Mr. Dahle Goes to St. Paul


Archive for February, 2008


February 26, 2008 By: Kevin Dahle Category: Kevin Dahle MN Senate District 25, Transportation No Comments →

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.

Faster than a Speeding Locomotive

February 20, 2008 By: Kevin Dahle Category: Kevin Dahle MN Senate District 25 No Comments →

I was talking to Bob Vanasek in my office today. He, of course, is the former State legislator from New Prague. He talked about the pace of the current short session which he likened to a “sprint” to the May adjournment. Compared to past years, he thinks this year the session has started more like a “shot out of a cannon.” I guess I just assumed the fast pace of these past two weeks was business as usual, but most of the folks at the Capitol agree that we are off to a flying start. Last week the House and Senate passed the Outdoor Legacy Act which will refer a Constitutional Amendment to voters in November asking them to vote up or down money for Clean water, the outdoors, and the Arts. This week we will take the Transportation bill to the House and Senate floor for debate. These bills were not dreamed up since the February 12 start. The Legacy Act was first proposed 10 years ago. The transportation bill is a modification of a bill passed by the House and Senate last year, but vetoed by the Governor. We still have issues regarding health care, bonding, property tax relief, and the education formula…..all before the May deadline. Much of the work in these areas will depend on the actual budget deficit we will be facing. That report is due out later next week.

The committee work has been interesting. The Education Finance committe has been hearing bonding requests for educational facilities all across Minnesota. We will be making recommendations regarding these requests for the overall bonding bill. Tomorrow we will be hearing from the Commissioner of Education, Alice Seagren, as she weighs in on the Governor’s State of the State education initiatives.

The Commerce and Consumer Protection committee continues to weigh in on a variety of issues. Yesterday we heard from pawn shop owners and law enforcement as they debated issues of consumer privacy, crime, revenue, and local control. Next week we will hear from trial lawyers and insurance companies as they discuss consumers and inurance claims. In Energy, Communications, and Technology we heard testimony from cell phone customers regarding a bill that would require wireless phone providers to spell out clearly the terms of agreement that customers are receiving when they buy a phone, add a phone, or increase minutes on that phone. Last week that same committe heard specifics from the Governor’s office and others about renewable energy and plans to implement the Renewable Energy standard.

Turkey Growers, Credit Unions, Correctional facilities, YMCA, Insurance Representatives, Farmer’s Union members, U of M students, Working America, Nursing Home administrators, Superintendents, Clean Water Action, a young blind girl, are just a few of the people I visited with in the last two days. They only want 15 minutes. And in between the Senate floor session, which occur 2 or 3 times a week…and in between the committee meetings which meet 2 or 3 times a week (for 2-3 hours per meeting), I meet with these folks as they weigh in on a current piece of legislation or their desire for a new bill. They all are interesting people. It is exciting, fast paced, and important work. We’ll keep sprinting towards the end to try and get the work done.

The Session Begins!

February 13, 2008 By: Kevin Dahle Category: Kevin Dahle MN Senate District 25 No Comments →

Last week as I pulled up to my parking stall, the Capitol Security Guard met me as I exited my car in front of the Capitol and told me “I couldn’t park there.  That space was reserved for Senators.”  I quickly introduced myself, showed him the parking permit on the dashboard, and he apologized several times.  “Welcome to the Senate,” he said.  He now gives a friendly wave every time I drive by.  The Golden Horses high atop the Capitol  still eye me suspiciously as I enter the employee door two stories below.

 The first day of the session, Tuesday February 12, was pretty exciting.  The first meeting of the day, the Senate DFL caucus, started promptly at 10:41am.  Larry Pogemiller, the Senate Majority leader, and Taryl Clark, the assistant Majority leader, introduced me and several new Senate staff members.  I am still learning names and faces.  We also talked about the plan for this session.  There are several deadlines that both the House and Senate have agreed upon.  These deadlines are to ensure key issues get through committee, to the floor for debate, and to the Governor’s desk on time.  The major issues included Transportation, Health Care, Bonding, Environment and Energy, and the Budget.  While the plan looks and sounds good, it will be interesting to see how it plays out.

The first floor session of the Senate took place at noon on Tuesday.   Not much business  occurs on the first day of the session.  We passed a couple of resolutions, some housekeeping type duties, dealing with postage and interns.  We also took some time to honor Minnesota’s Nobel Prize winning laureate, Leonid Hurwicz, an Economics professor from the University of Minnesota.  He is currently 90 years young.  The gavel sounded the end of that day’s session 45 minutes later as many of the senators and staffers continue to greet me and offer their assistance.

