US Senator John Thune’s Weekly Column: New Rules for A New and Evolving Economy

New Rules for A New and Evolving Economy
By Sen. John Thune

Today’s workforce, economy, and consumer needs are constantly changing. They’re far different than they were a generation ago, and, in some respects, they’re already different than they were just a few years ago. So, as technology evolves, and as the world around us modernizes and becomes more interconnected, it’s important for the United States to maintain a competitive edge by ensuring our laws keep up with these changes. We risk being left behind if we don’t.

Elected leaders can’t sit on the sidelines and expect workers and businesses to stop growing and innovating and pushing the boundaries of outdated laws. We should always challenge ourselves to be forward-looking and avoid the temptation of complacency, and I’m proud to have a record that reflects a desire to keep the United States heading toward the future.

I serve on both the Senate Finance Committee, which is tasked with writing our nation’s tax laws, and the Senate Commerce Committee, which oversees issues related to technology and communication. It’s a unique intersection, and together they put me in a strong position to advocate for the kind of pro-growth policies the economy needs.

In February, I reintroduced bipartisan legislation that would simplify the tax code to help today’s increasingly mobile workforce. Under current law, an individual who lives in a state like South Dakota, with no state income tax, might be required to file income taxes in multiple states for simply having temporarily worked in other states – in some cases, for as little as 24 hours. My bill, the Mobile Workforce State Income Tax Simplification Act, creates a common-sense standard to relieve this burden from employees and employers.

My New Economy Works to Guarantee Independence and Growth (NEW GIG) Act, which I reintroduced in March, would create some much-needed clarity for how the IRS treats workers like computer consultants, freelance writers, ride-share drivers, on-demand food delivery services, or others who participate in today’s gig economy. The NEW GIG Act would modify the tax code to more clearly define who is an independent contractor and who is a traditional employee, an important and potentially costly distinction for a lot of gig companies.

The products and services themselves that are offered through these new digital platforms and apps aren’t immune from the evolving economy either. Today’s online marketplace can be an extremely convenient way for consumers to purchase and receive these products, but it can also be challenging for those people who provide these goods and services, particularly as it relates to how they are taxed by state and local governments.

For example, let’s say you live in South Dakota, and while you visit Minnesota, you buy a song that’s stored on a server in New York. Under current law, all three of those tax jurisdictions could, under the right circumstances, tax your purchase. My bill, the Digital Goods and Services Tax Fairness Act, would provide some much-needed clarity that would prevent consumers from being hit by duplicative taxes.

Aside from these legislative efforts, I’ve been focused like a laser on expanding broadband connectivity, particularly in rural areas, and helping to lay the groundwork for 5G mobile broadband technology, which would help everyone in the United States, especially those who are participating in today’s economy. As chairman of the Commerce Committee’s Subcommittee on Communications, Technology, Innovation, and the Internet, I recently convened a hearing on rural broadband and invited two South Dakota telecommunications companies to share their perspective on this issue, which will continue to be a priority for me.

When it comes to future economic growth and opportunities, we need to keep our foot on the gas and our eyes on the road, because we won’t remain competitive if we don’t make modernization and innovation a priority. I’m committed to it, though, and, fortunately, I know many of my colleagues are, too.


US Senator Mike Rounds’ Weekly Column – National Emergency Declaration: A Primer

National Emergency Declaration: A Primer
By U.S. Sen. Mike Rounds (R-S.D.)

Congress and the administration have been in a months-long debate over border barrier funding. In fact, it was this debate that led to the longest partial government shutdown in our history. The shutdown ended in February after Congress passed a funding bill that allotted $1.4 billion to fund physical barriers along our southern border. This will pay for approximately 55 miles of new barriers.

That amount was far short of President Trump’s $5.7 billion request, so he declared a national emergency in order to reallocate funds to strengthen security at our southern border. Many of our colleagues on the other side of the aisle have refused to accept there is a growing crisis at our southern border that requires us to act.

