Mr. Dahle Goes to St. Paul


Archive for August, 2008

Minnesota Prairie Line

August 20, 2008 By: Kevin Dahle Category: Economy, Sibley County, Transportation 1 Comment →

Let’s visualize a bipartisan project, bringing together local, state, and federal stakeholders intent on developing a strong plan with a specific timeline for success.  The Minnesota Valley Regional Rail (MVRR) Coalition is “on track” to achieve that success by 2011.  The MVRR Authority owns a short line railroad consisting of 94 miles of track between Norwood and Hanley Falls, Minnesota.  This rail serves some of the most productive agriculture counties in the state including parts of Sibley County and the towns of Arlington and Green Isle.  The rail handles commodities such as corn, fertilizer, biodiesel, ethanol, soybeans, lumber, and canned vegetables.

On Wednesday, August 20, I attended a meeting of over 100 people in Winthrop, to discuss how a coalition might strengthen support for additional funding at the state and federal level.  Also in attendance were State Senators Sheran and Kubly, State Representatives Morrow, Beard, Koenen, and Seifert, and U.S. Congressman Tim Walz.

The rail line’s restoration started in April 2002.  Rail traffic has been increasing consistently since service has been restored.  The revitalization of the line has sparked additional economic development in the area, including a proposed state of the art waste-to-energy gasification plant in Redwood Falls, creating hi-tech bioengineering jobs and additional economic growth to the region.  Heartland Corn Products expanded their ethanol production in Winthrop.  This rail can be a link to our smaller communities to keep them economically viable and:

  • Keep pressure off our roads, specifically Hwys 19, 14, and 212
  • Help keep food products and other goods affordable
  • Promote environmentally friendly modes of transportation

While there is growing demand for use of the “Prairie Line” as it is called, the track needs some serious upgrades.  Much of the track is made up of 80 pound rail (from the 1880’s) which means the trains can achieve a maximum speed of 7 to 10 mph.  To increase the speed to 25 mph, the rails need upgrading and timber trestle bridges will have to  be eventually replaced, this at a  cost of approximately a half million dollars per mile.  Our small town and communities are a vital link to our larger regional centers.  They provide jobs and economic support which propels our state as a whole.  Reviving the Minnesota Prairie Line is a great example of how we can bring public and private coalitions together for community building, economic development, and rural sustainability.

MN State Academy for the Deaf, Fall District Conference

August 19, 2008 By: Kevin Dahle Category: Event No Comments →

MN Fall District Conference, MN State Academy for the Deaf, Faribault.

Update posted 9/22/2008:  Senator Dahle will address the conference between 8:00 AM and 9:00 AM.

Irish Festival

August 19, 2008 By: Kevin Dahle Category: Event No Comments →

Meet the people at the Irish Festival (near Henderson.)

Festival is at the St. Thomas Church, Parish Grounds, six miles North of Henderson on County Road 6.

Voter Registration Project

August 19, 2008 By: Kevin Dahle Category: Event No Comments →

Voter Registration Project (H124 Social Studies wing Northfield HS)

Meet with Judge Neuville

August 19, 2008 By: Kevin Dahle Category: Event No Comments →

Meet with Judge Tom Neuville to discuss public defender system.

Prairie Rail Line Meeting

August 19, 2008 By: Kevin Dahle Category: Event No Comments →

MN Prairie Rail Line

A coalition of elected officials and stakeholders is meeting to discuss the rail line and area economic development.  At the Winthrop Vets Club, 206 North Main St., Winthrop, MN 55396

Networking, Meet the People

August 19, 2008 By: Kevin Dahle Category: Event No Comments →

David Bly fundraiser and meet the people event, sponsored by Mike Thorsteinson August 7, 2008, 5pm to 8 pm at 20110 Geneva Court, Faribault on Cedar Lake.  Al Franken will attend!

EdMN Summer Conference at St. Ben’s

August 19, 2008 By: Kevin Dahle Category: Event No Comments →

EdMN Summer Conference at St. Bens. Teacher/Legislator meeting.

