US Senator John Thune’s Weekly Column: Summer in South Dakota

Summer in South Dakota
By Sen. John Thune

While I’ll likely regret saying this in January when I’m knee deep in the white stuff, every season in South Dakota has its advantages and is worth experiencing, but few, if any, outmatch summer in the 605. The temperature is hard to beat (sometimes quite literally) and there are a ton of things to do outdoors, which means more chances to spend time with friends and family. And while the summer weather will eventually give way to cooler temps and a new season, I’m taking advantage of every opportunity I can while I’m home this time of year.

Summer is typically pretty quiet in Washington, D.C. Most years, Congress dedicates a few weeks in August to give members more time to travel across their states and spend valuable time hearing from their constituents, something I do every year, not just in August.

This year, though, the Senate will spend a good portion of the month back in Washington, continuing to pass critical legislation and processing important judicial nominations, which have been unnecessarily delayed by some of my Senate colleagues. Despite the obstruction, I’m committed to staying as long as it takes to complete this important work.

Given this year’s shorter summer state work period, I’m squeezing in as much road time in South Dakota as I can this month, and I’m glad to have already seen so many familiar faces along the way.

My most recent trip through Madison happened to coincide with Miracle Treat Day, which means one thing: a pit stop at Dairy Queen. Before I got my Blizzard, I ran into DeLon, the owner, and congratulated him on the good work he does year after year for the community and region. It’s truly remarkable what he’s been able to accomplish for such a good cause.

While I was home, I also made it to Lake County Achievement Days, the Sioux Falls Kiwanis Club’s annual pancake feed, and toured several successful local businesses, including Horton in Britton, Specialized Machine in Tea, Enertech Global in Mitchell, and employee-owned Inland Truck Parts in Sioux Falls.

Fortunately for me, but unfortunately for the audience, I imagine, I joined Mogen’s Heroes on stage at the Sioux Empire Fair for our annual rendition of “You Are My Sunshine.” Speaking of fair season, summer wouldn’t be complete without a stop at the Turner County Fair, which happens to be South Dakota’s longest running fair. It’s always a good time.

There’s no question that South Dakotans are my best advisors, so I’m always eager to hear what’s on people’s minds. I met with folks from Mobridge, Selby, and Java and spent time with community leaders in Faith and Britton. I appreciate everyone who joined me for coffee in Philip, Langford, and Pierpont and all of the young leaders who invited me to address the Sioux Falls Young Professionals Network.

Thankfully, summer isn’t over, nor are my stops around the state. I look forward to catching up with you and your family soon, so if we cross paths, please be sure to say hello. In the meantime, if you have questions about how I can help you navigate the federal bureaucracy, or if you have an idea or feedback about something I’m working on, please don’t hesitate to write, call, or email – I’m all ears.

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US Senator Mike Rounds’ Weekly Column: Protecting the Integrity of U.S. Elections

Protecting the Integrity of U.S. Elections
By U.S. Sen. Mike Rounds (R-S.D.)

Free and fair elections are a cornerstone of our republic. With the 2018 midterm election less than three months away, making certain the integrity of our voting system remains intact is a top priority. When Americans cast their votes in an election, they are exercising their right to make their voice heard. Many of our young men and women in uniform fight every day to protect our ability to choose our own leaders safely and freely. Assuring American citizens that their voice will be heard when they cast their ballot is vitally important to our way of life.

While we cannot say they affected the outcome, we know that Russia made extreme efforts to directly influence the 2016 election and attempted to get into at least 21 state election systems. There is also evidence they are trying similar tactics in the upcoming midterm election, with a goal of creating chaos and distrust in our system of government. So far, they have been unsuccessful, and we must make certain proper federal policies are in place to keep it that way.

