Mr. Dahle Goes to St. Paul

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Archive for the ‘Energy’

Community Energy Challenge

April 06, 2010 By: Kevin Dahle Category: Education, Energy No Comments →

Today I was reminded of the 1970 movie “Cold Turkey” starring Dick Van Dyke. It was the fictional story of Eagle Rock, Iowa where the entire community pledged to quit smoking. Their reward should they succeed? $25,000,000.
In the Senate Energy committee today, we heard from the students and community members of Rothsay, Minnesota who, with the help of Ottertail Power Company, hope to reduce the entire community’s energy use by 15% over the next 5 years.
Since April of 2009, this town of 500 and home to the world’s largest Prairie Chicken, has been conducting energy audits for businesses and homes, analyzing bills, providing education workshops and consultations, and providing low interest financing to meet their goal. Smart monitors have been placed in residential homes. School curriculum has been created to help students lead community wide efforts to get pledges and information to community members. Ottertail Power is making community and school connections while providing resources and tracking information to its new community partners.
Seeing middle school and high school students take leadership roles in this endeavor is one of the most satisfying aspects of the project. Changing existing behaviors (both adults and students) seems to be one of the biggest challenges. While Minnesota’s Next Generation Act looks to increase energy efficiency goals statewide, we are anxious to hear more about the Rothsay Community Energy challenge. We hope to apply lessons and solutions learned on a much larger scale. Decreasing our nation’s energy demands is a great example for not only small town America, but for our nation and our precious planet. The rewards are immeasurable.

$10,000 Energy Saver Rebate available for Energy Improvements

December 15, 2009 By: Kevin Dahle Category: Energy No Comments →

Last week, Minnesota Housing announced the creation of the Energy Saver Rebate program. These rebates are available for homeowners that do energy-saving home improvements using funds from a Minnesota Housing Fix-up loan. The rebates are funded with money given to Minnesota as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act on 2009.
Interested homeowners should act quickly though, because these rebates are available on a first-come, first-served basis.”
Energy Saver Rebates can be used for:
• Replacement furnaces, boilers, and central air conditioners that are eligible for Federal Energy Tax Credit;
• Replacement exterior doors that are eligible for Federal Energy Tax Credit;
• Energy Star replacement windows;
• Energy Star light fixtures;
• Attic air sealing;
• Wall and attic insulation in conjunction with attic air sealing; and
• Water heaters if they are “orphaned” due to furnace replacement.
Energy Saver Rebates can be for up to $10,000 and can equal 35 percent of the cost of the improvements. Improvements must be done by a licensed contractor, and the homeowner must submit the Energy Saver Rebate Application for the completed improvements to their lender within 120 days of the Fix-up Fund loan’s closing. Fix-Up Fund loans are available to households with an income of less than $96,500. Homeowners should also check if they are eligible for the Federal Tax Credit for Energy Efficiency or a rebate from their utility company when doing energy efficiency improvements. The Energy Saver Rebate cannot be used in conjunction with the Builders Association of Minnesota’s Project ReEnergize rebate or Fix-up Fund Loans made prior to December 7, 2009.
For a list of authorized lenders, or for more information, go to www.mnhousing.gov

The Next Governor

September 25, 2009 By: Kevin Dahle Category: Economy, Education, Energy, Health Care No Comments →

loonEven though the election is over a year away, the race for Governor is in full swing. I have had several calls from candidates and have enjoyed lunch or a cup of coffee with a numerous others, looking for support. Politicians from both parties have declared their candidacy, started exploratory campaigns, or are still considering a run for the right to succeed Tim Pawlenty as Minnesota’s 40th Governor.

How do you decide at this point? With 15- 20 candidates in the ring you wonder how one candidate can get enough momentum to carry them to the endorsing conventions next spring followed by a real possibility of a primary election. No doubt, these candidates are working hard. I see them at parades and fundraisers in towns like Montgomery and Gaylord, all trying to meet the party faithful and raise the dollars necessary for a statewide campaign.

There are some excellent candidates for Governor. You have your choice of women and men, out state or metro, with experiences ranging from former U.S Senators, the Speaker of the House, former and current legislators, prosecutors, and big city mayors. Some have been running for years while others wait to announce.

What does Minnesota hope to find in its next Governor? We need a governor who puts Minnesota first, someone willing to work with the House and Senate regardless of party labels. He or she must consider all options for resolving a budget deficit seeking long term solutions. Those solutions should involve job creation, investment in our infrastructure –our roads, bridges, and improved transit serving both metro and out state Minnesota. Education must be a top priority for the next Governor. An innovative, resourceful, and educated workforce becomes a reality by investing in our early childhood programs, K-12, and our colleges and Universities. The next Governor should welcome health care reform and show the nation that Minnesota can be a leader, rather than a follower; in making sure all Minnesotans have access to quality care. The next governor must pay attention to our energy and environmental needs now and in the future, crafting policy that reflects the needs of our rural and urban landscape. A great communicator with real leadership and passion would be frosting on the cake.

