Thune Offers Remarks Ahead of Tonight’s State of the Union Address

Thune Offers Remarks Ahead of Tonight’s State of the Union Address

WASHINGTON, D.C.—U.S. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) today offered remarks on what he hopes to hear from President Obama ahead of the State of the Union address tonight:

“President Obama’s State of the Union address will play an important role in setting the tone for the next Congress and I hope he will outline a new path forward working with Republicans to rebuild our economy from the ground up, creating jobs and strengthening the middle class. Americans want to know if the president will promote a positive, bipartisan agenda and join Republicans on working to find solutions to increase economic opportunity for all. Or, based on his rhetoric from the past few weeks, will he deliver yet another unserious political speech that overpromises and under delivers the same failed policies that grow government at the expense of the hard-working American taxpayer?

“The economy is a top priority for the majority of Americans. Although the recession officially ended more than five years ago, too many Americans are still struggling to make ends meet. Wages have remained stagnant, and median household income has dropped almost $3,000 since the president took office. And the president’s response to this is: more burdensome taxes that will hurt small businesses, farmers, and ranchers; more spending to pile debt on the back of the next generation; and more top-down regulations to stifle innovation and economic freedom.

“While the president’s message remains the same, South Dakotans have a reason to be hopeful.

“The new Republican majority is focused on a future that embraces and fights for the potential of Americans, not the government.

“We are fighting to reform the tax code so it’s simpler, more efficient and fairer.

“We are pushing to approve common-sense, bipartisan jobs bills, starting with passing the Keystone XL pipeline legislation.

“Republicans will also take up other bipartisan jobs measures that were stuck in the Democrat-led Senate for far too long, including repealing the job-killing medical device tax and reinstating the 40-hour workweek that was shortened by ObamaCare.

“In addition to passing job-creating legislation, Republicans will also make oversight a priority in the new Congress.

“The Obama Environmental Protection Agency has proposed regulations that would drive Americans’ energy prices through the roof and result in the loss of tens of thousands of American jobs.

“Americans’ priorities are Republicans’ priorities. We have a reform agenda to strengthen the middle-class, create jobs, increase wages, and lower health care and energy costs. Not the failed, top-down approach the president repeats year after year. We are eager to get to work on behalf of the American people and we hope the president will join us in this effort.”

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Press Release: Thune Welcomes South Dakota Business Executive to Testify on Impact of Proposed Internet Regulations

Thune Welcomes South Dakota Business Executive to Testify on Impact of Proposed Internet Regulations

-Midco SVP Tom Simmons to testify before Commerce Committee, Thune’s inaugural hearing as chairman-

John_Thune_official_photoWASHINGTON, D.C.— U.S. Senator John Thune (R-S.D.), chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, welcomes South Dakotan and Senior Vice President of Public Policy at Midcontinent Communications (Midco), Tom Simmons, who will testify before the Commerce Committee tomorrow, Wednesday, January 21, at Thune’s inaugural hearing as chairman entitled, “Protecting the Internet and Consumers through Congressional Action.”

“It’s fitting that as the committee holds its first hearing of the new Congress, we draw from the first-hand knowledge and success of a growing South Dakota business,” said Thune. “Mr. Simmons offers tremendous insight on the importance of protecting an open Internet and the current light touch regulatory approach that has spurred innovation. Midco is a prime example of how these policies promote infrastructure investment that benefit South Dakotans. The role of the Internet in our daily lives is going to continue to grow. It will keep revolutionizing things like transportation, health care, agriculture, and education. But heavy-handed government regulation, like that being pursued by the Federal Communication Commission, could delay or even jeopardize the next big leap in innovation. I look forward to hearing from Mr. Simmons as the committee evaluates the best path forward to protect the entrepreneurial character of the Internet and hope to draw valuable knowledge from his testimony.”

