Mr. Dahle Goes to St. Paul


Kevin Dahle, Minnesota Senate District 25

Lessons from Birmingham & Atlanta

April 15, 2008 By: Kevin Dahle Category: Kevin Dahle MN Senate District 25

Freedom can’t wait…a message Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered to the local clergy in his letter from a Birmingham Jail.  I just returned from Atlanta, Georgia and Birmingham, Alabama this past weekend on a civil rights field trip with 31 other teachers from Northfield, Minnesota.  Birmingham could be considered a civil rights museum with some important historic artifacts:  the 16th Street Baptist Church, Kelly Ingram Park, the Civil Rights Institute, Sloss Furnaces, and the buildings and infrastructure that provided background for a city ignited in 1963. The events of Birmingham that year paved the way for a long slow process of integration in a segregated south.

Freedom didn’t wait for the thousands of black workers who worked at the Sloss Furnaces, an iron works factory which provided the economic stimulus for a young Birmingham in the late 19th century.  Nearby iron ore, railroad lines, and cheap labor, made up of the predominantly black population, defined the color line of status and economics for Birmingham for over 100 years.

Freedom can’t wait.  Carolyn McKinstry still shares her lessons of freedom to anyone who will listen.  Only weeks from participating in the Children’s march, Carolyn was in the 16th Baptist Church the day that church was bombed.  Just before the explosion, Carolyn answered the phone in the church office hearing the words, “three minutes” before a bomb ripped through the basement of the church killing four young girls, classmates of Carolyn.  Ms. McKinstry, speaking before our group in the sanctuary, provided a powerful testimony to the spirit and determination of the thousands of blacks who took on the city of Birmingham and its Jim Crow laws.  Police dogs, fire hoses, beatings, jail, or a bomb would not deter people like Carolyn, who continues to inspire and teach the lessons of freedom.

Birmingham owns up to its past.  The Civil Rights Institute, across the street from the church, is an excellent tribute to the movement.  It provides dramatic context to the events and people that focused worldwide attention on “Bombingham” in the spring of 1963.

Freedom can’t wait, a message delivered by Lonnie King on the campus outside Spellman, Morehouse, and Clark Colleges in Atlanta.  Lonnie King retold his story of organizing nearly 4000 college students for a march on the State Capitol in Atlanta, nearly 45 years ago.  His story echoed many stories we heard over the weekend.  Convincing blacks that “freedom can’t wait” was a constant battle.  Even Lonnie’s mother refused to identify the young man on TV as her own son, for fear of being fired by her white employer.

Freedom was not for those who waited in the “colored only” line at the beautiful Fox Theater in downtown Atlanta.  A few blocks away, freedom did not wait for the black neighborhood on Auburn Street.  The roots of change provided strong inspiration to a young Martin Luther King, Jr. who was born on Auburn Street, three blocks from Daddy King’s Ebeneezer Baptist Church.  Preachers and successful black businessmen in the area provided a supportive environment for the young King.  The Martin Luther King, Jr. Visitors center across the street from Martin and Coretta’s gravesite allowed us time for additional reflection on the short life of a true American hero.

Are we done waiting?  Can the lessons of Birmingham, Atlanta, and the civil rights movement be carried forward?  Yes…as long as there is hate in this country and around the world.  Yes…as long as there is a need for status, there will be attempts to keep others down.  Yes…as long as there is discrimination, racism, and social injustice, there is more to do.  Yesterday’s color line gives way to issues surrounding immigration, sexual preference, gender, religious intolerance, and racial profiling.  The face of hate may not be as vivid as a police dog attacking a young black student in Kelly Ingram Park.  The face of hate may not look like Birmingham Police Commissioner Bull Connor, Georgia Governor George Wallace, or the Ku Klux Klan.  The face of hate may be harder to see, which is why we all need to work harder to recognize and eliminate it….in ourselves and in others.   As educators or policy makers, we have a wonderful opportunity to teach the lessons of freedom.  Lonnie King told the story of the time he tried to persuade a reluctant MLK to march with him in Atlanta.  “You can’t lead from the back,” he told him.  Martin agreed. Martin marched and ended up in jail once again, like so many others before .  Freedom can’t wait.  Freedom then.  Freedom now.

