Welcome back. For several years I wrote about my experiences at the state Capitol on my website, “Mr. Dahle Goes to St. Paul.” I am planning to crank it up again as we start the 89th session of the Minnesota legislature. Look to this site to hear what is going on at the State Capitol and my thoughts and analysis of the session, the legislative process, and my daily experiences as a State Senator.
The Senate gavel came dropped at noon on Tuesday, January 6. Newly elected Lt. Governor Tina Smith opened the session. It will be an interesting two years as we pass the next biennial budget. While Governor Dayton remains in the Governor’s office, we will be working with a newly elected Republican House. I am hopeful we can pass a progressive budget with good policy for Minnesotans across the state.
Education is always an important focus of my agenda. One of the larger slices of the state budget, there are several initiatives for education in the upcoming session. Yesterday, we heard from over 30 stakeholders in the Education committee that I serve on. They presented their legislative agendas and “wish lists” and priorities for the upcoming session. In addition, the Senate rolled out its first 6 bills of the session. Three of the six were education related. One bill would expand free Pre-K education for all pre-schoolers enrolled in our public schools. This builds on the full funding of all day every day kindergarten we passed in the last session, emphasizing the importance of investing in our children early to ensure success later. In addition, another bill introduced yesterday would offer tuition free 2 Year College through our MNSCU system. This is a product of our discussions over the past few years to concentrate on work force development to help the business community’s need for skilled workers. Another bill would help students “earn while they learn” which would provide academic credit for high schoolers who partner with local employers for vocational training.
I introduced legislation that will extend the Alternative facilities program to all school districts, which will establish a new long-term facilities maintenance revenue program to replace the current alternative facilities, deferred maintenance and health and safety revenue programs to provide adequate, equitable, and sustainable long-term maintenance funding for all school district statewide. This recommendation was a result of a School facilities financing working group which concluded it’s work this past fall. This will especially help rural districts in low property wealth districts like Northfield, New Prague, Belle Plaine, and Tri-City United (Montgomery, Lonsdale, LeCenter) schools.
I am excited to get to work for my constituents in Senate District 20 and for all Minnesotans. Education is just one of our priorities this session. I will be sharing my thoughts on other initiatives in the days and weeks ahead.