Fortunately, Congress has taken steps to protect the integrity of our elections. The omnibus spending bill for Fiscal Year 2018 included $380 million in funding for election security grants to help states protect and modernize their election systems. These funds can be used to make security improvements, implement cybersecurity guidelines and replace outdated electronic voting machines. Additionally, I am a cosponsor of the Secure Elections Act, a bipartisan bill that would streamline cybersecurity information-sharing between federal intelligence agencies and state election agencies. It would also provide security clearances to state election officials. This is a good step toward securing our election systems against future threats while also protecting states’ rights in running their elections.

As Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Cybersecurity Subcommittee, my colleagues and I have received expert testimony on cyber-enabled information operations to include the gathering and dissemination of information in the cyber domain. While we have taken important steps to protect our elections, more must be done. Ultimately, we must address the broader policy and strategy deficiencies that undermine our overall cyber posture.

Our election system is part of what makes the United States the greatest country in the world. Our ability to develop a strategy to better protect our election system and deter cyber adversaries from attacking it is critical.  Doing so will require an ongoing commitment, and I will continue to work with the administration to develop policies that deter and punish bad actors who think they can meddle in our election system. We must continue to make it clear to Russia and others that irresponsible, destabilizing behavior will not be tolerated and those who do attempt to interfere in our elections will face serious consequences. Our confidence in our democratic process depends on it.

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Congresswoman Kristi Noem’s Weekly Column: Fueling the Economy

Fueling the Economy
By Rep. Kristi Noem

I’ve supported ethanol for a long time – and for a lot of different reasons. Ramping up ethanol production expands commodity markets, helping support South Dakota farmers. The communities where ethanol production facilities are located receive tremendous economic benefits from the jobs and investments that are driven into the area. And every gallon of ethanol we produce is a gallon of oil we don’t have to buy from the Middle East, strengthening our national security by moving us toward greater energy independence.

South Dakota has long been a leader in ethanol production. POET, which got its start in Scotland, South Dakota, is one of the world’s largest ethanol producers – and they aren’t the only producers in the state. This August, I had the opportunity to celebrate the 10-year anniversary of Glacial Lake Energy’s Mina location, which has grown quickly over the last decade and produced an economic impact of around $400 million for the area. That is truly value-added agriculture.

While biofuel production has taken off in South Dakota, corn-based ethanol (and its soybean counterpart, biodiesel) still make up only a small portion of the overall fuel market. There are steps we can take to start closing that gap, however.

One of the first steps is expanding access. The Renewable Fuel Standard (or RFS) tells refineries how many gallons of renewable fuels should be blended into our overall supply. In other words, it helps get ethanol and biodiesel into gas pumps around the country. The Obama administration repeatedly fell short of meeting the legislative requirements, and former EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt failed to make the adjustments needed in the new administration. While President Trump has expressed his commitment to maintaining a strong RFS, more must be done.

I’ve also encouraged the president to allow for year-round E-15. Most reading this understand that it’s been a tough few years for agriculture. The situation’s only been made more difficult by China’s retaliatory tariffs on American commodities. I’m grateful the administration recognized the burden farmers and ranchers were bearing and offered some relief through USDA, but farmers don’t want to have to rely on aid. We want trade. Expanding opportunities for ethanol production expands markets for South Dakota farmers, which is critically needed at this time.

Another way to help expand South Dakota’s role in our fuel supply is through the tax code. For instance, tax credits have expanded the use of  biodiesel at the pump. I’ve worked to champion legislation to extend the $1 per gallon biodiesel tax credit.

South Dakota has always been a powerhouse when it comes to agriculture. We fuel America’s bodies that way. But by pushing for expanded markets for our biofuels and increasing energy innovation, South Dakota can revolutionize the way we fuel both our vehicles and our economy.

Governor Daugaard’s Weekly Column: Make It A Healthy School Year

Make It A Healthy School Year
A column by Gov. Dennis Daugaard:

Now that back-to-school season is here, I know parents have no shortage of items on their to-do lists. You have school supplies to buy, school lunch arrangements to make and new schedules to coordinate. With so much to do, I hope you will still be sure your children are up-to-date on their vaccines.