Civil Rights Field Trip

April 07, 2008 By: Kevin Dahle Category: Kevin Dahle MN Senate District 25

Forty five years ago last week, the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and his non-violence movement found Birmingham, Alabama.   Police Commissioner Bull Connor and the white establishment resisted the freedom marchers’ attempts to integrate with police dogs, fire hoses, beatings, and jail time.  Martin Luther King wrote his famous “letter from Birmingham jail” in the margins of a newspaper smuggled into his solitary cell.  Forty years ago last week, the Rev. King was assassinated in Memphis.

This weekend I will visit Atlanta and Birmingham on a civil rights field trip.  This has been a trip that I have looked forward to for many years.  I became especially interested in this part of American History within the last 15 years or so, as I have learned more and more about the movement through books I have read and the lessons I have taught in my Civics classes over the years.   It is still unbelievable to me that this  social injustice, this assault on the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, this level of violence and hatred…happened in my life time.  Growing up in Iowa in the 1960’s did not did not expose me to these shortcomings, a decade in which America lost its innocence as it came to grips with its past.

The Field trip is being sponsored through the American History Grant which has benefited  K-12 educators in the Northfield School district and beyond for the past 3 years.  There will be about 30 of us visiting several sites in the “deep south,” the birthplace of King and the birthplace of a movement.  I look forward to sharing my experience.

General Orders

April 01, 2008 By: Kevin Dahle Category: Kevin Dahle MN Senate District 25

Today we processed bills.  Many bills.  We took up 91 bills from Senate General Orders today, between 10am and 5pm, without a break.  The general orders are really the second reading of the bills.  Debate occurs, amendments are added, but generally most of these bills will move along after a voice vote.  In a couple of days, these bills will show up for a final reading and we will cast our electronic vote.  What kind of bills are being passed?  If there were 91 bills there were 91 topics.   Here is a sampling:

  • a bill providing farm implements to comply with bridge maximum allowable weights
  • a bill providing minimum statewide standards for local ordinances on long term disability parking
  • a bill upadating the State Veteran’s Cemetary statutes
  • a bill allowing dogs at outdoor restaurants
  • a bill eliminating the Dept. of Employee Relations (duties to be tranferred to the Commissioner of Finance and Adminstration)
  • a bill prohibiting health care providers from directly contacting individuals injured in an auto accident in order to convince the person to receive treatment
  • legislation requiring insurers to provide written notification to customers that their homeowners insurance policy does not cover flood damage
  • a bill that allows for the Dan Patch commuter rail line be included in future planning and discussion at the Metropolitan Council, MnDot, and regional and county rail authorities

These last 2 bills were bills I had authored and while they both passed, the Dan Patch line bill did have some extended discussion on the Senate floor.  A couple of Senators from the northern end of the Dan Patch line are still opposed to any further study or discussion of this line.  There are cities who oppose a commuter rail line in their backyard and would not like to see this particular option revived.  As I mentioned in the “debate,” this bill allows those entities mentioned to professionally prepare long-range transit plans that would identify ALL potential future transitways and not exclude one based solely by legislative decree.

  A lot of discussion took place on a variety of topics as we processed the bills that found their way to the Senate floor today.  Another important vote will occur on these general orders before we send them to the Governor for his approval or veto. 

Tomorrow we will take up a couple of bills: the tax bill and the bonding bill.  We may spend as much time in the Senate chamber tomorrow as we did today.

Business Week

March 27, 2008 By: Kevin Dahle Category: Kevin Dahle MN Senate District 25

For those of you who read Business Week, and those who do not, I was quoted in the Commerce Committee a few weeks ago regarding the Wireless Protection Act.  Check out the article at the link provided:

Business Week

My First Bill

March 19, 2008 By: Kevin Dahle Category: Kevin Dahle MN Senate District 25

Today was a milestone of sorts.  I actually passed a bill out of the Senate today. The bill has moved through the committees and the house and barring unforeseen consequences, the governor will eventually sign the bill into law.  So what kind of bill did I pass today?   Universal health care coverage?  Increased school funding?  Economic stimulus?  An end to poverty as we know it?  Not exactly.  The bill reads as follows:

Bill Name: SF2755

1E Requiring the commissioner of public safety to grant a variance to move the
office of deputy register of motor vehicles in New Prague.