Mr. Simmons is from Sioux Falls, South Dakota, where he serves as Senior Vice President of Public Policy for Midco and manages the public affairs, public relations, government and industry relations, and is the general spokesperson for the company. He joined Midcontinent Media, Inc., parent company of Midcontinent Communications, in 1987 as the general manager of Midcontinent’s South Dakota radio group. In 1995, Mr. Simmons joined Midco Communications, Midcontinent’s telecommunications company, as Vice President and General Manager and was given the primary task of leading the development of full service local and long distance telephone and non-traditional services on Midcontinent’s cable television/broadband infrastructure.

Last fall, PC Magazine named Midco the nation’s fastest Internet service provider. In November, Midco announced it will make gigabit speeds available by 2017 to approximately 600,000 homes and 55,000 businesses throughout South Dakota, North Dakota, and Minnesota along a high-capacity fiber network that covers more than 7,600 miles.

Watch Thune chair his inaugural Commerce Committee hearing live tomorrow, Wednesday, January 21 at 2:30 p.m. ET, 1:30 p.m. CT, 12:30 p.m. MT online here.

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US Senator John Thune’s Weekly Column: Agriculture Remains a Top Priority in the New Congress

Agriculture Remains a Top Priority in the New Congress
By Senator John Thune

John_Thune_official_photoLast year’s passage of the 2014 Farm Bill was a significant step forward for South Dakota farmers, ranchers, and agri-businesses, as it included critical livestock assistance and a secure crop insurance program. While not perfect, the bill provided important reforms to the previous Farm Bill to help move ag policy into the 21st century. As we move into the new session of Congress guided by a Republican majority in the House and Senate, ag policy remains a top priority for me.

As South Dakota’s senior senator, lone member of the delegation serving on a congressional agriculture committee, member of the tax-writing Senate Finance Committee, and chairman of the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee, my committee assignments provide unique opportunities to address key agriculture priorities.

My role as chairman of the Commerce Committee will help strengthen South Dakota’s rail, transportation, and telecommunications infrastructure, which is important to keeping our agriculture and business economy strong and healthy. This past harvest season, agriculture producers were hit particularly hard by the rail service backlogs. As chairman of the Commerce Committee, which has jurisdiction over transportation issues, I will continue working closely with the Surface Transportation Board, which has direct oversight over our railroads to prevent future backlogs from occurring.

As a member of the Senate Finance Committee, which has jurisdiction over tax and trade issues, I am committed to working toward tax reform that will simplify the tax system. Comprehensive tax reform is particularly important for farmers who pay taxes at the individual rates. According to the American Farm Bureau Federation, more than 96 percent of farms and 75 percent of farm sales are taxed at the individual tax rates. I will also be reintroducing my legislation to repeal the federal estate tax, better known as the death tax. Protecting South Dakota agriculture from the confiscatory and unfair death tax is critical if we want to allow family farms to pass to the next generation.

South Dakota’s agriculture industry is very dependent on exports, with more than 40 percent of its annual soybean crop sent overseas. As a Member of the Finance Committee, I will fight for Trade Promotion Authority and favorable trade agreements to open new markets abroad to South Dakota’s agricultural products.

Finally, as a member of the Senate Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry Committee, I will continue to keep a watchful eye on the implementation of the 2014 Farm Bill. Crop insurance is the most important safety net tool for our state’s farmers. Thanks to crop insurance and past federal Farm Bill programs, most farmers have been able to sustain their operations while providing the safest and most affordable food supply in the world. I will continue to advocate for South Dakota’s farmers and ranchers as the U.S. Department of Agriculture implements Farm Bill commodity programs, conservation programs, and other important agriculture programs.

Agriculture is the backbone of South Dakota’s economy. As your U.S. Senator I am eager to work on the pressing issues facing South Dakota, and I look forward to being a strong voice in Washington for the South Dakota agriculture industry.

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Release: Following Thune Backing, Air Force Finalizes Critical Training Airspace Expansion

Following Thune Backing, Air Force Finalizes Critical Training Airspace Expansion

-Approval of PRTC increases national security while saving taxpayers money-

John_Thune_official_photoWASHINGTON, D.C.—Following nearly nine years of collaboration between U.S. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) and the Air Force to expand the military training airspace over South Dakota, North Dakota, Montana, and Wyoming, known as the Powder River Training Complex (PRTC), Thune today applauded the Air Force’s announcement that it finalized its Record of Decision (ROD) to approve the PRTC. Now that the Air Force has completed its portion of the process, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) will complete its review before the training airspace can be utilized.