Childhood vaccines protect against serious and potentially life-threatening diseases, including polio, measles, whooping cough and chickenpox. Thanks to vaccines, most of these diseases have become rare in the United States. But many still exist here, and they can make children very sick, leading to days of missed school, missed work for parents, or, in serious cases, even hospitalization or death.

In 2014, the United States experienced 667 reported cases of measles in 27 states. That’s the greatest number of cases since the year 2000. We have seen some cases this year as well, with 93 people from 19 states reported to have measles from Jan. 1 to June 16.

Outbreaks of whooping cough can occur at middle and high schools as protection from childhood vaccines fades. In 2016, there were 17,972 reported cases of whooping cough in the U.S., and as recently as 2012 there were over 48,000 cases. Without vaccines, these numbers would be much, much higher.

By ensuring your children are vaccinated, you help protect them from these kinds of outbreaks.  You also help protect those who cannot receive vaccines – like newborn babies and people with weakened immune systems due to cancer or other health issues. Finally, vaccinations help ensure that your children meet state requirements before entering the classroom.

You can check with your school or your child’s doctor to learn what vaccines children need at a given age. For example, children who are 4 to 6 years old are due for boosters of four vaccines: DTaP (diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis, also called whooping cough), chickenpox, MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) and polio. Older children need Tdap (tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis) and MenACWY (meningococcal conjugate virus) vaccines. In addition, yearly flu vaccines are recommended for all children 6 months and older and the HPV (human papillomavirus) vaccine is encouraged for teens and pre-teens.

Vaccines are tested to ensure that they are safe and effective for children to receive at the recommended ages. Most insurance plans cover the vaccines needed for school entry and there is help available for families who do not have coverage. If you have questions or need more information, check with your physician or local community health office.

There is much on the horizon as children head back to the classroom. So enjoy the last few days of summer, but don’t forget to vaccinate your children. Let’s get our kids ready for a safe and healthy school year.

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May & Nelson complaining they want their own throne, AND to also pick the other teams’ Leadership? Talk about having their cake and eating it too…

The Argus Leader has a story today about the people forming the conservative caucus – Liz May and Stace Nelson – complaining that while they want to sit on their own throne, they want to have dual caucus citizenship with the caucus they’re trying to claim they’re better than.

Basically they want to throw rocks at the GOP caucus at the same time they pick it’s leaders:

And when Republican leaders learned that May and Nelson, who’d referred to them publicly as “RINOs” — Republicans in name only — were planning to break off, they hatched a plan to make them choose.

Republican House and Senate majority leaders penned letters to dozens of lawmakers and legislative candidates inviting them to caucus with the Republican Majority if elected.

“We consider the House and Senate Republican Majority Caucuses to be a family of Republicans working together to ensure that conservative Republican principles are protected and preserved in South Dakota,” Qualm said at the time. “We also believe that members of caucuses, whether a majority or a minority caucus, should be committed and dedicated to their caucus.”

and..

May said she’d refused to sign the letter because she had concerns about the agreement inhibiting her ability to work with her constituents.

She maintained that assuming she won and the Republicans maintained their majority in November, she would be part of the Majority Party caucus meetings.

“It is my caucus and I will attend,” May said. “I’m going to caucus.

Read it here.

So, about this “rival caucus.”  If we look back to the announcement when May and Nelson intentionally tried to separate themselves from the GOP Caucus, they did so based on how people ranked on a cherry picked scorecard, claiming they’re more Republican than all the other Republicans:

The release notes that “co-chair Senator Stace Nelson has long pushed for conservative Republican Legislators to separate themselves.”   So, after Stace gets his wish, he’s whining to the press that they want to throw rocks at the Republicans who aren’t in their “exclusive club,” and pick their leaders too?

I’m not sure how many more of these “true Republicans” the party can stand.

Liz and Stace may want to sit on a throne. But maybe they ought to show actual leadership by working together for Republicans, instead of criticizing them.

For a change.