Mr. Dahle Goes to St. Paul


Endorsed in District 25

March 21, 2010 By: Kevin Dahle Category: Event, Kevin Dahle MN Senate District 25

This past Saturday, I received the endorsement of the DFL party at the Senate District 25 endorsing convention in Montgomery. Representative David Bly received the endorsement for House District 25B and the Mick McGuire, Mayor of Montgomery, received the House District 25A endorsement. There were no challengers to the three endorsed candidates. An excerpt from my acceptance speech:

While I reaffirm my commitment to the party, I also want to pledge to continue to do my best to represent all Minnesotans… Republicans and Democrats, Independents, and others. When we stop working together, our legislature becomes a haven for special interests and personal agendas.

I believe together we can meet the challenges and maximize the opportunities that lay before us. What will break the people of District 25 is not adversity – we’ve been here before. What will break our spirit is thinking that tomorrow is going to be just like yesterday. If we think that government cannot change that which is broken, we lose interest, we lose faith, we lose the people…but worst of all, we lose the future.

Alternative Teacher Licensure

March 18, 2010 By: Kevin Dahle Category: Education

This past Tuesday, the Education committee in the Minnesota Senate passed an alternative Teacher licensure bill. I voted against that bill.

At a time when discussions have focused on increased rigor, teacher quality, and closing the achievement gap, fast tracking teacher licensure doesn’t see make sense. Senate File 2757 would allow person with a BA who has passed reading, writing, and math exams and a 5 week preparation course to be in charge of a classroom.

How can an individual, who has not adequately demonstrated proven success in an actual classroom setting experience, do a better job in closing the achievement gap? Hundreds of laid off teachers and recent college graduates from 4 year teacher preparation programs are already looking for work. There are sufficient high quality experienced teachers for most subjects.

The current system allows for flexibility. There are certain organizations such as “Teach for America” that already have programs in place in Minneapolis, St. Paul, and Brooklyn Center having been granted waivers by the Board of Teaching. That program could continue.

Minnesota has long been a leader in quality education. We consistently lead the nation in ACT scores and high school graduation rates. Some argue that an alternative teacher licensure option in Minnesota will increase our chance for success in the Federal “Race to the Top” initiative. Federal oversight, (think No Child Left Behind) should not be the carrot for teacher quality in this state. Let’s do all we can to ensure that our current 70,000 educators are the best they can be.

Sentence to Serve

March 13, 2010 By: Kevin Dahle Category: Economy

While the State faces the daunting task of cutting over $900 million from the budget this year and who knows how many billions next year, it would seem easy to look over the State’s allocations and start whacking away. Believe me, it’s not that easy.
Let’s look at one particular item, buried deep in the Judiciary budget: the Sentence to Serve Program, just one of the items on the Governor’s chopping block. This program takes prisoners out of the local jails and allows them to “work off” part of their jail time, as well as other direct costs. The city of LeCenter has used the Sentence to Serve program several times. The prisoners there helped paint the city owned swimming pool, cleaned up debris along Highway 99, helped with brush chipping, worked at the city/county recycling center, painted city buildings, and picked up trash at the local parks. These probationers work hard. They finish their work with a real sense of accomplishment. Today a city council woman from Waterville shared a story with me of a recently released prisoner who asked her for directions to the local park he had worked on a few years ago. He was proud of the work he had done and was eager to revisit the fruits of his labor.
These tangible benefits are totally lost in the monetary considerations of a budget crisis. It is so important that we as a State take a holistic and systematic view of the costs and benefits of any program. There is so much at stake.

No, Thank You.

March 07, 2010 By: Kevin Dahle Category: Economy, Education, Health Care

I recently held a town meeting in a small town on the Western side of my Senate district. As the town meeting turned its focus to the budget crisis, one gentleman stood up claiming to have all of the answers regarding Minnesota’s budget woes. He said he had a proposal for “solving the state’s budget deficit without raising taxes.” I said I was interested in his “list” and he said he would be sure to send it to me. Sure enough, a few days ago I received a document outlining what some of those cuts might look like. Here is a small sampling of some of what Minnesota could expect (and I quote):

• Eliminate intrusive and ineffective home visiting and mental health screening programs
• Eliminate Early Childhood Professional Development
• Eliminate Kindergarten Readiness Assessment and Intervention Programs
• Eliminate Preschool screening and ECFE (Early Childhood Family Education)
• Eliminate Early Childhood Literacy
• Eliminate After School Community Learning Grants
• Repeal the public school staff development mandate
• Reduce the number of MNSCU campuses
• Require the DNR to fully self-fund via fees
• Eliminate Local Government Aid
• Reduce Court appropriations and increase attorney’s annual license
• Reduce Human Rights Department funding
• Provide Health Insurance subsidies, not Health care services and payments

No thank you. If this list is a solution, count me out. The cuts to early childhood education alone would set this state back 30 years creating a host of problems for years to come. We need to reaffirm the connection between intelligent investments and the public benefits we receive in return. We are a state of community minded people who care about our children, our neighbors, the elderly, and the poor. We value these public assets and most of us are more than willing to pay for them.