“It is rare to have an opportunity to increase national security while saving taxpayer dollars, but that’s precisely what this project does,” said Thune. “After nearly nine years working with the Air Force on this important expansion project, I’m pleased we’ve entered the final step to ensuring our Air Force pilots and personnel have the adequate airspace to perform the critical training they need in conditions that more closely resemble combat missions. I’m proud of the vital role Ellsworth continues to play in protecting and preserving America’s freedom at home and abroad and look forward to the FAA finalizing the PRTC expansion.”

The PRTC expansion will provide Air Force pilots and personnel with expanded airspace to perform the critical training they need in conditions that more closely resemble combat missions. The expansion will also allow for large force exercises where multiple aircraft and crews can train together simulating a combat environment without live fire exercises.

The new Powder River Training Complex will be divided into four quadrants, with each of these quadrants divided into low-, medium-, and high-altitude sections. With the exception of Large Force Exercises, which will be for only 10 days per year, only a few quadrants will be in use during the week, and only for a few hours each day. The airspace will continue to be open for civilian and commercial use when it is not being used for training exercises.

The PRTC expansion not only marks the largest expansion of Special Use Airspace in America’s history, but also represents an important cost-saving initiative. The expanded airspace will save Ellsworth Air Force Base up to $23 million per year and is the first time the FAA and Air Force have worked jointly on such an effort, setting a precedent for further cost-saving cooperation down the road and addressing stakeholder concerns up front.

Ellsworth Air Force Base has a $350 million impact on South Dakota’s economy and is the state’s second largest employer.

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Press Release: Thune Calls on FWS to Continue Normal Forest Management if Long-Eared Bat is Listed Under ESA

Thune Calls on FWS to Continue Normal Forest Management
if Long-Eared Bat is Listed Under ESA

-Potential bat listing and FWS forest management recommendations
endanger forest health, Black Hills jobs-

John_Thune_official_photoWASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) today sent a bipartisan letter with U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and 11 of his senate colleagues to U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) Director Dan Ashe expressing concern over the potential listing of the northern long-eared bat (NLEB) under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The letter calls on the FWS to revise the misguided and harmful forest management restrictions accompanying the endangered species listing released last year, and instead issue a regulation to allow normal forest management practices and minimize economic impact on states.

“If FWS is serious about protecting both the northern long-eared bat and the Black Hills National Forest—it will drop its proposed listing, focus on the real threat to the bat by addressing white-nose syndrome, and allow normal forest management to continue,” said Thune. “The proposed listing doesn’t address the real problem—death loss due to white nose syndrome. The FWS needs to focus on the real issue instead of putting forest health and 1,500 jobs in the Black Hills area at risk.”

Listing the long-eared bat as endangered and implementation of the “Northern Long-eared Bat Interim Conference and Planning Guidance” released last year could effectively end timber management in the Black Hills National Forest, which will cause declining forest health, increase the likelihood of large scale wildfires, and severely impact the timber industry in the Black Hills. Thune sent a letter on October 14, 2014, along with Representative Kristi Noem (R-S.D.) calling on the FWS to withdraw its proposed listing of the NLEB under the ESA due to insufficient supporting data to warrant the listing.

Joining Thune and Klobuchar in their letter are Sens. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisc.), Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), John Boozman (R-Ark.), Dan Coats (R-Ind.), Thad Cochran (R-Miss.), Susan Collins (R-Maine), Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.), Al Franken (D-Minn.), Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), and Jean Shaheen (D-N.H.).

Text of the senators’ letter is below:
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January 14, 2015

The Honorable Dan Ashe
Director
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
1849 C Street NW
Washington, DC 20240

Dear Director Ashe:

We write to express our concern about the impact of white-nose syndrome on the northern long-eared bat (NLEB) and the potential listing of the bat under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).