That’s it.  Nothing fancy.  Nothing complicated.  The bill was necessary because the Deputy Register of Motor Vehicles in New Prague is moving their office across the street.  Main street New Prague is also the county line between Scott County and LeSeur County.  Since the register moved from one county to the next (across the street), a change in statute was required.  Nothing glamorous, but typical of the many types of bills the legislators must deal with each and every session.

The other senators, noting it was my first bill up for a vote, quietly recorded their votes unanimously……on the red side (no votes!)……..then waiting for my surprised reaction, they all had a good laugh before  recording 65 green votes (and zero no votes) before the roll call ended.  Apparently the freshman senator had been officially initiated into the Senate.

I will always remember my first bill.   Other bills will follow.  I have authored or carried bills relating to energy conservation, the Dan Patch line, assessments regarding alternative learning centers,  eminent domain, flood insurance, and others  in my 5 weeks since taking office.   There is still time to tackle those other bills regarding health insurance, long term care, poverty, education funding, consumer protection, the economy, school readiness……..

Dan Patch

March 15, 2008 By: Kevin Dahle Category: Kevin Dahle MN Senate District 25

To give you an idea as to how fast things are moving at the Capitol this past week, I moved a bill through committee this past Thursday without even being there.  It was one of those days where I typically have a day full of committees, but we fell further behind with some extended debate on the Senate floor.  We knew there would be some serious discussion about compensation for the 35W bridge victims and survivors, but a few other seemingly simple bills stalled on the floor in extended discussion as well.  All of this compacted the committee schedules that afternoon.   I had instructed my legislative assistant to let me know when my Senate version of the Dan Patch RR bill came up in the transportation committee so I could step out of my Commerce committee to make my arguments.  We weren’t sure we would be up in an hour or later that evening.  We had good testifiers ready to go on the bill.  The mayor of Savage was ready to testify as was Northfield resident Kevin Allin, a commuter with a long time  interest in the Dan Patch commuter line, along with Judd Schetnan representing the Metropolitan Council.  Lucy Morgan, my LA, steps into my committee meeting and says the Dan Patch bill is up now!  I quickly excused myself from Room 123 of the Capitol and headed down a floor to Room 15 where the Transportation committee was meeting.  When I stepped into the room I could see they were heading into recess until 6pm.  Minutes before, the committee chair calling my name, noting my absence and the non-controversial nature of the bill, called on Senator Ann Rest to quickly present the bill.  She did.  No questions were asked, and the bill passed out of committee in about 2 minutes.

I thanked Senator Rest.  I thanked my testifiers for driving up to the Capitol that day.   While we didn’t get a chance to speak to the bill, we achieved our goal for now.  We will continue to make sure we repeal the “gag order” to study a commuter rail from Northfield to Minneapolis.  If this bill is eventually signed into law, we will once again see discussion and planning for transportation options, other than Hwy 52 or I35,  south of the metro area.  We are all optimistic about this first step.  While the actual Dan Patch line may be 20 or 30 years from reality, on this day we were able to fire up the engine and yell, “All aboard!”


March 11, 2008 By: Kevin Dahle Category: Kevin Dahle MN Senate District 25

I will be on Almanac at the Capitol live at 7pm this Wednesday March 12 on Minnesota Public Television.

Click on the video embed at this site!

Committees Put in Long Hours

March 09, 2008 By: Kevin Dahle Category: Kevin Dahle MN Senate District 25

The Commerce and Consumer Protection Committee, which I serve on, has been putting in some extra hours this past week. We regularly meet on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons….but this past week we added some additional meetings on Tuesday evening and Friday morning. We will be meeting Monday morning and Tuesday evening again this week. Many of the committees have fallen behind because of the extra time put into the Senate floor sessions in February and early March. Prolonged debate on the Outdoor Legacy Act, the Transportation bill, the non-confirmation of Transportation Commissioner Carol Molnau, and most recently, some extended discussion about the bonding and tax bills have put many committees behind schedule. Even the committee chairs have said this is not your typical session.