The document to which I refer comes from the Minnesota Budget Solutions Coalition which includes organizations such as the Minnesota Majority, Taxpayers League of Minnesota, Minnesota Family Council, and NFIB Minnesota Chapter… to name a few.

Raiding the Piggy Bank

February 28, 2010 By: Kevin Dahle Category: Economy, Environment

Imagine Junior working and saving for years, pocketing part of the money he earns on his paper route, hoping to squirrel away enough money for a down payment on his college education. That’s a nice story until Dad breaks open the piggy bank to skim off some funds that he says aren’t being used.
The same story is being played out in the Minnesota state budget. Workers forward part of their hard earned pay into dedicated funds only to see the Governor raiding their piggy banks to transfer the money to the General Fund. Last year the Governor proposed eliminating the Health Care Access Fund and transferring all provider tax revenues into the general fund. Why should the Health Care Access Fund serve as a slush fund to pay for projects unrelated to health care or to balance the state’s budget?
This year we learned the Governor’s supplemental Budget was to transfer $267,000 from the snowmobile dedicated account and another $400,000 from the ATV account to the General Fund. Only after organized outrage from these groups did the Governor back down from that proposal.
Electrical contractors are seeing a $1.5 million transfer from the Construction Codes and Licensing Division’s continuing education fund to the General fund. These dollars were paid for by electrical contractors from across the state to offset costs related to education courses, seminars and registration fees for necessary ongoing and required training.
Pick up the daily paper and you will read more of the same. The Star Tribune reported today the Governor’s supplemental budget calls for $1.2 million to be taken from the state’s Water Recreation Account – funds generated by the 860,000 boaters in the form of fee and boat registration – and transferred to the General Fund. Projects that include boat ramps and canoe and boat route management get axed.
More and more of our dedicated funds are not finding their way to their original and intended purpose. Those paying into these various funds are left holding a broken piggy bank with less incentive to continue paying. They are angry and rightfully so. Allowing this practice is a dangerous precedent and will lead to further raiding of our dedicated accounts.

GAMC Override

February 26, 2010 By: Kevin Dahle Category: Kevin Dahle MN Senate District 25

Yesterday, the Minnesota Senate voted to override the Governor’s veto of a bill that would basically eliminate General Assistance Medical Care. There are numerous reasons why the Senate feels this is the right thing to do. Among them:
• The Governor’s veto of the GAMC will take away health care for 85,000 poor and very sick Minnesotans.
• The legislature’s plan maintains coverage for 50,000 more people than the Governor’s plan also for a longer period of time – sixteen months (Legislature) vs. one to six (Governor).
• The Governor’s plan will cost $254 million to cover 21,000 GAMC recipients. Our proposal will cover 85,000 Minnesotans for $252 million.
• Our plan cuts costs through smart reforms and better cost sharing. The Governor offsets the cost of his plan by eliminating health care coverage for more than 20,000 working Minnesotans. This bill is cost neutral and does not raise taxes.
• The Governor’s veto will cost thousands of hospital jobs across the state and force hospitals to shut down programs or close their doors. Failure to provide prescription drugs and care for some of those suffering mental illness could lead to jails becoming the access point for health care.
• Those on the program make less than $8000/year. Thousands of those using GAMC are Veterans.
The House will take up the bill on Monday. They had bipartisan support on the bill’s first vote there a last week. An override would mean three Republicans would need to stick with their first vote. Simply put – this is the right thing to do for thousands of the poorest and sickest Minnesotans.

GAMC Smackdown

February 19, 2010 By: Kevin Dahle Category: Health Care

I first learned of the Governor’s veto of the GAMC (Government Assistance Medical Care) program when I picked up the newspaper off the front porch this morning. I was more than disappointed. The elimination of the GAMC program, effective April 15th, will mean nearly 35,000 extremely low income adults will be without basic physical and mental health care at any given time. Most are men (60%), most struggle with mental illness and/or chemical dependence (70%), many have chronic disabilities (40%), and are homeless (25-40%). Many of the adults who qualify for GAMC are living on $203 per month (maximum $677 per month). This is nowhere near enough income to pay for basic necessities or health insurance premiums.

I had hoped the Governor would sign this bill. Controversial or even costly aspects of the bill were removed to accommodate some of the concerns of the Governor. The bill passed the House and Senate with bipartisan support garnering a 47-16 vote in the Senate and a 125-9 vote in the House, however, House Republicans say they are not interested in an override meaning a lot of votes would flip-flop should the bill be revisited.

The life of a community and the measure of our moral fiber as a people depends on the way we treat those who are most vulnerable. We can count pennies in our attempt to balance a budget, but we should never lose sight of the human community we hope to create. Failure to do so is the ultimate morning headline.