The Department of Homeland Security has seen a 136 percent increase in the number of family units and unaccompanied children attempting to cross the border each month in Fiscal Year 2019. Over the past two years, ICE officers have arrested 266,000 aliens with criminal records, including those convicted of assaults, sex crimes and homicides. With a record number of individuals attempting to cross – 76,000 in February alone –resources for the hardworking men and women who protect the southern border are being squeezed. This makes it more difficult for them to stop dangerous drugs and criminals from entering the United States.

Recognizing this, the administration declared a national emergency so it could use additional tools to strengthen border security. The ability to declare a national emergency was granted to the executive branch via the National Emergencies Act in 1976. Since then, 59 national emergencies have been declared, 30 of which remain in effect. Under the National Emergency Act, the president is given wide latitude to determine which situations are emergencies, and I believe the president is on sound legal footing with regard to the current emergency declaration.

The president’s emergency declaration would allow the administration to take $3.6 billion from military construction projects which would not be contracted by October 31, 2019, to help pay for construction of physical barriers. The president has also identified $2.5 billion from the Department of Defense’s efforts to fight illegal drugs and $600 million from the Treasury Forfeiture Fund to help bolster border security. The administration has the ability to access these latter funds without a national emergency declaration.

Since coming to the Senate, I have said that Congress has ceded too much power to the executive branch over the years, including when it passed the National Emergencies Act in 1976. There are also concerns that a future president may declare a national emergency to invoke a sweeping policy change on an issue such as climate change. Because of these concerns, I am interested in reviewing proposals to rein-in executive powers moving forward, including the future use of a national emergency declaration.

The House and Senate passed a ‘resolution of disapproval’ on the president’s use of a national emergency declaration, which I voted against. Even before the Senate vote, President Trump announced he would veto the resolution. There are likely not enough votes to override a veto, therefore his emergency declaration will stand. I am committed to working with my colleagues on either side of the aisle to finish our appropriations work on time so we can avoid the chaos of the past several months.


Governor Kristi Noem’s Weekly Column: Addressing the Nursing Home Crisis

Addressing the Nursing Home Crisis
By Governor Kristi Noem

Mobridge. Madison. Tripp. Rapid City. Bryant. Rosholt. Huron. Watertown. The common thread between these communities? Nursing home closures. In all, 19 nursing home facilities around our state have closed their doors in recent years.

As I’ve traveled throughout our state, this is a crisis I have heard about time and time again. Nursing home closures impact real people: our parents, our grandparents. We all want our loved ones to be happy and comfortable as they age, and shuttered nursing homes mean disconnection from community, separation from family, and a disruption of comfort.

After many conversations with folks in grocery stores, at basketball games, and in my office with health care leaders, I knew something needed to be done. It was one of my top priorities that I laid out in my first budget address earlier this year. So I was thrilled to see the legislature affirm this and pass a bill to give nursing homes a 10 percent funding increase. This is a significant investment that will certainly provide a shot in the arm to keep nursing home services open.

And while increased funding is a good start, we must also be proactive in confronting the root of the problem: an outdated system of care for our seniors. At the beginning of the year, I proposed a five-million-dollar, one-time investment toward seeking big-picture solutions to our challenges in this arena. I was grateful to work closely with the legislature over the past few months to see this through. This money will help us explore alternative, cost-effective options that can be developed for patients and their families like expanding the continuum of care, developing community living homes, and exploring other approaches that address the problems leading to closures.

What’s more, this innovation funding will work to expand respite care services to family caregivers, either through brief, residential stays, or by staffing respite care programs in the home. Families are so often the best caregivers for our parents and for our grandparents, but everyone needs a little break once in a while. These services would provide that break. We also want the private sector to propose new approaches that address the pressures, including the workforce challenges and shortages, that are facing many of our community nursing facilities. This money will promote new thinking and new ideas with the goal being better senior care.

While we work to make South Dakota a better place for our kids, we must also commit ourselves to the generations who have paved the way for us. I’m grateful for the partnership of the legislature, the input of South Dakotans, and the teamwork that carried this funding across the finish line. Our parents and grandparents deserve good care and innovative ideas in how we can best deliver it. I’m hopeful we’re headed in that direction.