The Commerce and Consumer Protection committee has been dealing with some controversial issues recently. The Wireless Protection Act needed several days of testimony from cell phone consumers and Wireless providers before it eventually passed out of committee. This week we are working on a mortgage foreclosure deferment bill which is encountering stiff resistance from the banking industry. An interesting tug of war between trial lawyers and insurance companies took place last week as the committee listened to testimony from a variety of interests as the “bad faith” bill was forwarded to the Judiciary committee without recommendation. This bill offers some recourse for consumers who have difficulty seeing eye to eye with insurance companies about claims following catastrophes such as hail storms. It will be interesting to see what the final version of this bill might look like should it make the floor of the Senate.

The Education Finance committee still meets 3 days a week, but our early testimony was devoted to bonding initiatives that may or may not have ended up as part of the bonding bill passed by the Senate last week. This committee really gears up during the odd numbered education funding years.

The Energy, Communication, Utilities, and Communications committee (my 3rd committee) has heard some interesting proposals as well. I presented a bill there last week which will allow the strategic planting of trees as a direct expenditure for utility companies wanting to use funds for the Conservation Improvement Program. That bill will go to the floor probably next week.

I have enjoyed bringing bills before the various committees. In addition to the Tree Planting bill, I carried the Senate version of a bill sponsored by David Bly that would allow a pilot program for Alternative Learning Centers to evaluate average yearly progress (AYP) using other criteria besides federally and state mandated tests. I will also be presenting bills related to notifications regarding flood insurance and a bill allowing continued discussion of the Dan Patch RR line just to name a few.

The committees are working hard to hear as many bills as possible before the first deadline. This means additional hours for most legislators. I am enjoying the work and every day I look forward to the breadth and diversity of issues that come before the often overlooked committees where most of the real work of the legislature takes place.

Tax Authority

March 02, 2008 By: Kevin Dahle Category: Kevin Dahle MN Senate District 25

A recent Letter to the Editor in the Northfield News claimed that Kevin Dahle promised to “vote yes for every tax.”  The writer claimed I made that comment during my Senate campaign at the public forum held at the Grand this past December.  Let me provide the real context of my public statements that night.

The discussion centered around education.  If a school board has come to the very difficult decision to turn to the voters to continue to provide a quality education to its citizens through a levy referendum, each of us must decide the costs and benefits of such a request.  While the federal and state governments continue to shortchange our schools, as a teacher and a father of three young children, I will never compromise my children’s  future.  If a levy is needed to ensure my children receive a quality education, I will vote yes every time.

I will continue to work to improve the education funding formula so school districts will not have to turn to its citizens every three or four years for adequate school funding.  Property taxes are stretched to the limit and the state must keep its Constitutional obligation to properly fund our schools.  An investment in our children and the future of Minnesota should never be compromised.


February 26, 2008 By: Kevin Dahle Category: Kevin Dahle MN Senate District 25

Yesterday the Minnesota House and Senate voted to override the governor’s veto of the transportation bill. Over two-thirds of the House and Senate agreed to pass this piece of legislation to invest in our roads, bridges, transit, and highways. This was Pawlenty’s first override in

I received a number of phone calls and emails from constituents across the district…calls for support and calls in opposition. There was a lot of passion from the many persons who weighed in on this bill. These comments reflected a philosophical difference about how the State should invest in its infrastructure. I believe the transportation bill will create jobs, provide needed resources to townships, cities, and counties requiring less reliance on property taxes for needed highway, road, and bridge repairs. Our roads will be safer as a result of this legislation,.

Over 100 organization from the Chamber of Commerce, AFL-CIO, farm groups, and others supported this legislation. This was the right time to pass the transportation bill. Fixing our roads and bridges will not get any less expensive five or 10 years from now. The average Minnesotan who drives 15,000 miles a year will be paying less than $50 a year for the additional tax while the state will reap the benefits of that investment for years to come.

Two weeks into this legislative session and I have seen the passage of the Outdoor Legacy Act and a transportation bill. The pace is dizzying, with purpose, and very challenging.