Town Meetings

February 18, 2010 By: Kevin Dahle Category: Event, Kevin Dahle MN Senate District 25, Le Sueur County, Scott County, Sibley County

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]

Uncommon Civility

February 14, 2010 By: Kevin Dahle Category: Kevin Dahle MN Senate District 25

As we celebrate President’s Day, we pay tribute to two of our greatest Presidents: George Washington, for bringing the country together following the Revolutionary War, and Abraham Lincoln, in large part for his efforts to keep the union together during one of the darkest periods in our history, the Civil War.
Both Presidents knew the importance of civility and the importance of cooperation. Washington warned of the dangers of a two party system while Lincoln appointed some of his sharpest critics to his own cabinet. Today, we can only dream of such cooperation and collegiality.
Recently, Carleton President Rob Oden, while speaking to faculty, staff, and community members, shared a story of such civility. His retelling of the story, a true story, is a prime example of the kind of civility we can only hope for as we work to iron out our differences and find solutions to the political, economic, and social problems that face us.
The story begins with the consolidation of the Northfield High School, a move that was typical of many Minnesota high schools in the 1950’s. When the consolidation process was concluded, it was clear that there was insufficient space in the older high school building for the new incoming students. An addition had to be built. The school superintendent, Erling Johnson, agreed with the architect that the only economical way to expand the high school was to construct a new wing on the east side of the high school which would mean the closing of College Street.
Mr. Leal Headley, who lived near College Street, was a prime mover in the Northfield Improvement Association. Mr. Headley and other members of the Association complained that closing College Street would compromise the adjacent Central Park and the ultimately, the Association sued to keep College Street open.
The meetings and judicial hearing surrounding the suit began in Northfield, moved then to District Court in Faribault, and eventually made their way to the Supreme Court. The school district won the case before the Supreme Court, and College Street was ultimately closed.
But the real point of the story is as follows. Before each hearing, in Northfield, in Faribault, and before the Supreme Court, Leal Headley called Superintendent Johnson and asked him if he might like a ride to the meeting. Mr. Johnson accepted, and for every meeting, over an issue which burned in Northfield and which might have divided entire neighborhoods and ended many friendships, Leal Headley collected Erling Johnson and off they went in Mr. Headley’s Buick to the various meetings.
This is collegiality. This is respect for opposition. And this is civility as rarely seen or heard anywhere. On this President’s Day, let us all recall the story and let us work to continue to find common ground, agree to disagree, and recognize opposing opinions. Let us work to practice uncommon civility even in the face of disagreement in a way that would make Lincoln and Washington proud. Better yet… in a way that would make Leal and Erling proud.

The Answer is : Justice O’Connor

February 10, 2010 By: Kevin Dahle Category: Kevin Dahle MN Senate District 25

OConnorQuestion 10. Ronald Reagan appointed the first woman to the Supreme Court in 1981. Name this Associate Justice: A. Ruth Bader Ginsberg B. Madeleine Albright C. Sandra Day O’Connor D. Joan Growe

Today I had the pleasure of meeting the answer to Question 10 of one of my Civics quizzes, Justice Sandra Day O’Connor. She spoke at the Minnesota One Conference, a legislative retreat I attended with House and Senate colleagues at the Humphrey Institute on the University of Minnesota campus.
I have long been an admirer of Justice O’Connor, and it was a thrill to hear her speak. She was interesting, to-the-point, insightful, and with a dash of humor. While her luncheon speech was brief, she made clear her support for the merit selection of judges. She believes it is the best way to choose judges and keep them independent, saying it is hard for judges to remain impartial knowing their decisions will influence how long they keep their jobs. She said that the money being spent by people running for the judiciary in states that don’t have merit selection is causing people to trust judges less.
One of the questions asked of the retired justice was her opinion of the recent Supreme Court decision which allows corporate money to flood the election process. She said she doesn’t like to comment on the current court’s decisions, but she did make a point to say she had written the prior decision that they overturned.
Over the last several years, open elections of judges in other states have raised serious questions about whether such elections have preserved a “fair and independent” judiciary. In 2006, candidates for the chief justice of the Supreme Court of Alabama spent $8.2 million in their collective campaigns. In 2004, the race for one seat on the Illinois Supreme Court cost $10 million.
The League of Women Voters of Minnesota believes Minnesota should adopt a system of merit selection and retention elections for Minnesota’s judges. The League supports initial appointment to the judiciary by the Governor from a list a candidates provided by an impartial nominating commission. A judge’s performance is evaluated at the end of his or her term by a broadly based and nonpartisan evaluation commission, whose results are made available to the public. Based upon the information provided, voters choose to retain or not retain a sitting judge.
Thanks, Justice O’Connor… for stopping by. You have given those of us in the legislature some serious food for thought. And I couldn’t agree more.