That’s a tall order. But with this many candidates, we should be able to weed out the very best and brightest of all of them. I’ll be listening. I will be asking questions. Stay tuned. A candidate for Governor will be coming soon to an event near you.

Weighing the Vote

July 19, 2009 By: Kevin Dahle Category: Economy, Education, Energy, Environment No Comments →

_senate_convenes_33From now until the 2010 election, we will hear the steady drumbeat from the opposition critical of legislators and their work during the 2009 legislative session, specifically dealing with the unprecedented $6.4 budget deficit. I am okay with that. As an elected official, I understand we will be subject to criticism, right or wrong. The people’s freedom to express themselves is essential in a representative democracy.
Freiderich von Schiller once said, “Votes should be weighed, not counted.” As constituents, how do we fairly evaluate a legislative vote? That is a difficult question. First of all, Minnesota has been in the midst of the worst recession in over 60 years. There were no easy votes this past legislative session. And to be certain, no politician campaigns on a platform of deep cuts and tax increases. So what are the options? Perhaps you vote for a Senate plan which included a combination of significant cuts and increased revenue? With compromise in mind, you may cast a vote on a different option because you know the Governor will accept the bill. Sometimes you cast a vote because it is the best bill the House of Representatives can muster. A lot of hard work followed by difficult decisions. Ideally, you cast a vote because you believe it is the best solution to a tough problem and because you believe the outcome is best for the citizens of District 25 and the state of Minnesota.
Voting on the floor of the Senate is one part of being a legislator. I received good advice from a friend recently, a gentle reminder: “Vote your convictions.” Partisanship aside, if your legislator believes we should invest in education, take care of the sick and the poor, clean up our air and water, rebuild our roads and bridges, and work to build an economy that provides good jobs with benefits…that’s the best we can hope for. Hard work. Compromise. Conviction. And if people choose to be critical, that is their right. Criticism is part of our public policy process and I welcome the debate.

Tuesday

March 11, 2009 By: Kevin Dahle Category: Education, Energy, Health Care, Kevin Dahle MN Senate District 25, Le Sueur County, Scott County, Sibley County, Transportation No Comments →

It has been a busy time at the Capitol, but Tuesday March 10 was especially hectic. Tuesdays are typically full. I have committee meetings scheduled throughout the day, but on this day five of my own bills were moved in several committees. The day went like this:

• 7:30am – Rural Caucus: discussed the State budget and the Green Acres bill, scheduled to go to the floor of the Senate on Thursday.
• 8:30am – Education Committee: bill on Mandate reductions
• 9:28am – I have a bill up in the Tax Committee to increase the LGA (Local Government Aid) for Green Isle, a town in my district…the bill passes committee.
• 9:45am – Back to the Education Committee in time to defeat a provision in the Mandate bill that would have cut teacher prep time 80% in future contract years.
• 11:03am – Step out of committee to meet with some friends from Faribault representing the Friendship House which serves adults with mental disabilities.
• 11:20am – Freshman DFL Caucus with Senate leadership – discussed the budget
• 12:05am – Grab a bag of chips and a Diet Coke for lunch. Discuss bills and afternoon schedule with Legislative Assistant.
• 12:30am – Commerce and Consumer Protection Committee meets. We discussed bills related to Homeowner Insurance and Health Care Insurance coverage.
• 1:12pm – Run to the Transportation Committee. I have a bill that keeps Hwy 19 in New Prague closed one weekend in Sept. for the Dozinky Festival. Bill passes.
• 1:35pm – Back to the Commerce Committee where I present a technical bill on behalf of the Commerce Department which updates statutes relating to measurements and the definition of biofuels. Bill passes out of committee.
• 2:15pm – Meet with constituents representing the Pork Producers in my office
• 2:30pm – Called my wife to see how my daughter’s allergy appointment went.
• 3:00pm – Energy, Utilities, Technology, and Communications Committee – Presented two bills on behalf of the Public Utilities Commission, dealing with technical changes and consumer refunds for unlawful charges by Utility companies. Both passed out of committee. Heard a bill dealing with refunds for unauthorized cell phone use from a lost cell phone.
• 5:00pm – Just enough time to run across the street to the Kelly Inn to meet with the Snowmobilers Association. Chatted with constituents from Faribault and New Prague.
• 6:45pm – Commerce Committee reconvenes to discuss the Homeowners- Lender Mediation Act. After a thorough discussion, the bill passes out of committee.
• 8:45pm – Drove home in icy, windy, and snowy conditions.