Representing People with Disabilities Matters

August 12, 2008 By: Kevin Dahle Category: Education, Health Care, Rice County 2 Comments →

On Thursday August 12, I attended a Legislative Town Hall Meeting at the Buckham Memorial Library in Faribault.  The issue:  public policy that impact people with disabilities. Several other legislators were in attendance, including Senate Minority Leader Dave Senjem, Representatives David Bly, Patti Fritz, Connie Ruth, Randy Demmer, And Jeanne Poppe.  The event was sponsored by Arc Southeastern Minnesota, Arc Mower County, Arc Freeborn County, MN Region 10 Quality Assurance and Self Advocacy Minnesota.

Clients, parents, workers, and advocates of people with developmental disabilities shared their issues and concerns.  Poignant stories about parents of children with mental health issues facing inadequate hospital facilities unable to cope with mental health crises: lack of coordination with social service providers, the need for a continuum of care, lack of trained personnel, and a shortage of trained personnel at so many levels.

Many of those in attendance received training prior to the town hall meeting which focused on self advocacy.  It is so important to give those with disabilities a voice to speak out, to register and vote, and even testify before the legislature.  Some of the other issues discussed include:

  • Support workers and a living wage. Many workers are leaving the field because of the lack of realistic wages above the poverty level. Health insurance is not always guaranteed. The role of the caregiver must be valued to ensure the best care for the clients they serve.
  • Maintaining a consistent and stable source of funding. In Rice County alone, there is a waiting list of over 50 individuals for home and community based services. Funding should fit individual needs. Funding for both services and housing should come from one funding source. We need to address increased transportation costs that affect many of the essential support services.
  • The need for a single person directed plan and budget. People in the field (and their circles) should decide their plan and how best to allocate resources. Individuals with disabilities should have decision making control over their budgets. The funding should be community, neighborly, family focused, and not institutionalized. We need to address crisis needs. And we can’t put people in a position of accepting more services than they need to fit into the system.

There has been some progress in recent years with community and statewide mental health initiatives.  These programs need to include developmental disability.  We need a plan for better regionalization to ensure assistance is given to those in need.

As a state, we should continue to work to enhance the quality of life for persons with developmental disabilities, promoting basic assistance, relationships, inclusion, safety, dignity, and choice.  As one of the parents in attendance said to me, “I don’t want a handout… I just want to make sure my child will be taken care of should I die tomorrow.”  No parent should have those concerns.

School Land Trust

August 04, 2008 By: Kevin Dahle Category: Economy, Education, Environment No Comments →

Over 150 years ago, Minnesota received several land grants from the federal government to be held in trust for specific purposes, such as schools. On Wednesday of last week, I attended a joint hearing of the Environment, Energy, Natural Resources and the E-12 Education Budget committee regarding Minnesota’s school trust lands.

Today the state holds about 2.5 million acres of school trust land and about 1 million acres of land with mineral rights. In the past, money generated from these lands has been allocated to school districts, with a general fund subtraction. In other words, if a school district receives $1 from the land trust it would lose $1 from their general fund. In 2008, the legislature permanently eliminated that subtraction. This amounted to additional revenue per pupil. Belle Plaine received $34.2 per pupil unit, Northfield $32.5, and Cleveland received $30.3. Other senate district 25 school districts fell somewhere between that 30 and 35 dollar increase.

Although the future of mineral mining in Minnesota is uncertain, the potential is apparent. For example, three mineral deposits in the Duluth area alone contain resources that could generate royalties of $1.4 billion at today’s metal prices if mined over a period of 20-25 years. There is a dramatic growth in world demand for metals, spurred mostly by growth in Asia and emerging markets.

In state statute: The goal of the Permanent school fund is to secure long term economic returns consistent with Minnesota constitutional fiduciary responsibilities, with sound natural resource conservation management principles.

This committee and others will continue to look for ways to maximize this potential source of income. We will continue to look for ways to provide badly needed revenue and relief for school district budgets across the state of Minnesota. I am excited about the possibilities.