 After an afternoon of answering constituent mail, emails, and phone calls, I attended a reception honoring Best Practices for several organizations including Minnesota Community Action Partnerships.  There are some amazing programs out there helping people out of impossible situations to find jobs, homes, help for their families and children.  It was a great event.

On Wednesday, February 13, I boarded a bus from the Capitol with several other Senators and Representatives and headed up to St. Cloud to hear the Governor’s State of the State address.  I was glad I attended, even though I didn’t feel the speech was especially inspiring or visionary.  The best part of the trip was the ride in the bus with two veteran legislators,  Senator Jim Vickerman (DFL - Tracy) and Senator Dennis Fredrickson (R- New Ulm).  The two men have 50 years of experience between them.  I learned a lot in the short trip about politics, politicians, the Senate, and the upcoming session.  Meeting gentlemen like this reaffirms my belief that the party label need not be the determining factor in how we accomplish things at the Capitol.  Their wisdom is truly inspiring.

 At about 5pm today I presented my first bill before the Public Safety Committee.  It came up pretty quick.  Yesterday I was told by Senator Higgins that the bill would get a hearing before her committee so I needed to bring in my people to testify.  The bill is a companion to a similar bill being introduced in the House by Representative Bly. It is part of a bonding request to bring some needed start up money for a new Safety Center here in Northfield.  I appreciate the support of those who showed up to testify.  City Administrator Al Roder and Police Captain Mark Taylor were part of the contingent and did an excellent job of presenting their plan for a new Safety Center.  The committee asked some tough questions and we realize it will be a tough sell in a year with over 4 billion dollars in bonding requests and under 1 billion dollars to distribute.  I was glad to have them nearby for my first bill presentation.

 Tomorrow the work begins in earnest.  The calendar is filling up with consituent requests for time.  More committees begin their regularly scheduled time slots and the bills will begin their long march to the Governor’s desk.  So far so good.  I feel I am one step ahead of the fray.  And each day brings new perspectives and new insights as to how this place really runs.  I continue to look forward to the challenges and work ahead.

Meeting the People

February 10, 2008 By: Kevin Dahle Category: Kevin Dahle MN Senate District 25 No Comments →

While the legislature does not officially convene until Tuesday, I had a very busy and productive week leading up to the session. This week I spent time in Belle Plaine, New Prague, Northfield, Lonsdale, Montgomery, and the Capitol. The topics were especially diverse. A short list of the issues and/or places include:

Water and waste water treatment facilities

Schools and school funding

Economic development and Housing

Seneca foods (and the Green Giant)

Peak Oil

Parks and Trails (the Mills Town Trail)

Nursing homes and Assisted Living facilities

Farmers and Agriculture Concerns

Driver and Traffic Safety

Renewable energy

Affordable health care

Property taxes

I learned a little bit more about the people of district 25. I filled my brain with their issues and concerns. Even though they asked a few questions, they were quicker to share concerns. They talked about their jobs. They talked about their schools. They talked about their main street. They talked about their families. And I was okay with that. The people I met this week were just like the neighbor down the street, an uncle, a teacher down the hall, a parent of one of my students, a high school buddy, a teammate on bowling night, a Rotary Club member, a local retailer, a grandmother, a receptionist, or a pastor.

We are not so different. We are all Minnesotans trying to make a living, trying to raise a family, trying to enjoy retirement, and in some cases trying to get by.

These constituents were happy to share some time with me… and I was glad to listen. So, armed with loads of information, still realizing I have a lot to learn, I look forward to my first week in the Minnesota Senate. But I’m not going it alone. There are a lot of good people out there…more than willing to help me along the way.

Between Jobs

February 06, 2008 By: Kevin Dahle Category: Kevin Dahle MN Senate District 25 No Comments →

Officially on leave from my school position (as of last Friday), this week has filled in rather quickly.  On Monday I sat in on my first committee meeting… a joint committee hearing for both House and Senate Energy committees.   I was fortunate to hear a presentation by Peak Oil expert, Matthew Simmons.  A month ago, I was scrambling to learn more about this topic since it was introduced by my Senate race opponent Vance Norgaard.  I had a chance to speak to Vance and other local constituents among the 120+  spectators gathered to hear Mr. Simmon’s presentation.  The message was clear.  Peak Oil is a worldwide problem that should have been addressed decades ago.  Solutions to this problem, however, are not so clear.  Stay tuned.  It is a topic starting to make its way to the forefront of the news.  I am excited to be on the Energy committee.  It will be a tremendous opportunity to continue to work to solve the energy and environmental issues affecting all of us.