Congressman Dusty Johnson’s Weekly Column: First-Hand Experience

First-Hand Experience
By Rep. Dusty Johnson

As a self-described policy guy, I’ve spent a lot of time researching topics like agriculture and telecommunications. It’s no secret that when elected I was laser focused on gaining a spot on the Agriculture Committee for South Dakotans. Now as a member of two very different committees, I’ve appreciated how many topics Members of Congress have the opportunity to study and debate. I enjoy immersing myself in the intricacies of ag policy, but my time as a freshman member of the House Education and Labor Committee has allowed me to explore plenty of new avenues.

The policy aspect of my job is fantastic, but after having participated in nearly a dozen full committee hearings and markups on Ed & Labor, it’s the compelling personal narratives from witnesses that leave me feeling motivated and inspired. Most committees are focused on bringing in experts and eggheads, but there is a uniquely important lesson to learn from those who have faced these challenges directly.

Typically, at the beginning of a new Congress, it takes time to get everything up and running on committees. Ed & Labor however, has hit the ground at a steady sprint. I’ve had the opportunity to hear from dozens of individuals on a range of topics from raising the minimum wage to the cost of higher education.

One of the first hearings in Ed & Labor was related to preexisting conditions. Health care is essential – we all know that – and I truly believe that protecting individuals with preexisting conditions is of utmost importance. Chad Riedy is a prime example of the necessity of protecting individuals with chronic conditions. Chad is a husband, father, and a tough and determined son of a gun. He was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis (CF) at three years old. Despite years of research and development, there is no cure for CF and it’s not uncommon to receive a lung transplant if you want to survive.

Chad was told he wouldn’t make it past his twelfth birthday, today he is a 37-year-old father of two. During the hearing, pride was beaming off his boys faces as their father spoke.

This week, during a hearing on the affordability of college, I was struck by the testimony of Ms. Parker, a single parent and college student. Ms. Parker is the definition of hard work and ambition. Despite the obstacles she has faced, she never gives up and has held multiple jobs at a time to make ends meet. She expressed the importance of being one’s own advocate and staying persistent in a system that is complicated to navigate. Ms. Parker exemplifies the famous Calvin Coolidge quote, “Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence.”

First-hand experience is just as valuable as objective, nuanced data-driven opinions, and these individuals who bravely take a seat at the witness table are proof of that. These witnesses got to where they are today, testifying before Congress because of a can-do, determined spirit to succeed. I’m honored that they shared their story of persistence and grit with Congress.


SDGOP makes appeal to support border security

From my mailbox:

Dear Friend ,
At what point did it become acceptable to jeopardize the safety and security of our nation simply to score political points?

That’s EXACTLY what Nancy Pelosi, Chuck Schumer and their friends in the media have done in their desperate attempt to stop President Donald J. Trump from securing our borders.

By refusing to build a wall, or provide adequate funds to secure our borders, they’ve made you and your family more vulnerable to drug dealers, sex traffickers, and violent criminals.

If you’re as outraged as I am, then please sign our HEARTLAND PETITION FOR NATIONAL SECURITY.

Every day we read about yet another crime against a U.S. citizen by an illegal immigrant shielded by the Democrats’ opposition to border security. Demand action now — before it hits too close to your own home. Thank you.

Yours truly,

Dan Lederman, State Chairman
South Dakota Republican Party

P.S. How can our nation truly be sovereign and safe if we don’t control who is crossing our borders? We can’t, the Democrats know this, and yet they allow it to happen. Sign the petition, contribute $10, $15, $25 or more to the South Dakota GOP, and help us elect more Republicans who care about the security of you and your family.

If you’re at the parade in Sioux Falls today, don’t forget: If you see Dem Congressional Candidate Elle Spawn, tell a cop.

I’m at home nursing an awful head cold today, but I did want to remind readers who go out for The St Patrick’s day parade in Sioux Falls today, if you see Democratic/Socialist Congressional Candidate Elle Spawn (a.k.a. Michelle Dawn Spawn) walking in the parade – tell a cop, as in looking this morning it appears she still has active warrants out for her.

She might be running for Congress at the same time she’s running from the law, but she can’t do both forever!

