was a Foreign Affairs Officer with the U.S. Department of State. In the Minnesota House of Representatives, Rep. Agbaje is the co-chair of the People of Color and Indigenous Caucus and Vice Chair of the Housing Finance and Policy Committee.  

“It's a tremendous honor to co-lead this committee with Senator Mohamed. Together, we're breaking ceilings and shattering the status quo of leadership in the Minnesota Legislature," celebrated Representative Esther Agbaje. "We stand on the shoulders of giants – phenomenal Black women who paved the way. But today, we're not just following their path, we're widening it for generations to come. This is Minnesota's future, a vibrant reflection of the diversity that defines our communities.”

A conference committee includes members from the Minnesota House of Representatives and Minnesota Senate appointed to reconcile the differences between a bill passed by both bodies.

The committee approved its conference report, which now goes back to both chambers for approval before heading to the Governor’s desk.