US Senator John Thune’s Weekly Column: Finishing Strong and Looking Ahead

Finishing Strong and Looking Ahead
By Sen. John Thune

I’ve worked hard over the last two years delivering on my promise to help get the Senate working more efficiently and effectively for the people of South Dakota. Because when hard-working taxpayers ask themselves if Washington is listening – if Washington is paying attention to their struggles – I want them to know the answer is yes, loud and clear. An accountable government begins with accountable representatives, and my work in Washington is committed to that end.

One of the most effective and gratifying ways for me to be responsive to South Dakotans is to fight for policy initiatives that correct problems they’ve encountered or help avoid those problems from happening again in the future. The work I’ve done to help prevent future out-of-control prescribed burns is a good example.

The Pautre fire was supposed to be a small 100-acre prescribed burn in Western South Dakota. And while prescribed burns can be an effective land management tool, this particular fire did far more harm than good. Because of unsafe fire conditions, the fire quickly grew beyond the U.S. Forest Service’s (USFS’s) control and torched 16,000 acres of public and private land and destroyed millions of dollars of property along the way.

Thanks to legislation I authored, the USFS will now be required to consult with state and local officials – the people who know the land better than anyone else – prior to starting a prescribed burn in South Dakota or any other state when fire danger is extreme and conditions are unsafe. It’s a common-sense idea that will have a real and meaningful impact on ranchers and property owners with property adjoining or near USFS land.

Another good example is my nearly year-long fight to ensure South Dakota schools that depend on the Impact Aid program didn’t face hundreds of thousands of dollars in funding cuts, which would have had a negative effect on the students those schools serve. I teamed up with a bipartisan group of senators whose states would have also faced massive funding cuts to correct an error in the law and protect these schools and students.

These are just a few items Congress tackled in the final days of the 114th Congress, and there are a lot more wins where these came from. We’ve been able to get a lot of big things over the finish line over the last few years, and in the areas where there’s more work to do, I’ll keep my nose to the grindstone, continuing to work hard to deliver the positive results South Dakotans want and expect.

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