For safety’s sake, please remember Minnehaha County’s admonishment that  “If you have information regarding someone with an outstanding warrant, do not approach the person. Instead, please call or e-mail the Minnehaha County Sheriff’s Office or local Law Enforcement. During business hours you can call: (605) 367-4268 or (605) 367-4300, and after hours phone number non emergency is: (605) 367-7000.”

(And have a happy St Me day,)

Noem Signs Emergency Declaration

Noem Signs Emergency Declaration

PIERRE, S.D. – Governor Kristi Noem today signed an emergency declaration that allows the use of additional state funds for South Dakota counties impacted by this week’s blizzard and flood.

“The storms this week have been extremely difficult for many of our communities,” said Noem. “This has been a statewide emergency with people impacted by heavy snow, high winds, rain, and freezing rain. This emergency declaration provides state agencies flexibility to help counties recover.”

The extra money comes from the state’s Disaster Fund. The money can be used for costs incurred by state agencies for resources deployed to the scene at the request of a county. The emergency order also allows for the activation of the South Dakota National Guard if necessary.

Noem said the state has been providing resources and technical assistance as needed to those counties dealing with the storm’s aftermath. Departments like Public Safety and Transportation have been working with affected counties before the storm’s onset earlier this week. On Thursday, Noem activated the State Emergency Operations Center (SEOC) that is being used to help coordinate the state’s response.

“We have an obligation to help counties, and we will,” said Noem. “We want to ensure our infrastructure remains strong during this period and people get the help they need.”

Depending on the extent of damage, the state may eventually request a Presidential Disaster Declaration asking for federal funds to aid recovery efforts.


Noem Signs Bill to Increase Hospital Billing Accountability

Noem Signs Bill to Increase Hospital Billing Accountability
Signs Eight Bills on Variety of Topics

PIERRE, S.D. – Governor Kristi Noem yesterday signed SB70, a bill to increase accountability and fairness in medical billing practices.

“Because of a blind spot in the law, hospitals and other medical facilities have been able to leverage a patient’s horrible accident to add a few extra dollars to their bottom line,” said Noem. “This bill sets up a pro-patient approach, holding hospitals and medical facilities to a more accountable billing practice. This puts us one step closer to equal billing treatment for all patients.”

Under current law, hospitals and other medical facilities can refuse to bill insurance companies of patients who are potential plaintiffs in personal injury suits in order to ultimately get higher rates for service. SB70 amends current law to require hospitals to submit the patient’s medical bills to an insurer in the same manner as any other patient.

Governor Noem signed the following bills into law:

  • HB1032 – An act to revise provisions regarding money transmission
  • SB1 An act to add a legislator to the membership of the Extraordinary Cost Oversight Board, to establish the board in statute, and to repeal the administrative rules creating the board
  • SB70 – An act to revise certain provisions regarding hospital liens
  • SB73 – An act to revise qualifications for sanitary district trustees
  • SB76 – An act to allow a candidate for legislative or county office to be considered for nomination to statewide office
  • SB 99 – An act to establish certain provisions regarding commercial security deposits
  • SB124 – An act to provide for the transportation of alcoholic beverages by retail licensees
  • SB154 – An act to authorize the production and transport of saltwater crustaceans


Rounds on Fox Business: I Support the President’s National Emergency Declaration

Rounds on Fox Business: I Support the President’s National Emergency Declaration
Rounds will vote against ‘Resolution of Disapproval’ in the Senate; vote expected later today

WASHINGTON – This morning on Fox Business, U.S. Sen. Mike Rounds (R-S.D.) told host Maria Bartiromo that he supports President Trump’s use of a national emergency declaration to reallocate money to strengthen security at our southern border.

“I’ll be supporting the president’s position on this particular vote,” said Rounds. “There is a national emergency at the border… in some cases 76,000 individuals [are] trying to come across in a month. They are overwhelming the manpower that we’ve got at the southern border. And in doing so, the Mexican drug cartels have figured it out: when we’re busy just taking in these folks who are coming in and asking for asylum, they’re finding ways to get into [our country], and it’s not just at the ports of entry.”

Watch the interview here: