Monthly Archives

May 2009

Remembering…All Year

By | Kevin Dahle MN Senate District 20 | No Comments

memorial-picThis week I had the opportunity to serve as a guest speaker at the Memorial Day Service at the American Legion Post in Montgomery. There was tremendous turnout: veterans, Legion members, and of course, local citizens. And the messages heard that day remind us all the true reason for the Monday holiday each spring. There are several things we can do throughout the year to honor and remember our service men and women, those who have served this country so admirably.
First, we must teach others about the sacrifices that have been made on our behalf so that we might continue to enjoy the liberties and freedoms granted in our Constitution. And while that is easier for me, as a 9th grade Civics teacher, I challenge each of you to teach these lessons to your own children, friends, and neighbors. Teach them to understand that, politics aside, the act of committing yourself to your country and being willing to fight for the freedom of others is among the most noble of endeavors.
Volunteer to help those veterans who are still with us, by assisting a family who is grieving the loss of a service member, by visiting those injured in service to the nation to help them build a new life.
Second, each of us must find ways to ensure the legacy of our heroes endures in what has become a “sound-bite” culture. These dedicated men and women are worth more than that. Their history deserves telling and re-telling. Find a way in your life – at work or home, at church or a youth group meeting, wherever – to keep their memories alive. Honor their sacrifices, tell their stories, and cherish their memories.
And finally, continue to gather together on Memorial Day each year to pay homage to each of them. Make Memorial Day an annual reminder of the need to give of yourself in honor of those who have given everything. Treat Memorial Day with reverence and respect …and others will follow your lead.
Thank you, citizens of Montgomery, for allowing me to be a part of your day of remembrance.

Medical Marijuana

By | Education, Health Care | No Comments

A few months ago, just before heading up to the Capitol, I had coffee with a young lady from LeSueur, Minnesota. Her mother, almost 50 years old, had been diagnosed with a rare disease after having been treated for breast cancer. Her mother is now in constant pain. When she takes a shower, the water feels like razor blades slicing every inch of her body. She is most comfortable curled up in a ball on the couch in her living room. The daughter, with tears in her eyes, asked me to support the medical marijuana bill moving through the legislature.
The session now over, people are taking their shots at legislation that I voted for or against. In a letter to the editor today, one constituent proclaimed my yes vote for medical marijuana was wrong (he actually said I support legalizing marijuana, which I absolutely do not). He went on to say that because I am a teacher, my vote for medical marijuana means I am a poor role model for students.
The term “role model” has passed into general use to mean any “person who serves as an example, whose behavior is emulated by others.” In behavioral terms I am proud to say I have never used marijuana or tried marijuana. I can’t even say that I “just inhaled” even though the drug was fairly prevalent in my college dormitory in the late 1970’s. What I am even more proud of is the fact that I teach my students to look at an issue and apply a balanced, comprehensive, straightforward, approach that will lead them to draw their own conclusions. That is what I model.
If my voting patterns in the Minnesota Senate serve as an example to my students, I hope they pay attention to the hundreds of votes I take every session. It may lead them to believe in the importance of caring for all Minnesotans, our pre-school children, our K-12 students, our college students, the poor and the homeless, our workers and their families, our most vulnerable and frail, and perhaps a terminally ill mother …looking for something, anything, to relieve her pain.

So Now What?

By | Economy, Health Care, Kevin Dahle MN Senate District 20 | No Comments

The Governor, as stated in a press conference yesterday, said he would decide to take matters into his own hands and use his line item veto pen and power of unallotment to balance the budget. He says if the legislature can’t do it, he will have to do it himself. There are several things wrong with this scenario, none of which are good for Minnesota.

First of all, Governor Pawlenty says the legislature has not done its job. On the contrary, all of the major budget bills have been placed on his desk earlier than at any time in recent memory. All of the major budget bills, with the exception of the Health and Human Services budget bill (which cut over $500 million), have made deeper cuts than what the Governor had proposed. The Governor’s health care budget bill was debated in the Senate several weeks ago. It received 9 votes.

The Senate and House have developed several plans to come up with a balanced approach to resolving this budget crisis. We have cut budgets, maximized federal stimulus dollars, and introduced a revenue bill which was promptly vetoed by the Governor. The Senate chose not to employ accounting shifts, delay payments, or borrow against future income from tobacco bonds. When the House placed the Governor’s tobacco bond provision on the floor of the House a few weeks ago, it received 2 votes.

What will unallotment mean for Minnesotans? The Governor, last night, has already line item vetoed over $381 million in General Assistance Medical payments to hospitals. The impact of this unallotment? The Queen of Peace Hospital in New Prague will lose $185,000 in GAMC payments in 2011. The Northfield Hospital stands to lose $113, 776. At the top end, the Hennepin County Medical Center will be out $108 million and Regions Hospital in St. Paul will eliminate $46 million from its GAMC program in 2011. Not only do patients suffer, but these cuts mean lost jobs and income for our communities. And all of us will end up paying more to insurance companies or hospitals, as more people end up in emergency rooms for primary care, provided any emergency rooms remain open.

capitol-photoThe Governor has also indicated that he will unallot Local Government Aid to our cities and towns in July. Cities are still reeling from the unallotment that took place this past December. Loss of LGA means serious budget cuts to our local services such as police and fire protection, libraries, street maintenance, and other community services. It most certainly means greater property tax increases to make up the difference.

The House and Senate will continue to work with the Governor to find some compromise. He has indicated his willingness to talk to us about shifts, money from the Reserve account, and additional borrowing. The House will have to decide whether an override attempt is in order, the Senate already having override numbers. With a Monday midnight deadline, we will continue to work with the executive branch to wrap this up without having to slash, even further, those budgets that affect communities and our most vulnerable.

Education Conference Committee

By | Education | No Comments

schoolThe Education Conference committee finally wrapped up the committee report this evening. I serve on that committee and we have been working diligently to come up with a final education omnibus bill to send to the Governor. Many nights, over the last two weeks, we adjourned after 10pm and last night I arrived home at 2:30am. We received our fiscal target this week while trying to wrap up discussion on some of the policy bills that emerged from the House and Senate this session.

The bill leaves education funding flat. That is good news considering much speculation that education would face across the board cuts like every other budget. While schools welcome federal stimulus money, schools can also access capital reserves for one time money and staff development funds for the next two years. The bill also includes language related to charter school oversight and reform, literacy, dollars for math and science teacher academies, the Reading Corps, and integration aid. There are other provisions as well.

Provisions not in this bill include language pertaining to shared services, alternative teacher licensure, and the new Minnesota Miracle. Additional language related to high stakes testing, early learning, and home schools is also absent in the final bill. To some members, these were difficult provisions to leave behind. I am sure there will be continued discussion of these initiatives over the interim and into the next session. All sides, including the Governor, were looking for a bill with more innovation and reform. A lack of money or a lack of agreement by all parties meant some of these provisions were left out of the final bill.

A lot of effort was put into this report. Tomorrow we will debate the bill on the House and Senate floor. Stakeholders from many groups: the Minnesota Dept. of Education, teachers, administrators, school board members, early childhood advocates, family members, and the Governor’s office have provided input to create legislation with a goal of providing the best possible education system in Minnesota. We are not always able to achieve our goals. Last year the education policy bill was vetoed. We hope the Governor signs this one.

Arlington, Green Isle, and the Big Red Barn

By | Economy, Education, Event, Sibley County | No Comments

green-isleThis past weekend I stopped by Green Isle and Arlington for a couple of town meetings. There was a lot of good discussion on a variety of issues, most centering on the Minnesota’s budget deficit. Questions about how to balance the budget, specific bills regarding revenue and cuts, and queries about the federal stimulus dollars dotted the discussion. Many constituents expressed concerns about our local and state business climate and how we attract and maintain jobs to keep our economy moving. Others worried about labor and worker protections as a vital component of a strong middle class. Some folks expressed specific concerns about health care, our veterans, our roads and rails, and our schools. I appreciated the spirited tone of the meetings. Even though many topics brought out passionate discussion and even disagreement on causes or solutions, those in attendance expressed their views in a thoughtful and respectful manner. I look forward to returning to that part of District 25. They definitely pay attention to their local and state politics.

This morning I was invited to read a story to the Northfield Three Rivers Head Start class. I enjoyed reading the “Big Red Barn” to about 20 three to five year old youngsters. I was very impressed with the students and I was equally impressed with the staff. It is a great learning environment with a lot of interaction and energy. I know the importance of investing in our early childhood programs. Every dollar invested in early childhood education pays such big dividends down the road. Teaching basic skills early and connecting kids to learning is a proven recipe for success in elementary-secondary education and beyond. I look forward to my next visit to this school and others like it. There are a lot of neat things happening in our pre-school programs.