With white-nose syndrome (WNS) occurring in only 17 of the 39 states that constitute the NLEB’s range, the U.S. forest products industry, along with other stakeholders, have called into question actions taken and proposals offered thus far by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to preserve the bat. If during the final review process the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) determines it necessary to list the northern long-eared bat as threatened, we urge you to issue a rule under Section 4(d) of the ESA concurrently in order to allow normal forest management practices and minimize economic impacts in our states.

In January 2014, the USFWS released Northern Long-eared Bat Interim Conference and Planning Guidance designed to answer questions it received from various federal agencies on how best to reduce harmful impacts to the bat and its habitat through certain conservation measures and activities. Since the release of this guidance, we have heard numerous concerns about the potential negative impacts these recommendations would have on forest economies if implemented, including the prohibition on harvesting timber from April 1 to September 30 each year.

The challenges that affected industries in our states would face should a threatened listing be issued could be minimized through practical and flexible solutions provided in a special rule under Section 4(d) of the ESA. By issuing a special 4(d) rule concurrently with a threatened listing, the USFWS could reduce harm to bat populations, while at the same time allowing certain typical forest and land management activities to continue. Additionally, we urge you to revise the Interim Conference and Planning Guidance to reflect the conservation benefits from normal forest management activities to northern long-eared bats concurrent with your listing decision.

Protecting the bat from extinction is a goal that we all share. By working together we can ensure the health of our forests, and maintain forest communities and local economies, while preserving the northern long-eared bat for generations to come.

Thank you for your attention to this important matter.

Sincerely,

Cc: The Honorable Sally Jewell, Secretary, U.S. Department of Interior
Cc: Chairman Michael Boots, White House Council on Environmental Quality

 

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Thune not looking at President, focusing on work.

Even though he keeps popping up on those lists, South Dakota’s US Senator is focusing on work in an article this morning from Politico:

It’s often said each senator wakes up, looks in the mirror and sees a future president staring back. But John Thune admits his “window” for a White House run might have closed in 2012.

So instead, the South Dakota Republican is ready to dive deep into the policy weeds as chairman of the influential Commerce Committee, while using his role as leader of the Senate GOP Conference to pursue party unity. And all the while, he’s watching three very different Republican senators mull a run for president.

Sure, Thune still lands with regularity on lists of potential dark-horse White House hopefuls, but ask what excites him and you’re likely to hear about airbag recalls and reining in the Federal Communications Commission, not tackling the Iowa caucuses. He was also a leading advocate for the joint retreat that House and Senate Republicans are holding Thursday and Friday in Hershey, Pennsylvania.

And…

Thune’s legislative hopes include updating a 1990s-era telecommunications law, testing whether Republicans can coalesce around a plan to fight the administration’s net neutrality policies and writing new aviation and highway bills. He will try to invigorate the committee’s investigative muscles on Obamacare and find out “who knew what, when” regarding the recall of millions of cars with defective airbags.

“There’s a lot of stuff you can do,” Thune said. “Sometimes you’re driven by the urgent need of the moment. And we’re trying to be kind of strategic about it and set up things that we want to do.”

Read it here.

US Senator John Thune’s Weekly Column: New South Dakota Delegation Will Hit the Ground Running

New South Dakota Delegation Will Hit the Ground Running
By Senator John Thune

John_Thune_official_photoThings have changed in our state since 1962. South Dakota’s commerce and tourism industries have flourished under the construction of the interstate highway system. Sioux Falls has nearly tripled in size; two state universities moved to division one, competing in the highest levels of academics and athletics; corn yields have doubled and no-till farming has made the plow and cultivator obsolete. South Dakota is represented by three members in Congress instead of four, and our lone member of the House is a female. Indeed, things have changed.

But not since 1962 has South Dakota sent an all-Republican delegation to Congress. This is a pretty historic occurrence; especially considering the last time Republicans held the majority in both chambers of Congress and South Dakota had an all-Republican delegation was 1953. While divided delegations can provide opportunities to work together, South Dakotans stand to benefit from a strong leadership team in Congress that will promote Republican policies that create jobs, reduce federal regulatory overreach, stimulate the economy, and get Washington’s legislative process working again for them.

