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Town Hall Meetings 2015
Published On: 10th March 2015 | Published By: Kevin Dahle For Senate

This past Saturday, I concluded two weekends of town meetings across Senate District 20.  Both Representative Bob Vogel (20A) and Representative David Bly (20B) accompanied me in their respective town meetings in libraries and restaurants in the eight communities we visited.  We enjoyed hearing from constituents as they provided input on the policy and budget issues we are discussing here at the midpoint of the 2015 legislative session.

Good dialogue on wide ranging topics were held.  Folks shared their thoughts on the budget surplus, health care, education, property taxes, and buffer zones on agricultural land.  We talked about pensions, climate change, renewable energy standards, and the scope of government.  A young teacher from New Prague passionately expressed his opposition to the “last in first out” legislation which he viewed as another attack on his profession.  Nursing home workers from LeSueur implored the legislature to fix the nursing home funding inequities that exist in our state.  Others argued for the need for a reasonable funding solution to fixing our roads and bridges and the state’s long term transportation needs.

I always enjoy face to face meetings.  In nearly every instance, pointed questions moved easily to productive dialogue and a better understanding of shared concerns.  Democrats, Republicans, and Independents left the meeting with handshakes and thank yous, with better insight on our positions and thoughts on the issues of the day or how the legislative process works.

I thank those community members who took the time to stop by to share their thoughts and concerns.  I look forward to our next meeting.

Renewable Energy Standard for the Future
Published On: 5th March 2015 | Published By: Kevin Dahle For Senate

In 2007, a broad coalition made up of entrepreneurs, businesses, labor, environmentalists, concerned citizens, and legislators came together to pass a Renewable Energy Standard (RES) for Minnesota.  That historic legislation required 25% of our electricity come from renewables such as wind, solar, and biomass resources.  The bill passed the Minnesota House and Senate with only 13 of 201 legislators voting against it.  Governor Pawlenty signed the bill into law and Minnesota became a national clean energy leader.

The current Renewable Energy Standard has been a huge success and has created thousands of clean energy jobs in our state.  Employment in clean energy sectors reached 15,300 in 2014.  Clean energy employment in Minnesota surged 78% between January 2000 and the first quarter of 2014, growing steadily through the recession.  The RES has resulted in nearly $9.4 million in wind energy production tax revenue that is paid directly to counties, primarily in Greater Minnesota and land use agreements have a generated millions of dollars of revenue for Minnesota farmers. Many utilities are already several years ahead of schedule in meeting the 2007 RES requirements.  Despite these impressive numbers, Minnesota is still heavily reliant on fossil fuels.

A few weeks ago, I introduced legislation that would increase the existing RES to 40% by 2030.  Currently, we get 15% of our energy from renewables, but we are using only 1% of our wind potential.  In addition, compliance with Minnesota’s existing RES has been affordable.  The state’s largest 3 utilities, representing 80% of Minnesota’s retail electricity sales, reported little impact on wages as a result of their renewable energy investments through 2012.  As wind and solar prices have dropped, several utilities have even reported savings in some years, particularly when natural gas prices have spiked.

Raising the RES is beneficial to the economy, creates jobs, reduces Minnesota’s reliance on imported electricity, benefits public health, and helps preserve our precious earth and its resources.  We are on the right trajectory to meet those goals established nearly 8 years ago.  The rules and the structure are already in place.  Increasing our renewable energy standard will send us on our way to a truly, clean, reliable, and sustainable energy future.


Safe Roads Safe Communities
Published On: 24th February 2015 | Published By: Kevin Dahle For Senate

One by one they told their stories.  At least 4 Latino community members from Northfield shared their experiences with the nearly 300 people in attendance at St. Dominic’s Catholic Church in Northfield on a recent cold Sunday afternoon.  The event, “Safe Roads, Strong Communities” served as a Rice County “Faith Summit” sponsored by the inter-faith public policy organization ISAIAH whose long term goals are economic and racial equity for the entire state of Minnesota.

Senators Jensen and Representative Bly joined me on stage in support of a bill that would insure ensure all persons access to a driver’s license.  The bill authors, Senator Bobby Joe Champion (DFL – Minneapolis) and Representative Rod Hamilton (R – Mountain Lake) believe that Minnesota should adhere to the principal of “one state, one license” where all residents, regardless of immigration status, be eligible for a driver’s license.  Ten states, plus the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico currently offer driver’s licenses to all residents who apply.  This same bill passed in the Minnesota Senate in 2013 but stalled in the House.  We believe this bill should get a vote in both chambers in 2015.

The American Civil Liberties Union came out in support of expanding the expansion of the granting of licenses as a way of combating racial discrimination of drivers.  Many in our Hispanic communities end up driving illegally.  By establishing driver licenses for everyone, we also ask them to respond to safety guidelines on our streets and roads. In addition to creating safer roads, we can give our neighbors and our fellow community members’ access to jobs, or perhaps a better vehicles and of course better compliance in securing automobile insurance.  This is an important issue for our Latino communities who currently live with the constant fear of being arrested or fear deportation.  These folks do pay taxes and should be able to drive on our roads and bridges that are funded by tax dollars. In addition, the law actually helps raise revenue for the states who that have implemented it.

