Mr. Dahle Goes to St. Paul


Archive for the ‘Transportation’

Snowy Middle Ground

November 15, 2009 By: Kevin Dahle Category: Environment, Le Sueur County, Scott County, Sibley County, Transportation No Comments →

snowThe US Fish and Wildlife Service has been purchasing land in the Minnesota River Valley with the intent to provide additional acreage to the National Wildlife Refuge already in place there. That is an admirable and worthwhile goal. Unfortunately, they have decided to ban snowmobile use on newly acquired lands, specifically on trails that have been in existence there since the 1970s. These trails have successfully co-existed with those uses outlined in the Fish and Wildlife Service’s guidelines since the trail’s inception. Snowmobiling groups and I have been working with our representatives in Congress as well as those at the Fish and Wildlife Services in hopes of finding a solution to the problem before the first snowfall. Even a waiver for conditional use of the established Grant-in-Aid snowmobile trail this winter season seems to be a reasonable compromise.
There is much at stake. The city of Henderson depends on the patronage of snowmobile traffic to help them through the winter months. Other cities will also be impacted by dwindling patronage if this vital link in the trail system is unavailable. In addition, local fire and rescue utilize the established trails to access the river bottom lands. Reduction in this accessibility affects their plans in the event of emergency situations. Snowmobiling is a favorite winter pastime for thousands of Minnesotans. Snowmobiling also helps provide a large number of recreation opportunities for other trail users since the majority of snowmobile trails in Minnesota are open for multiple uses and help provide important winter access, services, and trailheads. Rerouting of the existing trail, in this case a steep ditch, poses many safety issues including the crossing of county roads, many without shoulders.
Snowmobiling provides opportunities for families and friends to enjoy wintertime companionship while experiencing splendid scenery like no other season offers. These opportunities combine to help teach respect and conservation of the environment, while instilling a strong appreciation for private and public lands.

“This country will not be a permanently good place for any of us to live unless we make it a reasonably good place for all of us to live.” – Theodore Roosevelt, 1912

Bonding Committee Visit

September 18, 2009 By: Kevin Dahle Category: Economy, Rice County, Transportation No Comments →

I’d like to extend a note of thanks to the people and local officials in our area who extended their hospitality to members of the Minnesota Senate Capitol Investment Committee, who recently came to Northfield as part of a regional tour to consider plans for improvements and new construction at a number of sites.

The Senate group gathered in Northfield for a presentation by Minnesota Department of Transportation officials detailing that agency’s statewide proposals. I had an opportunity to speak to the group about our $520,000 bonding proposal to help finance a new transit station and Park & Ride. The proposed facility provides several amenities in one location. With the proposed Laurel Court site, it would provide easy access to Minnesota Highways 19 & 3. The location also provides connections to Mill Towns Trail, bike paths, and sidewalks providing interconnectivity throughout the City of Northfield. In addition, it would provide a convenient future connection for commuters to and from the Twin Cities and Rochester areas.

I know that the senators who visited our area appreciated the warm welcome they were given, as well as a good first-hand look at our proposals.

Primary Seat Belt Law

June 10, 2009 By: Kevin Dahle Category: Education, Transportation No Comments →

seat-beltThis week the primary seat belt law goes into effect. While I supported the bill, I have taken a circuitous road to get there.
I’ve been teaching driver education since 1982. At that time, seat belt use was minimal, at best. For example, when I asked my very first class of 35 students, “How many of you regularly use seat belts?” One or two students raised their hand. I asked the same question of my current class of 50 driver education students and all 50 raised their hands. That’s quite a change.
So how did we get to this level of compliance? Seat belt use was not required 30 years ago. It was a good idea, but not widely practiced. Parents were poor role models for their children at the time and most children were not “securely fastened” in the car. When I was an infant, I was toted around in the back seat swaddled in an egg crate box. The box had a lid with a clown painted on it with cutout eyes, bow tie, and buttons, providing ventilation. When I graduated from the egg box as a toddler, I was allowed to stand up in the front seat, while mom or dad’s well placed arm kept me from hurtling toward the metal dash or windshield. Sunning myself in the rear window dash was fun and exciting…and in hindsight, a really dumb idea.
But things have changed for the better. My four year old will be the first to remind me to buckle up if I fail to click it by the end of the driveway. Around 700,000 Minnesotans don’t buckle up. This group accounts for the 200 unbelted traffic deaths that occur on Minnesota roads each year — representing 55 percent of all traffic deaths. Another 430 unbelted crash victims suffer serious, life-altering injuries annually.
Statistics show that states with primary seat belt laws see a 10% increase in seat belt use after passage. That would bring Minnesota’s seat belt use to about 95 percent, according to the Minnesota Department of Public Safety, more importantly; an additional 40 lives saved each year. During 2004¬–2005, all government payer sources, including Medicaid, were charged $83 million for unbelted motorists’ hospital charges. Unbelted motorist injury charges were 78 percent greater for Medicaid than belted motorists (MN Dept. of Public Safety).
To tell you the truth, I don’t particularly enjoy wearing a seat belt. But I have come quite a ways over the years…in the car, in the classroom, and on the road. And if the Primary seat belt law convinces me while encouraging our neighbors, our students, and our children to buckle up, we can all live with that.

What Next?

April 26, 2009 By: Kevin Dahle Category: Economy, Education, Health Care, Transportation 2 Comments →

senate-chambersSo what’s next? The House and Senate budget solutions include increased revenue and deep cuts, deeper than what the Governor has proposed. All three budgets rely on one time Federal funds, a revenue stream, by the way, that will be absent in future budget solutions. Without increased revenue, how much deeper do we have to cut essential services to Minnesota citizens?
The Minnesota Senate proposal makes cuts that are distributed fairly across all budget areas of the State. We cannot expect our seniors, disabled citizens, nursing homes and local hospitals to endure deeper cuts. We cannot expect the burden to fall unduly on our State and local governments, have police and fire services cut to the bone while property taxes spike to make up the difference. Our schools need more money not less money. Our judiciary is in danger of being unable to provide proper legal services, accessibility, and timely resolution to necessary civil and criminal matters. Our roads and bridges continue to crumble, and higher education becomes less affordable to the next generation of Minnesotans. After cutting a billion dollars last year, how much more can we cut this biennium?
It makes sense to include revenue increases as part of the budget deficit solution. Resolving the deficit with cuts only would do greater harm to our economy. While both cuts and tax increases remove demand from the economy, state spending cuts can hamper the economy more during an economic downturn than do tax increases. When government spending is cut, more money is taken out of the economy as the state spends less on employee wages and the purchase of goods and services. In contrast, a tax increase on high-income households is likely to have less of a drag on the state’s economy, because those Minnesotans are likely to maintain their levels of consumption, but compensate for the tax increase by saving less (Minnesota Budget Project 2009).
Total state and local taxes in Minnesota are lower today than in 1996, measured as a share of income, which is not surprising considering that Minnesota made the largest tax cuts in the country in 1997, 1999, and 2001 (National Conference of State Legislatures).
With one of the worst budget deficits in my lifetime, we will need to use all of the tools in the budget balancing toolbox: raising revenue, cutting spending, and the use of one time federal dollars. Short term solutions are irresponsible. These same problems will reappear in future budget years unless a balanced budget without gimmicks, shifts, and borrowing is addressed now. We can’t cut our way out of this budget. Minnesota’s quality of life as we know it will cease to exist.


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.

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.

Re-elect David Bly

October 29, 2008 By: Kevin Dahle Category: Kevin Dahle MN Senate District 25, Rice County, Scott County, Transportation No Comments →

Last January, I was elected to the Minnesota Legislature after a one month campaign and special election. Needless to say, I hit the “ground” running and had a short time to learn a long list of processes and procedures. Representative David Bly was an invaluable resource more than willing to show me the ins and outs of the legislative maze. He provided advice for me throughout the session and asked me to introduce several bills on the Senate side of the legislature. I know full well that he was eager to assist me, not simply because we share the same party, but because first and foremost, we represent many of the same constituents.
I am extremely proud of the work accomplished this past session. In a year of budget cuts we were able to pass an important transportation bill, increase education funding, address health care reform, and work for cleaner air and water. David is a tireless, passionate worker who continues to tackle the issues important to the people of district 25B. He makes himself available to anyone and considers all viewpoints when working on issues. In an age of negative campaigning, I have never heard him utter a disparaging remark about any person regardless of their views. His record shows that he is truly a bipartisan representative for our district.
Too often, politicians work to get elected and then strive only to retain their seat. They forget the people who voted them into office. David’s middle class values push him to work diligently to fix the social, economic, and environmental issues that Minnesotans face. Having worked alongside David Bly on many of those same issues, I have come to know that a lot can and has been achieved in the past two years, but there is still a great deal more to do. Another term will allow Representative Bly to continue to build on the good work already done and to find more long-range solutions to current problems. I am thrilled to support my Representative, my friend, for re-election. He has earned another term.

Mill Towns Trail

September 11, 2008 By: Kevin Dahle Category: Economy, Environment, Rice County, Transportation 1 Comment →

The Friends of the Mill Towns Trail are excited about projects that may come to fruition by this time next year. I attended a meeting last night in Dundas with some of the Trails faithful describing what’s next for the trail.

There are 3 projects on the horizon. A bridge will be erected across the Cannon River in Northfield near Walgreen’s connecting to an underpass of Hwy 3. Some additional trail will be built west of Cannon Falls and another bridge will be built in Faribault which will include underpass access for both Hwys. 21 and Hwy 3 north of town. This is exciting stuff for trail enthusiasts. They have worked tirelessly to raise money to complete a trail providing the missing link between Mankato and Red Wing.

Money has come from several sources. The Northfield Bike tour this past weekend, as part of the Defeat of Jesse James Day celebration, netted nearly $16,000, two thirds of which will go to the Mill Towns trail.   Over 1300 riders took part.  Hats off to the Northfield Rotary club for organizing the event and for their generous donations over the years to the trail group. Local initiatives and cooperation are very effective in leveraging federal dollars and grant money. The trail received a federal grant several years ago. State money from the capital bonding bill brought in about $650,000 from the last session. And the DNR, an advocate for completion of the trail, has recently come through with lottery money for the trail.

There is still much to be done. Accessing right of ways, purchasing abandoned rail, completing trail heads and facilities, and maintaining existing trail is costly and involves long term commitment. The economic and recreational benefits for towns like Dundas and Northfield are worth the effort. We should all get behind these types of partnerships.

For more info about the trail: