Mr. Dahle Goes to St. Paul


Archive for the ‘Sibley County’

Town Meetings

February 18, 2010 By: Kevin Dahle Category: Event, Kevin Dahle MN Senate District 25, Le Sueur County, Scott County, Sibley County No Comments →

I will be holding several town meetings this coming Saturday, February 20. I am interested in hearing your concerns about the budget, policy, or any other issues you may have. If you cannot make one of the town meetings this Saturday, I will be holding several others at locations around District 25 over the next month or so. I hope to see you there.

LeSueur Town Hall Meeting
10am LeSueur City Library
118 Ferry Street, LeSueur

Belle Plaine Town Hall Meeting
Noon Belle Plaine Public Library
125 West Main Street, Belle Plaine

Arlington Town Hall Meeting
3:30pm Arlington City Hall Chambers
204 Shamrock Drive, Arlington

As always, feel free to contact me at the Capitol. I can be reached at 651 296-1279 or [email protected]

Compromising on Justice

December 22, 2009 By: Kevin Dahle Category: Sibley County No Comments →

SibleyThe young man stood before the judge with his orange prison jump suit, looking uncomfortable in handcuffs and shackles. The prosecutor read off a list of 20 or so prior offenses including burglary, theft, assault, and an earlier escape. When bail was set at $20,000 cash the young man cried and pleaded with the judge and anyone else who would listen, obviously distressed at the prospect of spending Christmas in jail. The public defenders in that case, overworked and underpaid, spent the day with other defendants, facing a variety of issues including child custody, child support, and drug use. Juveniles faced restitution, treatment, probation, and community service.
Yesterday I spent the day at the Sibley County Court House. Less noticeable was the scrambling by the hard working Court Administrator and her staff, down several workers, due to last year’s budget cuts. Minnesota and the courts face another budget cutting year. The November 2009 State Budget forecast, released December 2, projects a further deterioration of general fund budget conditions despite the budget reductions made to the enacted budget for FY 2010-11, the governor’s unallotments, and other actions following session. Since the February 2008 state budget forecast – the last forecast to precede the change in budget trend lines due to the recession that began in December 2007 - revenue projections for FY 2010-11 have fallen $5.0 billion from $35.0 billion to $30.0 billion; spending has declined from $36.1 billion to $31.3 billion. The projected shortfall for FY 2010-11 is now $1.2 billion.
I worry about our ability as a state to provide a judicial system that meets our needs as a society. While criminal matters will eventually get processed, the courts will be left with fewer resources for rehabilitation, juvenile supervision, probation, social workers, and public defenders able to properly give time and attention to those who need representation. Civil matters will be pushed aside. If you plan on getting a divorce, you should plan to live with your future ex for years to come. Personal injury, probate, housing, and domestic relations cases become less of a priority.
I was impressed with the reforms already in place in this rural county courthouse, but like other counties across Minnesota, our justice system is at a tipping point. Do we really want to handcuff our court system with further cuts? The courts are pleading. Is anyone listening?

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

Arlington, Green Isle, and the Big Red Barn

May 06, 2009 By: Kevin Dahle Category: Economy, Education, Event, Sibley County No Comments →

green-isleThis past weekend I stopped by Green Isle and Arlington for a couple of town meetings. There was a lot of good discussion on a variety of issues, most centering on the Minnesota’s budget deficit. Questions about how to balance the budget, specific bills regarding revenue and cuts, and queries about the federal stimulus dollars dotted the discussion. Many constituents expressed concerns about our local and state business climate and how we attract and maintain jobs to keep our economy moving. Others worried about labor and worker protections as a vital component of a strong middle class. Some folks expressed specific concerns about health care, our veterans, our roads and rails, and our schools. I appreciated the spirited tone of the meetings. Even though many topics brought out passionate discussion and even disagreement on causes or solutions, those in attendance expressed their views in a thoughtful and respectful manner. I look forward to returning to that part of District 25. They definitely pay attention to their local and state politics.

This morning I was invited to read a story to the Northfield Three Rivers Head Start class. I enjoyed reading the “Big Red Barn” to about 20 three to five year old youngsters. I was very impressed with the students and I was equally impressed with the staff. It is a great learning environment with a lot of interaction and energy. I know the importance of investing in our early childhood programs. Every dollar invested in early childhood education pays such big dividends down the road. Teaching basic skills early and connecting kids to learning is a proven recipe for success in elementary-secondary education and beyond. I look forward to my next visit to this school and others like it. There are a lot of neat things happening in our pre-school programs.