This Faith summit was a positive first step in raising awareness on an important issue in our communities.  It asked that we, in our role as legislators, publicly support the bill and continue our efforts to ensure its passage.  As a Senator, a driver education instructor, and as a concerned member of our larger community, I see this as sensible legislation that brings us together for the betterment of our towns, cities, and state.  Our Latino friends and neighbors are counting on us.

Meeting our Agriculture Needs
Published On: 17th February 2015 | Published By: Kevin Dahle For Senate

Every Tuesday morning, since I have been here at the Capitol, rural legislators gather for a 7:30am meeting to talk about issues affecting rural Minnesota.  Senator Stumpf, a member of the Minnesota legislature since 1980, typically directs our discussion.  Sometimes we talk about individual bills we are carrying related to greater Minnesota.  Often times, committee chairs (rural or not) are brought in to talk about larger budget or policy bills that have broader implications for out-state Minnesota. Last week the Governor stopped by and took questions from the dozen or so Senators in attendance.  Today, Jerry Schoenfeld, former legislator and lobbyist for several ag groups stopped by to talk to us about several ag related issues.  One of those issues was the need to expand and retain agricultural education in Minnesota.

This issue has come up in several conversations I have had recently.  This past Saturday I met with folks in New Prague who represented several groups, including Corn and Soybean Growers, Farm Bureau, Turkey Growers, along with Bruce Mathiowetz, an agriculture teacher from Belle Plaine High School.  Concerns about the shortage of qualified agricultural educators, the impact it is having on high school vocational education programs and co-curricular activities and long-term impacts on agriculture were shared.

We should consider expanding the routes to obtain an agricultural education license.  University ag entrance requirements are rigorous.  Until recently, only the Univ. of Minnesota offers such a program and while 120 students applied to get in, they only accepted 12 students.  Those 12-15 students who graduate from the program annually do not typically end up teaching.  They are lured away by higher paying jobs in big agriculture, such as Monsanto or Cargill.  Southwest Minnesota State University in Marshall just launched a new Bachelor’s degree program in Agriculture Education.  This is a welcome addition to our MNSCU offerings.

Senate File 820 (Senator Sparks) does offer some assistance on this this issue. It would pump almost $30 million into rebuilding our commitment to ag research and another $4.8 million for ag education including the Education Leadership Council, farm business management, mentoring programs, graduate debt forgiveness, and high school programs.  I am also co-authoring a bill (Senator Jensen is chief author) that would establish education grants to further expand and retain agricultural education in Minnesota.

Today, the education committee, on which I serve, talked about the need for robust Career Technical Education (CTE) in our schools.  Ag education was frequently mentioned as a necessary part of the CTE curriculum.  Some other offerings include architecture and construction, business management, family and consumer sciences. We also are well aware of the challenges in maintaining these programs due to funding, teacher supply, lack of equipment, lack of flexibility in the student school day, or lack of flexibility in regard to class choice option or dual credit option related to post-secondary education.  These are all areas we need to address as we consider long term planning to ensure our students and our workforce get what they need.


More for Long term Care
Published On: 11th February 2015 | Published By: Kevin Dahle For Senate

Last week I visited the Millstream Commons Assisted living facility in Northfield.  Over the years, I have visited several long term care facilities and nursing homes in my district.  Meeting and talking with the administrators and staff in these facilities is always illuminating.  It is also emotional and from a policy perspective, it is frustrating.  As a state, we need to do more to support these workers and these facilities.

Two years ago, the Minnesota legislature passed the “5% campaign” which gave a 5% increase in state funding to our long term care facilities statewide.  Last year, we passed another 5% increase to community based care facilities that support individuals with special needs.  That was a start.  We barely made a dent in addressing the long term fiscal health of these facilities.

Workers once again shared their stories of low pay while administrator spoke of the difficulty in attracting and retaining quality workers.  One employee is holding 3 jobs to make ends meet for her family.  Workers with years of experience talked about how little their pay has increased since they were hired over 2 decades ago.  Workers are lost to grocery stores or restaurants that pay better, even at a starting wage. How does this profession attract new employees thinking about a career in health care?

We should be concerned.  Many long term care facilities are losing money and turning clients away.  As our parents and grandparents mature and the need for care increases, facilities in my district and across Minnesota struggle to meet the demands.  The state’s funding mechanism is broken leading to inequities and a lack of adequate services across the state.

These employees are passionate about the work they do.  They love working with the clients they serve. They are doing everything they can to provide the best quality of life for them.  We need to focus on fixing the funding formula, increasing long term care worker’s wages, and ensuring adequate options for people and families across the state.  We can and must do more.


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