Over the past few years of Democrat control in the Senate, too often the minority party was shut out of the legislative process, leading to dysfunction and gridlock. Under Republican control, the Senate will get back to work, returning to regular order, which means bills will be considered out in the open in committees before coming to the Senate floor, and all senators, regardless of party, will have a chance to propose and debate amendments.

As the new senior senator, I’m looking forward to working with both Senator Rounds and Representative Noem to advance a number of important South Dakota priorities during this session of Congress. From reining in burdensome EPA regulations and preventing backdoor energy taxes and fines on ranchers and farmers, to passing the job-creating Keystone XL pipeline and repealing the most onerous parts of ObamaCare, I’m looking forward to rolling up my sleeves and working with them on the major issues facing this country.

Our new South Dakota delegation is ready to hit the ground running. I look forward to new opportunities to serve South Dakota in the coming year with a strong South Dakota leadership team ready to promote policies in Congress that will create jobs and stimulate the economy.

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Commerce Committee makes Thune Chairmanship official

Thune Officially Designated as Commerce Chairman

WASHINGTON, D.C.— The U.S. Senate yesterday officially ratified U.S. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) as chairman of the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee for the 114th Congress. Sen. Thune issued the following statement on taking the gavel for the committee:

“It is an honor to serve as chairman of the Commerce Committee at the forefront of the new Congress as we work to create jobs and grow our economy. I am eager to begin work with the new ranking member, Sen. Bill Nelson, and my colleagues on both sides of the aisle on pressing business before the committee. Continuing to serve South Dakota in the United States Senate is the highest public service opportunity afforded to me, and I look forward to addressing several issues important to our state during this session of Congress including, rural broadband, rail service, aviation, cybersecurity, and an overhaul of our telecommunications policy.”

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John Thune: Obama’s Keystone Excuses Hit Another Dead End

Obama’s Keystone Excuses Hit Another Dead End

WASHINGTON, D.C.—U.S. Senator John Thune (R-S.D.) today issued the following statement on the Nebraska Supreme Court decision on the Keystone XL pipeline:

John_Thune_official_photo“The president’s litany of excuses for delaying the Keystone XL pipeline has hit yet another dead end. This court decision further erodes the president’s obstruction of the bipartisan, job-creating Keystone XL. Soon the president will have a clear opportunity to sign a bipartisan bill into law approving the construction of this common-sense infrastructure project. The president is out of excuses, and it is time for him to act. Will he stand for the American people, or will he continue to stand for his far-left liberal allies?”

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Press Release: Thune Bill Provides Incentive to Hire Long-Term Unemployed Americans

Thune Bill Provides Incentive to Hire Long-Term Unemployed Americans

John_Thune_official_photoWASHINGTON, D.C.—U.S. Senator John Thune (R-S.D.) today introduced S. 38, the Helping Individuals Regain Employment Act (HIRE Act), a bill that would provide an incentive for employers to hire long-term unemployed Americans by permanently exempting those employees from the government-mandated ObamaCare employee count.

“The HIRE Act is a win-win for employers and long-term unemployed Americans who continue to feel the pain from ObamaCare and six years of President Obama’s failed economic policies,” said Thune. “Congress should be doing all it can to enact policies that help unemployed Americans find good-paying jobs, and ObamaCare shouldn’t stand in the way.”

Under ObamaCare, any business with 100 or more full-time employees must provide government-approved insurance or pay a fine in 2015. Beginning in 2016, any business with 50 or more full-time employees must comply with the mandate.

According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, there are 9.1 million unemployed Americans, of which 2.8 million have been unemployed for 27 or more weeks. While the official unemployment rate is 5.8 percent, the “real” unemployment rate, which considers the number of people who have stopped looking for work, is 11.4 percent.

The HIRE Act was originally included in Thune’s “Good Jobs, Good Wages, Good Hours Act,” which he introduced last year as an alternative to the unemployment insurance extension bill.

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