Of Interest

April 30, 2009 By: Kevin Dahle Category: Economy, Le Sueur County, Rice County, Scott County, Sibley County No Comments →

A recent editorial criticized the House and Senate DFLers for raising taxes. What the editorial failed to mention is the fact that both the House and Senate cut spending more than the Governor. The editorial goes on to criticize a House plan that “eliminates deductions on…most astonishing – mortgage interest.” It’s unfortunate that the editorial board failed to do some homework on this House provision. A closer look reveals the truth about the mortgage interest deduction proposal.

First of all, the bill does NOT impact the federal mortgage interest deduction, which represents most of the tax benefit for homeowners. It only impacts the much smaller state portion, and in a positive way for most. The House tax bill converts the mortgage interest deduction into a credit so that all taxpayers qualify for an equal percentage tax benefit.

Consider the following scenarios:

A married couple, $40,000 of income, $75,000 home, and working hard to pay about $6000 in mortgage interest. They don’t have enough other deductions; therefore, they don’t itemize. Their current state tax benefit is $0. Under the House proposal they will get a credit of $140.

A married couple, two kids, $100,000 of income, $200,000 home – relatively modest for their income, paying about $13,000 a year in mortgage interest. Their current state tax benefit equals about $400. Under this proposal, they’ll get a credit of $420 or $20 more.

Married couple, two kids, $100,000 of income, paying about $25,000 in mortgage interest. Their current law gives them a state tax benefit of $1,180. Their home is worth twice as much as the first example but their state tax benefit is three times as big! Under this proposal, they’ll get the same $420 credit as the married couple in the $200,000 home. Under current law, the bigger the home, the higher the income, the bigger the benefit – the House proposal reforms this impact.

Married couple two kids, $500,000 of income, million-dollar home, paying mortgage interest of $60,000. Under current law they receive tax benefits of $1,750. Under the House proposal, they would receive $420.

The bill creates a credit that provides the same benefit for everyone, up to $10,000 of interest. The Senate tax bill does not include this proposal. They do have a provision that would eliminate the mortgage interest deduction on a second home. Fifteen states do not have a mortgage interest deduction at all. The House proposal is similar to what is currently in place in Wisconsin.

I am not sure what the final tax bill’s provisions regarding mortgage interest will look like when it arrives on the Governor’s desk. Given the enormous budget deficit facing the state, subsidizing $1 million mortgages is no longer affordable. I would hope the correct information regarding the House and Senate budget plans are reported accurately so proper discussion can ensue.

Careful Consideration

March 14, 2009 By: Kevin Dahle Category: Economy, Le Sueur County, Rice County, Scott County, Sibley County 1 Comment →

state On Thursday, the Minnesota Senate set targets to resolve the budget deficit. Last week we received the final budget forecast which gives us the most accurate picture of the kind of revenue Minnesota can expect over the next several years. It may not come as a surprise to know that the news is not pretty. We are in one of the worst economic downturns in recent memory.
I would like to respond to my constituents who have criticized the legislature for not presenting its own budget in a timely manner. Every Senator and every Representative has been working on this issue from the start. There is a complex array of factors involved when making budget decisions that affect so many Minnesotans. Difficult and gut wrenching cuts will be made that affect our elderly, the disabled, our children, and the poor. Budgets impacting cities and towns, police and fire protection, libraries and homeless shelters are being considered. Farmers, veterans, small and large business owners, nurses, and college students will be affected. Each cut comes with tentacles that reach deep into other programs. We, as legislators, are not only listening to what the public has to say, but also striving to understand the consequences of each cut. Given the choice between a hastily assembled budget for expediency sake and one that represents deep consideration to those affected, I believe my constituents would prefer the latter.
Some have criticized our desire to take time and listen to Minnesotans as a meaningless excursion. I attended one of these sessions in Burnsville where nearly 300 citizens attended (6500 persons attended similar sessions statewide) to weigh in on the budget process, sharing their hopes and fears, concerns, and advice. The old, the young, the strong and the frail, and some of our most vulnerable citizens welcomed the opportunity to say a few words to members of the legislature. We listened. In a representative democracy, if we cease to listen, we cease to represent. That experience, more than anything, gave meaning to the tough decisions that stand before us.
The Senate DFL plan balances the budget and addresses the long-term budget problems. It does not raid the Health Care Access Fund that providers pay into to help those who have difficulty paying their medical bills. Seven percent across-the-board cuts ensure that no one group unfairly shoulders the entire burden. Our difficult choices will save owners from increased property taxes, which have skyrocketed to almost 70% from 2002-2008, mainly because of cuts in Local Government Aid.
I have never criticized the Governor’s budget. There may be much I do not agree with, but I realize that we will need to recognize the same factors that went behind his decisions as we hope he does ours. These difficult economic times call for compromise and cooperation and the opportunity for all citizens to have a say in the process every step of the way. In two months the legislature will adjourn. We welcome input from Minnesotans on proposed solutions. As we have done so successfully in the past…let’s figure this out together.


