US Senator John Thune’s Weekly Column: The Work Goes On

The Work Goes On
By Sen. John Thune

While the Senate continues to carefully monitor the implementation of our COVID relief efforts, listen to and learn from states and communities, evaluate where future health and economic assistance might be required, and develop targeted proposals to help those in need, we’re also focused on other issues that are important to the American people. We can walk and chew gum at the same time, as the old saying goes.

In recent weeks and months, the Senate approved its version of the National Defense Authorization Act, which supports our military men and women and their families, passed the Great American Outdoors Act, a major lands bill that will help clear maintenance backlogs at national parks in South Dakota, and confirmed executive branch nominations and lifetime judicial branch nominations to federal benches around the country.

We’ve also continued a lot of the behind-the-scenes committee work that vets nominees and prepares legislation for future consideration on the Senate floor. I serve on the Finance Committee, Agriculture Committee, and Commerce Committee, and I’m the chairman of the Subcommittee on Taxation and IRS Oversight and the Subcommittee on Communications, Technology, Innovation, and the Internet (CTII).

I recently convened a pair of hearings at the CTII subcommittee, which is the only subcommittee that’s comprised of every member of the full Commerce Committee. The high interest in serving on the subcommittee is a testament to its focus on a wide range of issues that affect Americans in every corner of the United States, especially South Dakota.

For example, bridging the digital divide is critical for rural America, and it’s something I’ve been fighting to accomplish for years. While the divide has gotten smaller, there’s still more work to do, which is why one of my recent CTII hearings focused on the public and private sectors’ coordinated effort when it comes to federal spectrum management.

Think of “spectrum” as the airwaves over which information flows to and from internet- or Bluetooth-connected devices. Without effective spectrum management, the race to 5G becomes far more difficult, and rural America ultimately ends up paying the price. This issue will continue to be at the forefront of my subcommittee’s agenda.

I also convened a hearing to examine a bipartisan bill I helped introduce, the Platform Accountability and Consumer Transparency (PACT) Act, which would help strengthen online platform transparency when platforms like Facebook or Twitter moderate content posted by their users. The PACT Act would also hold large technology companies accountable for illegal content or material that violates their own policies. At its core, the PACT Act is about providing digital consumers with the online control and protection they deserve.

Continuing the nationwide battle against the coronavirus will undoubtedly be one of Congress’s top priorities this year, but, as you can see, we’ve got a lot of important issues on our plate. Regardless of what’s in front of us in Washington, though, I will always fight for South Dakota’s values and put the interests of our state ahead of everything else.

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US Senator Mike Rounds’ Weekly Column: South Dakota: Small World, Big Family

South Dakota: Small World, Big Family
By U.S. Sen. Mike Rounds (R-S.D.)

South Dakota is a special place. We all know that. It’s where we choose to live, work and raise our kids. It’s where we call home and are surrounded by the people we love, our family.

Last week, I was out in the Black Hills visiting with folks. On my way home to Fort Pierre, I stopped in Philip, as I often do, to grab coffee and see a few familiar faces.

Near the end of our visit, I was stopped by a lady who asked, “You’re that Rounds guy, aren’t ya?” I said, “Yes, I’m Mike.” She told me her name was Lynn and she was from Cavour, a small town outside of Huron. Lynn said her uncle was the late state Representative Bob Glanzer. Bob was my brother Tim’s seatmate in the South Dakota legislature until Bob’s tragic death earlier this year. He was an honorable man and his perspective will be missed in the state legislature. Lynn told me she often enjoys getting together with my cousins while camping so she figured she would stop and say ‘hello’. It’s a “small world” in small town South Dakota.

As we made our way out the door and to our cars, Lynn was joined by the two ladies traveling with her. I asked “Where are you guys heading?” They were headed home because the next day they’d be going to Aberdeen to attend the National Guard welcome home ceremony. I said, “Well you must be going to the welcome home for the 1-147th. I’ll be there, too.”

That’s when I was introduced to Lindsey Friedrichsen, but she won’t be a Friedrichsen for long. Lindsey told me that she was looking forward to welcoming home Specialist Brandon Haber, who left for his ten-month deployment to Europe as her long-term boyfriend. In a lot of cases when folks get deployed, life all but stops for their loved ones back home. But there’s one thing a deployment cannot stop, and that’s love. In this case, Specialist Haber certainly didn’t let it stop him. During Lindsey’s visit to see him in March, Brandon got down on one knee in front of the Neuschwanstein Castle in Germany and asked her to marry him– a setting fit for a fairytale.