The turnout for the Super Tuesday caucuses was unbelievable.  For those of you in attendance or for those of you who tried to drive down Division Street or Jefferson Parkway in Northfield between 6pm and 8pm, you know what I mean.  There were nearly 2500 votes cast in the DFL caucuses for President.  It is gratifying to see so many people exercising even the simplest act of voting in a straw poll.  Many of those same people continued to stick around and discuss resolutions and vie for the opportunity to be elected to county and district conventions.  This is grassroots politics at its best.   There were plenty of lapel stickers for Obama, Steve Sarvi, Franken, Ciresi,  Clinton, and others.  David Bly and I had the chance to address many of the Wards and Precincts gathered for the evening.  There is nothing better than a captive audience of supporters when delivering a message about what we hope to accomplish this legislative session.

My week off: On Monday I met with the directors of a nursing home in Belle Plaine. Yesterday I met with my new legislative assistant at the Capitol.  This morning, following a brief caucus and legislative report for KYMN,  I met with a an advocate for safe driving coalitions.   I then traveled to Belle Plaine to speak to the Rotary Club and meet with members of the Belle Plaine city council.   Returning to Northfield, I enjoyed meeting  with Dr. Chris Richardson, Supt. of Northfield Schools and Business Manager Tom Stringer.  These discussions will be of great help to me as I begin my work on the Senate Education Finance committee.  Tomorrow I will be in Montgomery talking to the mayor, Superintendent of schools, Director of Economic development, and other local dignitaries.  My appointment to the Commerce committee will hopefully give me some insight on how we can help our small town economies. I am also meeting with an advocate for the Mills Town bike trail and may be speaking to that issue at a hearing at the Capitol on Friday.  I will also spend some time with one of our local citizens on Friday to talk about legislation related to gun control.  Saturday, I will be in Belle Plaine at the Fish Tale Grill talking to area farmers.   While I haven’t officially started the legislative session this has been a busy, but rewarding and exciting week.  It is a great opportunity to meet my constituents and hear their concerns firsthand.  It really will make those committee  discussions so much more relevant.

Next:  The first day of the  legislative session.

January Posts

February 03, 2008 By: Kevin Dahle Category: Kevin Dahle MN Senate District 25 No Comments →

Wednesday, January 30, 2008


Spending this last week in the classroom is bittersweet. Even though I will be teaching again in the fall, I seem to have a little more incentive to be the best teacher I can before I spend a few months in St. Paul. Typically, the beginning of the second semester can be a difficult stretch, especially when it is 10 below zero, dark at 5pm, and starting a new semester with new students but with the same curriculum. I enjoy meeting new students, but I will miss those students moving on to American History 9 or perhaps 12th grade Economics.

A new teacher is shadowing me this week, ready to take over my classes. I want to do the best I can for the new teacher. I want to model my passion for social studies, civics, and the current issues of the day. Today we brainstormed the question, “Why Do We Need Government?” The students provided several responses. “We need to keep order. We need security…police…fire departments and other essential services.” We discussed others. A government helps maintain institutions and a government enables a nation to put its ideals into practice. Another student shared her thoughts, “Government should be whatever the people want it to be.”

As our discussion moved to the roots of American government, we talked about democracy. We talked about the difference between a direct democracy and a republic or representative democracy. I couldn’t help but think about the township meeting I attended last night. While specific issues and concerns were shared, I heard from supervisors about the need for citizen involvement. How can we empower our local citizens? What works at the local level? How can local policy best represent the values of local citizens? How can a township government be at its best? When citizens get involved, great things can happen. When people take an interest and share their expertise, solutions can be generated. When we take ownership of our government at the local, state, and federal level, we can solve many problems.

Before the start of the legislative session on February 12, I have meetings planned with the mayors, school superintendents, nursing home administrators, farmers, YMCA directors, Rotary Club members, and county commissioners. I will begin a new semester, not so much the teacher, but more as a student. I will be learning what these citizens know about government. With this knowledge, I hope to be the best legislator I can be. And I am excited for the opportunity.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

I solemnly swear…

On January 22, 2008 at 4:30pm, I was sworn in as a member of the Minnesota Senate. The Senator-elect title officially ended. It still feels odd when people call me Senator, but maybe slightly less than before. I am sure I will get used to it, because everyone in the Capitol refers to me as Senator. Someone suggested it is because it is easier to say Senator than to try and remember everyone’s name. Regardless, I do feel a great deal of respect from the legislators and staffers who work there.

I was pleased to have family and friends join me for my swearing in ceremony. Winning a special election means I am the only person sworn in so I get to choose the time and place that will happen. It also means I get more than 2 tickets to the ceremony, typical for those senators sworn in after a regular election cycle. My mom and brother and sister and their families all hopped in the truck and drove up from Iowa. I greeted them at the front steps of the Capitol and said, “This is where I work!” As a teacher, I remember showing a crusty old video of the Minnesota Capitol, how it was built, its symbols, and architecture. It looks much better in person. I am still in awe of the beauty of this magnificent building.