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.

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.

Town Meetings

February 02, 2009 By: Kevin Dahle Category: Event, Kevin Dahle MN Senate District 25, Le Sueur County, Rice County, Scott County, Sibley County No Comments →

city-hallI will be conducting town meeting in several neighboring communities over the next few weeks. Feel free to bring your concerns and questions to any of the sites listed. I will be scheduling additional town meetings in Northfield, Arlington, Green Isle, and other communities in March. As we discuss possible budget solutions it is important to gather citizen and constituent input as we move forward this session. Of course you are always free to contact me by mail, email, or by phone. Check out the contact information listed on this site. I can also schedule a visit in my office or in your community as my schedule permits. I look forward to hearing from you.
Feb. 7 - Waterville – Eggs and Issues Breakfast (Educators only) 10am
Feb. 7 – Elysian – Elysian Tourism Center 1-2pm
Feb. 7 – Cleveland – City Hall 2:30-3:30pm
Feb. 7 – LeCenter – City Hall 4-5pm
Feb. 14 – LeSueur – LeSueur Public Library 10-11am
Feb. 14 – Belle Plaine – City Hall 11:30am -12:30pm
Feb. 14 – New Prague – City Hall 1-2pm
Feb. 14 – Montgomery – City Hall 2:30-3:30pm

Election Integrity

November 20, 2008 By: Kevin Dahle Category: Kevin Dahle MN Senate District 25, Le Sueur County, Rice County, Sibley County 7 Comments →

In light of the Franken and Coleman voter recount, many have called for a more stringent voter registration process, including requiring photo IDs to vote and eliminating same day voter registration. I believe the current system supports election integrity and ensures our citizens every opportunity to fully participate in our democracy.

Minnesota has had a long tradition of clean elections with very few instances of voter fraud. The requirement of photo identification could possibly disenfranchise hundreds of thousands of legally-registered voters in this state. The Secretary of State’s Office currently estimates that there are 135,000 senior citizens in the state that don’t have a state driver’s license or a Minnesota ID card. In addition, such a change could also have a negative impact on the voting rights of students and minorities.

The requirement to limit the time an individual has for registration could have an alarming effect on voter participation. Currently, Minnesota allows registration on Election Day if an individual can provide specific legal documentation of their residence in their precinct, or they may have an already qualified registered voter vouch for their residence. People who register on Election Day do so for a varying number of reasons, including recently moving to a new residence. I do not believe that anyone should be disenfranchised from their legal right to vote simply because of moving or economic hardship. Citizens should all be allowed to vote as long as they meet the state’s legal requirement to do so.

Under current Minnesota law any individual who commits voter fraud, such as voting more than once, misrepresenting their identity in applying for a ballot, or aiding someone who is not eligible to vote, is guilty of a felony. This represents a strong deterrent to individuals who attempt to subvert the election process.

In 2006, five non citizens were found to have voted in Minnesota. They were removed from the rolls, their votes were stricken, and three were referred to the county prosecutor’s office for prosecution. In the entire United States, the Department of Justice charged 89 individuals with voter fraud between October 2002 and August 2005. During that same time period, 196,139,871 voters cast a ballot. This amounts to a minuscule voter fraud percentage.

The laws are in place and being followed and enforced. The good news is that our election judges and others do a great deal of work to ensure there is no fraud and that every vote counts.

As a life-long Civics teacher, I have always supported initiatives to maintain verification of registration applications and integrity in the voting process. Minnesota has a long history of strong voter participation and a longer history of honest and clean elections. After this recount, I trust Minnesota’s reputation in that regard will remain untarnished.