Renewable Energy Standard for the Future

By | Economy, Energy, Environment | No Comments

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.


Meeting our Agriculture Needs

By | Agriculture, Education, Environment | No Comments

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.


2012 Endorsements!

By | Campaigns, Economy, Education, Environment, Health Care, Kevin Dahle MN Senate District 20, Transportation, Uncategorized | No Comments

I am proud to be endorsed by the following organizations in my upcoming election for the Minnesota State Senate.  It is truly a great cross section of the many groups and supporters  in areas such as equality, education, working class Minnesotans, public services, safety, environment and natural resources, and health care.  I am anxious to work for all of my constituents as we take back the legislature and provide a voice for the people of this great State.

Sierra Club
Minnesota Farm Bureau
Minnesota Farmers Union PAC
Education Minnesota
MN Nurses Association
Clean Water Action
AFSCME Council 65
MPPOA - MN Police & Peace Officers  Association
Planned Parenthood
DFL Veterans Caucus
United Transportation Union
Care Providers of MN
Outfront Minnesota
MN Professional Firefighters
Project 515
Small Business Minnesota PAC
Take Action MN

Special Session passes Flood Relief Bill

By | Economy, Environment, Rice County, Transportation | No Comments

On September 22, 2010, heavy rain across a wide swath of Southern Minnesota caused widespread flooding and property damage across 32 counties.  Federal disaster assistance is expected to cover 75% of the losses, dependent on the damage estimates completed by officials from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, who were on site shortly after the disaster.

Residents and business leaders in the region have been quick to call for state assistance in getting this part of Minnesota on its feet again.  Most critical among the needs are road and bridge repair, school funding assistance to get displaced students back into class, and help for homeowners in need of shelter with winter fast approaching.

Also included in the legislation is language and funding to assist the North Central Minnesota community of Wadena, after a June 17, 2010 tornado caused extensive damage to a number of public facilities there, including the community center, school, and school district offices.

Officials from the House, Senate, Governor’s Office, and various state agencies have met over the course of the past week to craft a bill which provides some state assistance to help homeowners, business owners, and farmers recover, and assist communities and counties in repairing damaged infrastructure.

The bill includes $80.2 million in flood/tornado relief, and is targeted at specific agencies and areas, including public safety, transportation, natural resources, agriculture, employment and economic development, housing finance, education, and human services.  The money comes from the General Fund and some general obligation bonding dollars and trunk highway bonds.

Overall, the flood-relief sections of the bill contain $5 million from the Trunk Highway Fund, $32.5 million from the General Fund, $26 million from bond proceeds, and $10 million from the State Transportation Fund.  The $6.6 million in tornado relief comes in the form of $5.89 million from the General Fund and $750,000 from bond proceeds.

The Governor is expected to sign the bill later today.

Ag Forum

By | Economy, Environment, Le Sueur County | No Comments

This past Wednesday I was part of an Ag forum in New Prague to talk about Agriculture issues affecting District 25.  Independent candidate John Grimm and Republican candidate Al DeKruif were also present at the forum sponsored by LeSueur County Farm Bureau, Pork Producers, Corn and Soybean Producers, and the Dairy Industry.

I am proud of the work I have done for district 25 and greater Minnesota.  The Eminent Domain bill I authored in the Senate and eventually signed into law puts landowners and farmers on a much fairer playing field when dealing with the public utilities such as the CapX2020 project and the pipelines a few years ago.  It was a bipartisan effort that involved a lot of local citizens who have been directly affected by the Public Utility exemption in the past.

I was the chief author of the bonding bill that sent $5 million dollars to the Minnesota Prairie Line railroad, a short line rail that is vital to the ag industry on the western side of my district.

On a broader scale, I believe agriculture policies must be enacted to allow farmers to receive a fair price through open markets.  We need to create incentives and programs that encourage young people to become farmers.  It is critical to maintain Minnesota’s family farm system of agriculture.  Minnesota must be proactive in meeting the growing consumer demand for food that is family farm raised, locally grown, and identity preserved.  We need to promote farming that benefits the environment.  And finally, we need strong local communities that depend on strong local control.  We should protect rural democracy. Local governments must maintain the right to put in place and enforce local planning and zoning ordinances.