The judge asked me to raise my right hand as I promised (solemnly swore) to uphold the Constitution of the United States…so help me God. And I had the opportunity to say a few words to the 50 or so people in the Senate Chambers that afternoon.

I am humbled. I am humbled to be here in this beautiful room and in this wonderful building. I am humbled…to be a part of this legislature and humbled to serve the people of this state.

I spoke of my humble beginnings in a small town in Iowa. A good upbringing in a good Norwegian family. Common Sense. A good moral compass. Hard work. A good work ethic.

I spoke of the humble beginnings of a campaign that started less than 2 months ago. Humbled that people have put their faith in me to represent them in a democracy I am so proud to be a part of.

I promised to stay humble. I promised to stay true to my beginnings, true to my vision, and true to the family, volunteers, constituents, friends, and voters who made this day possible. I am humbled.

My daughters and nephews and nieces were able to vote on the electronic board from various Senate desks. They passed such laws as a shorter school year and pizza every day all year. We took lots of pictures. Pictures of me and my family, volunteers, friends, and fellow Senators. And we took some more pictures. We had some cake in the private room behind the front desk. During session, this room is for senators only…no lobbyists, no legislative staffers or pages allowed. We all ran up to Room 306, my new office. And took some more pictures.

It was a wonderful day for me and my family and many of my closest friends. I know I will never experience a day quite like that again. I thank Senator Pogemiller and his staff for his gracious accomodations in helping me feel like a Senator. I thank Michelle Kelm-Helgen for her assistance in making this a special day.

Most of all, I thank my family and friends. I am indeed, humbled.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Where Do I Start?

Disclaimer: For those of you who know me, you know that I interject a lot of humor in whatever I do. I use humor in my classroom, in my relationships with family and friends, and my observations on life. While I intend to take my role as Senator very seriously, I will not stray too far from the qualities that make up who I am. As a rookie Senator and blogger, keep in mind that my writings will focus on the issues we all share but may include some tongue in cheek observations that only I can share. Thanks for taking the time to read and share in my experiences.

On Tuesday of this week, January 22, I will be sworn in as a Senator in the Minnesota Senate. The weeks since the Special election on January 3 have brought a certain level of calm to the Dahle household. Hundreds of congratulatory calls and emails have been replaced with dozens of requests for meetings and appearances before the start of the legislative session which begins February 12.

I have been busy teaching these last few weeks of the fall semester at Northfield High School and I will begin transitioning into my role as a legislator representing District 25. How does one learn to be a Senator? In piecemeal fashion, I have gathered information through meetings, emails, and phone calls about some of the nuts and bolts of how the legislature does its business. I received a 3 ring binder titled, “Minnesota Senate Policies for Senators and Staff” and some other publications focusing on Senate Contacts and a Legislative Preview. I guess I had some faraway vision of sitting alone in the Senate chamber for “my orientation” while various Senate staffers trotted out power points and lectures on such topics such as:

committee functions
senate dress code
bill writing 101
handling constituent problems
how a bill becomes law
forging alliances
the Senate copy machine
taxation dos and don’ts
lobbyist: friend or foe?
Majority whips and other important people

Apparently, there is quite a bit of “orientation” for new Senators in a regular election year, but I am pretty much on my own at this point in my term. While my political science background and years of teaching Civics will help me with many of these topics, a textbook explanation and the real thing seldom match up. The Majority Leader’s Chief of Staff has been fabulous about getting me the information and resources I need to settle in. In addition, dozens of Senators and Representatives have offered advice and help in getting started. (But there are still some immediate concerns, such as how to get a parking permit and a key card to get into the Capitol and my office).

While we speak, a small Senate conference room with a large table and 6 chairs is being transformed into an office with a desk and chair, bookcase with the obligatory legislative manuals, a lamp, and file cabinet. There will soon hang a nameplate above the door that says Senator Kevin Dahle. In a few weeks there will be a legislative assistant working outside that office who will help me with the day to day duties of bill making, constituent concerns, committee hearings, and research. I am in the process of hiring that person.

I am excited about the opportunity and experiences that lie ahead. I sometime lay awake at night wondering how I can represent such a diverse district. How can I make a difference and work with both parties to improve the quality of life as we know it in district 25 and Minnesota? If politicians can think less about my interests and your interests and think more about our interests, we can find the common ground necessary to better serve the public interest and solve the problems we all face. On January 22, I will be ready to tackle those issues. In the meantime, I need to stop by the Sergeant of Arms and Human Resources to pick up my photo ID, parking pass, and a key to the Capitol.

Next: My swearing in.