While Tuesday was busy, there will be longer and even busier days ahead.

March-ing Forward

March 07, 2009 By: Kevin Dahle Category: Economy, Education, Energy No Comments →

capitol-innardsWith the recently announced budget forecast projecting a $6.4 billion deficit, each week takes on a new sense of urgency. With the target established, developing a budget solution remains at the forefront of committee and caucus discussions. However, we continue to discuss other issues – meeting with constituents and citizens to hear their concerns and hopes for the session.
This week, in the committees on which I serve, we have heard testimony regarding a wide range of issues; these include community based energy development, reverse mortgages, statewide teachers health insurance, and K-12 testing and assessments. In the context of our budget crisis we carefully weigh the pros and cons of specific legislation keeping in mind the short and long term implications.
One of the best parts of my job is visiting with the dozens of people each week representing multiple interests. This week I visited with volunteer firefighters, persons representing the Mill Towns trail, labor unions, nursing homes, energy and utility companies, local high school and college students, home school students, landscapers and arborists, and local farmers, to name a few. These concerned citizens weigh in on current or proposed legislation, share concerns about budget cuts, or stop in just to say hello.
While the legislature continues to do the work of the people, their input is invaluable in helping us reach our goal: crafting a balanced budget, passing meaningful legislation, and completing our work on time. We appreciate your help.

Sensible Communities

February 22, 2009 By: Kevin Dahle Category: Energy, Environment, Transportation No Comments →

nfieldImagine a community that gives its citizens more choices about where they live and how they get around. Instead of policies that promote urban sprawl, how about a community that encourages more compact development, saving infrastructure costs and accessibility. Why not consider a town built around jobs, schools, and services supporting walking and biking in daily life, reducing obesity and other health risks.
This past week in the Energy committee I heard a bill introduced by Senator Scott Dibble (SF 657) which recommends “improved land use planning and development strategies as an essential step to ensure that we protect our natural resources and quality of life.” The bill is based on a recommendation by the Minnesota Climate Change Advisory (MCCAG) in its final report.
Employees, residents, and students in cities like Northfield want commuter rail or transportation that makes sense. That means transportation options that include proximity to housing, jobs, and schools connected with bike trails, footpaths, and pedestrian friendly routes. Development is springing up around current light rail and commuter rail projects. Sensible communities allow resident to drive less – saving more on gas, parking, and automobile purchases and repairs.
Among other things, the proposal creates incentives for metro and greater Minnesota communities to implement land use planning practices that would achieve global warming reduction goals. It would require both the Met Council and MnDOT to plan for pollution reduction and a transportation system to help achieve these goals as well as preserve more farmland and open spaces.
Building sensible communities makes sense if it indeed helps lower costs, offers more transit choices, promotes healthy lifestyles, and protects Minnesota’s great outdoors for future generations by reducing global warming and air pollution. Cities, in cooperation with Counties and state government, should pursue these types of policies as they consider long range planning.

Weighing In

February 16, 2009 By: Kevin Dahle Category: Economy, Education, Energy, Environment, Event, Health Care, Kevin Dahle MN Senate District 25, Le Sueur County, Rice County, Scott County, Sibley County, Transportation No Comments →

The Mayor of Elysian was overhead leaving one of the many town meetings held in District 25 over the weekend, “That was kind of fun.” I couldn’t agree more. It is not every Saturday that local citizens get a chance to gather to discuss the issues of the day. We discussed a variety of issues and I was impressed with the level of discussion, the interest and knowledge of the participants and the respectful tone of the meetings….even when participants took opposing views. So what did the citizens of District 25 bring to the table?
Two weeks ago, I visited Waterville, Elysian, LeCenter and Cleveland. Last Saturday, I held town meetings in Belle Plaine, LeSueur, Montgomery, and New Prague. Foremost on everyone’s mind was the budget deficit and the economy. Several expressed concerns about proposed cuts and the long term effects of such cuts. Specifically, cuts to Local Government Aid, Education, and Health and Human Services seemed to garner the most attention. Most agreed that cuts will be necessary and as we move forward, prioritizing and determining the level of cuts will need to be decided. But other residents said that Minnesota may need to look at new sources of revenue to maintain basic government services and ensure a quality of life we have come to expect in Minnesota.
npragueSeveral constituents in the New Prague and Belle Plaine area have concerns about the CapX2020 project. CapX2020 is a joint initiative of 11 transmission-owning utilities in Minnesota and the surrounding region to expand the electric transmission grid. The transmission lines will be built in phases and several residents have concerns about the line’s route and the impact this project will have on their lives. Representative David Bly and I have introduced legislation to address some of their concerns.
Casinos, Unemployment, Nuclear power, parks and trails, pensions, and the Minnesota Health Plan were part of the agenda in several of the towns. The Green Acres legislation in 2008 also garnered much discussion. I am a co-author on a bill in the legislature that would repeal many of those changes to make sure farmland is valued for tax purposes on its agricultural value, rather than its future development potential or highest and best use value.
Many citizens shared their real life experiences at these meetings. They have expertise in farming, health care, local government, energy, education, and the environment. Dropping two fishing lines in the lake may not seem like a big deal to many, but a proposed law on that very matter prompted one resident fisherman to voice his opposition. I was happy to listen. And if this comes up for a vote on the floor of the Senate, I will consider myself a more informed legislator. Thank you, constituents, for sharing your thoughts and concerns these past few weekends. That was kind of fun.