When you activate the National Guard in South Dakota, you not only activate the unit, you activate the community and an entire state. In South Dakota, we’re all so tightly woven together in this “small world” that it feels like we’re part of one big family. Just like a family, we experience the ups and downs of life together. When we lose good people like Bob Glanzer, we cry together. When we see kids like Brandon and Lindsey get engaged, we feel overjoyed together. And when our troops come home from a tour overseas, we all breathe a sigh of relief together.

Maybe I’m biased, but life doesn’t get much better than living in South Dakota. In larger places like California, New York or DC, you don’t come across genuine “small world” connections like you do in South Dakota. I’m so proud to call this state my home and be part of this big family.

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Congressman Dusty Johnson’s Weekly Column: The Patient Got the Win This Week

The Patient Got the Win This Week
By Rep. Dusty Johnson

With all eyes focused on the pandemic, whether or not kids will head back to school in August, and concerns about unemployment, it’s easy to miss the wins of the week.

Prescription drug pricing has been an on-going conversation since I stepped foot in the halls of Congress last year, and this week the administration took positive action towards securing lower costs for Americans on prescription medication.

This week the Trump administration announced that for the first time, seniors requiring insulin will have the freedom to choose from a broad set of insulin prescriptions that cost less than $35 a month. Medicare Part D premiums are at their lowest levels in years and Americans will save 66% annually on their out-of-pocket costs for insulin because of this fix.

Prescription drugs saw their largest annual price decrease in over half a century in 2018, but there’s more to be done.

The United States continuously foots the bill for other countries when it comes to prescription drugs. America often pays an 80% markup for many prescription drugs when compared to other developed nations. This week, President Trump issued an Executive Order ensuring the United States will pay the lowest comparable price for all Medicare Part B drugs.

The administration also took action to ensure prescription discounts are passed on to the patient –  right now, pharmaceutical middlemen often negotiate prices down and receive a “rebate check” while the consumer is still left to pay full price. Solving this issue could save Medicare patients billions of dollars.

There are a number of solutions to solving our prescription drug pricing problem and the administration’s actions are a solid start. As a lead cosponsor of H.R. 19 – a bill focused on slashing the cost of prescriptions for patients – I know there is more Congress can do. H.R. 19 would end the abuses of our drug patent system, cap seniors’ out-of-pocket drug expenses, and increase drug pricing transparency both in the doctor’s office and at the pharmacy.

The patient got the win this week – I’ll keep fighting for lower prescription costs for all Americans.

Governor Kristi Noem’s Weekly Column: Getting Our Kids Back to School

Getting Our Kids Back to School
By Governor Kristi Noem

As the calendar turns to August, we are getting closer to that time of year when kids go back to school. In South Dakota, our kids will be in classrooms this fall. I met with both parents and superintendents earlier this week to discuss what that will look like, and everyone was on the same page that our children should attend school in-person.

I realize that this makes some folks nervous. I’d like to remind them that from day one, I committed to let the science, facts, and data drive our South Dakota’s response to COVID-19. And the science is clear – our schools need to be open.

Thankfully, when it comes to children, the virus doesn’t have a great impact on them. In fact, it’s even less dangerous than the flu. Studies suggest that kids are less likely to contract the virus and less likely to transmit it to others. I laid out this data in great detail in an op-ed published in The Federalist, which I would encourage you to read.

It is critical for our students’ well-being that our schools reopen. We know that children thrive on routine and being in supportive, social environments, and that the loss of human connections for many of these kids is driving increases in stress, anxiety, and depression. This is especially true for our most vulnerable students, particularly since not all kids are in safe home environments. For some students, school is the safest and most predictable place they spend their time.

Our kids need to learn, and they learn best in the classroom. Long distance learning got us through the initial crisis, but it is not a long-term solution. Initial nationwide research suggests that students will return to school in the fall with only 70% of learning gains in reading relative to a typical school year, and less than 50% in math. And one of South Dakota’s largest school districts self-reported that they lost contact with as many as 30% of their students when we went online. Think about that: some schools in our state haven’t heard from as many as a third of their kids since March. That cannot continue. Those kids are likely to fall behind, with lifelong consequences to their career opportunities and family life.

It’s important to remember that reopening schools will also impact the teachers, administrators, and support staff that work there. Fortunately, the science seems to suggest that teachers are unlikely to be infected by students. That means, the adults’ main health concern is protecting against transmission between themselves.

The vast majority of teachers and staff in South Dakota are not in the high-risk category. But some are, and they have many options available, such as social distancing, masking, and proper hygiene. If vulnerable teachers need to teach online classes to vulnerable students, that is certainly an option that is also available.

My goal as Governor is to make decisions that promote opportunities and security for our next generation. What we do today should be a catalyst for our young people to start businesses, invest in their communities, grow their families, develop their careers, and build a great quality of life.

Right now, the best decision we can make for our kids is to get them back into school. Their futures – and ours – depend on it.

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Pam Nelson departure marks death knell of era where Democrats were actual opposition party.

Jonathan Ellis is writing more about a story that you learned about a week ago – the departure of Minnehaha County Treasurer Pam Nelson.

Nelson, along with a select few others, might be among the last relics of a time when Democrats actually tried to represent a majority of South Dakotans, as opposed to being SJW ‘warriors of the woke.’

Today, there are 154,420 registered Democrats compared to 264,439 Republicans, and Democrats haven’t won a statewide office in more than a decade. What changed?

When Nelson entered politics, the Democratic Party had a strong coalition that included blue collar labor and McGovern farmers. In Sioux Falls, there was the heavy influence of Irish Catholicism. Today, that coalition is gone, replaced by an ascendant strain of university-educated drones who can lecture for hours about white privilege without knowing what century the Civil War was fought. The ascendant strain obsesses about race and sexual orientation – identity politics – while neglecting, even scorning, the concerns of labor, unless you’re a teacher or member of a government union, one of the only areas where unions continue to flourish.

Read it all here.

Flags Flown Half-Staff at the State Capitol to Honor Former Attorney General Mark Meierhenry

Flags Flown Half-Staff at the State Capitol to Honor Former Attorney General Mark Meierhenry

PIERRE, S.D. – Today, Governor Kristi Noem ordered that flags at the South Dakota State Capitol be flown at half-staff from sunrise until sundown on Wednesday, August 5, 2020, in honor of former Attorney General Mark Meierhenry.

Meierhenry was South Dakota’s 26th Attorney General, serving from 1979-1987; he had previously served as deputy attorney general in the office of Attorney General William J. Janklow. Following his departure from public office, Meierhenry had a long and distinguished career in the private practice of law.

Meierhenry passed away on July 29, 2020. He is survived by his wife, retired Supreme Court Justice Judith Meierhenry.

WHAT: Gov. Noem orders that flags be flown at half-staff at the South Dakota State Capitol in honor of former Attorney General Mark Meierhenry.

WHEN: Wednesday, August 5, 2020, from sunrise until sundown.

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Governor Noem Announces Chris Young Coming to Sioux Falls for Inaugural Sportsmen’s Showcase and Concert

Governor Noem Announces Chris Young Coming to Sioux Falls for Inaugural Sportsmen’s Showcase and Concert

PIERRE, S.D. – Today, Governor Kristi Noem announced that award-winning country music superstar Chris Young will headline the concert at this year’s inaugural Governor Noem’s Sportsmen’s Showcase and Concert. The Showcase and Concert will be part of the annual Governor’s Hunt, a long-standing part of South Dakota’s pheasant hunting tradition.

“South Dakota is home to the best pheasant hunting in America,” said Governor Noem. “This year, we’re moving the annual Governor’s Hunt to Sioux Falls, and we’re adding the Sportsmen’s Showcase and Concert to make this event bigger and better than ever before. We’re excited to welcome Chris Young back to South Dakota to headline the concert. I hope folks from across the state can join us for the event and help us celebrate the things that make South Dakota such a special place.”

Tickets to the Chris Young concert will go on sale via Ticketmaster or at the KELOLAND box office at the Denny Sanford PREMIER Center on Friday, August 7, 2020 at 10:00 am CT. Sanford Health will be sponsoring the concert.

“This event is all about showcasing everything our great state has to offer to help drive continued economic growth,” said Paul Hanson, president and CEO of Sanford Health, Sioux Falls region. “We’re honored to play a role in supporting this longstanding South Dakota tradition.”

The Sportsmen’s Showcase will take place on Friday, October 23, 2020 from 12:00 pm to 8:00 pm and on Saturday, October 24, 2020 from 10:00 am to 8:00 pm. The Chris Young concert will take place on Saturday, October 24, 2020 at 8:00 pm CT.

Governor Noem’s Sportsmen’s Showcase is a family-friendly trade show specializing in all things outdoors, including hunting, fishing, recreation, and more. With room for nearly 100 exhibitors, the Sioux Falls Convention Center & Arena provides the perfect location for exhibitors and visitors alike.

Further information about Governor Noem’s Sportsmen’s Showcase can be found at www.southdakotashowcase.com.

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D7 House Democrat campaign still cringe-worthy. Attacks Governor for defending ‘personal freedoms.’

I know it’s rude to stare at a car accident before it has been cleaned up. But when you see a weird one, you look, you shake your head and go “what on earth were they thinking?”  Which reminds me of District 7 Democrat House Candidate Louise Snodgrass’ campaign so far.

To date we’ve been treated to tiktok videos where Snodgrass advocates defunding the police and replacing them with social workers, advocates decriminalizing drugs, and says “South Dakota is backwards,” and “she hates living here,” etc.

How does Snodgrass move her campaign forward as we wind our way through the doldrums of the summer portion of the 2020 campaign season?  We get more bizarre videos on the chinese government connected tiktok platform:

@loudangjust a few Fun Facts about South Dakota
♬ original sound – loudang

My first suggestion for this Democrat candidate? First off, if a candidate is going to put out material attacking the Gov, do a little proofing.  For gosh’s sake, spell “governor” correctly.  Nevermind Snodgrass’ complaints about COVID relief funds going in part towards Law Enforcement, and Kristi Noem “refusing to enact strict covid restrictions/shut downs because of ‘personal freedoms.'”

Those darn personal freedoms!  What was the Governor thinking?  (Possibly the oath she took to uphold the US and State Constitution.)

Stay tuned. The campaign is barely started. I’m sure we’ll be treated to more cringe-worthy stuff.

Thune: Digital Consumers Deserve and Expect Adequate Online Control and Protection

Thune: Digital Consumers Deserve and Expect Adequate Online Control and Protection

“I believe the PACT Act strikes the right balance and I am committed to achieving a meaningful, bipartisan approach to Section 230 reform that can be enacted into law sooner rather than later.”

Click here or on the picture above to watch Thune’s speech.

WASHINGTON — U.S. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), chairman of the Subcommittee on Communications, Technology, Innovation, and the Internet, today led a hearing titled, “The PACT Act and Section 230: The Impact of the Law that Helped Create the Internet and an Examination of Proposed Reforms for Today’s Online World,” to examine online platforms’ content moderation practices and to discuss what legislative measures can be taken to ensure consumers are protected and empowered while on the internet. During the hearing, Thune questioned experts on transparency requirements that could be used to protect consumers online.

“The reality is that the platforms have a strong incentive to exercise control over the content each of us sees, because if they can present us with content that will keep us engaged on the platform, we will stay on the platform longer,” saidThune. “Moderation is an important function that platforms must provide in order to deliver a valuable experience to their users. Unfortunately, it’s hard for users to get good information about how content is moderated. The Internet has evolved significantly since Section 230 was enacted. Long gone are the days of the online bulletin boards. Today, internet platforms have sophisticated content moderation tools, algorithms, and recommendation engines to promote content and connect users, all optimized toward keeping every user engaged on the platform. The platforms have monetized these systems through targeted advertising and related businesses and have consequently become some of the largest companies in the world. Moreover, these platforms have become essential to our daily lives, as many Americans live, work, and communicate increasingly online.”

On June 24, 2020, Thune joined Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), ranking member of the subcommittee, in introducingthe Platform Accountability and Consumer Transparency (PACT) Act, bipartisan legislation to update Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. The PACT Act would strengthen transparency in the process online platforms use to moderate content and hold those companies accountable for content that violates their own policies or is illegal.