2009 Session Preview

January 01, 2009 By: Kevin Dahle Category: Economy, Education, Energy, Environment, Health Care, Transportation 1 Comment →

Addressing the budget deficit will be the main issue for 2009, but what are some of the other areas that the Minnesota Senate will be focusing on as the session gets under way January 6?
• Rebuilding Minnesota’s economy and protecting workers impacted by the recession
• Tax Reform and tax fairness
• Adopting Mn/DOT Bridge Reforms
• Review the costs and benefits of No Fault Auto Insurance
• Green JOBZ program
• Growing Minnesota’s Bioscience industry
• Addressing Foreclosures/Neighborhood Stabilization Programs
• Meeting Long term care challenges
• Allocation of funds from Clean Water, Land, and Legacy Amendment
• GRAD Test/Testing Reform/ Stabilize education funding
• Implement Minnesota Climate Change Advisory Group recommendations/Renewable Energy Standards
• Stranger Oriented Life Insurance
• Farmer-Lender Mediation Act Authorization extension
• Small Bonding bill
• College Affordability/College Readiness and Retention
• Juvenile Justice Initiatives/Data Privacy Issues
• Elections Law
• Role of Nuclear Energy in Minnesota’s energy portfolio/Greenhouse Gas reductions
• Health Care Reform/Pharmaceutical Reform/Children’s health insurance
• Minimum Wage/Consumer cost savings measures
• Pensions
• Local Government Aid reform
While this list is a partial glimpse at the range and scope of issues and topics that may be discussed this session, it is by no means an exclusive list. I am sure to be writing about the specifics of these and other policy issues as we begin our work next week.

Looking Ahead

December 17, 2008 By: Kevin Dahle Category: Economy, Energy, Environment, Kevin Dahle MN Senate District 25 1 Comment →

Solving the near and long-term state budget deficits will be the primary focus of the 2009 Legislative session.  State economists warn this is the longest recession since WWII and it likely will take longer for the state to emerge successfully than in past recessions.  Therefore, the legislature will be focused on long-term, fiscally responsible policies that set up the state for future success.  That will require a combination of government reforms, reasonable spending reductions, and a commitment to preserve the things that have made Minnesota a national leader in the past.

The state’s economists attribute the steep decline to overall economic performance and the current recession, which began in December 2007.  Minnesota lost more than 42,000 jobs from October 2007 to October 2008, and the state is expected to lose as many as 77,000 jobs in 2009.  The key to emerging from the recession will be job creating policies that will attract new economic activity to Minnesota.  Growing opportunities and jobs in the biosciences, renewable energy, and rural economic development should be a high priority.  Improving the business climate and targeted investments toward job creation, such as “angel” tax credits or support for local economic development programs like the MN Investment fund can help us reach some of those goals.

Obviously, the state will need to take a close look at existing program, agencies, and expenditures, and review them using the following 3 questions:

1.  Is this expenditure an appropriate governmental purpose authorized by our laws and Constitution?

2. Is this expenditure necessary, especially in difficult economic times?

3.  Is this expenditure actually producing the intended result, or is there a more efficient and economical way to accomplish this legitimate state purpose?

We need to look at ways to give relief to local governments and school districts.  This means taking a hard look at existing mandates and allowing those local units of government more autonomy in moving existing resources to meet existing and essential needs.  We need to collaborate and coordinate for more efficient public services in areas of transportation, buying power, combined billing, delivery of service, and administration.

This will be a difficult session, but it is imperative that the Senate, House, Governor, Republicans, and Democrats all get on the same page to come up with solutions that will help lead Minnesota out of this recession.  I will continue to lay out some ideas as to how we can do that in the next several weeks leading up to the January 6 session. Please feel to contact me with your ideas as well.