US Senator John Thune’s Weekly Column: Getting Washington Working Again For the American People

thuneheadernew John_Thune,_official_portrait,_111th_CongressGetting Washington Working Again For the American People

When Republicans campaigned for the Senate majority in 2014, we made a simple, yet important pledge to the American people: If you elect Republicans to the majority, we will get the Senate, which has been dysfunctional for years, working again. That was not a half-hearted campaign slogan; it was a commitment on which we intended to deliver.

For far too long, the legislative process was nearly nonexistent in the Democrat-run Senate. Democrats were more focused on saving their own jobs than enacting policies that would help create good-paying jobs for hard-working Americans. The Senate floor transformed into a campaign hall, and basic legislative functions often took a back seat to political show votes that were intended to create fodder for 30-second campaign ads rather than solve key problems facing people across the country. Last year, the American people opted for a new direction, and seven months into the new Republican majority, I am happy to report that we have made significant progress.

It is halftime in the first session of this Congress, and Republicans and Democrats in the Senate have put some important points on the board on behalf of the American people. Most importantly, we have returned the Senate to what our Founders intended it to be: a place for open and honest debate, where committees are able to work and senators on both sides of the aisle are able to participate. With a divided government, I believe that the legislative outcome is better when members of both parties are part of the process.

Since reopening the Senate, we have passed more than 80 bills to help improve our economy, reform our government, protect some of the most vulnerable among us, and strengthen our national security. We passed a joint balanced budget resolution, the first since 2001, and did not raise a single dime in taxes during the process. We also passed legislation to approve the Keystone XL pipeline, strengthen our efforts to eradicate human trafficking in this country, provide a check on the Obama administration’s flawed Iran nuclear agreement, and long-overdue trade legislation to help expand access to American-made goods overseas. Additionally, we passed the first long-term bill to strengthen Medicare in over a decade – ensuring South Dakota seniors have access to the physicians they prefer – and an education reform bill that transfers power from Washington bureaucrats back to parents, teachers, and local school boards.

More than 200 bills have been reported out of our various committees, including 36 that were reported out of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, which I chair. In particular, the Commerce Committee and full Senate passed my bipartisan legislation to reform the Surface Transportation Board and help ensure the rail backlog, which hurt South Dakota’s economy in 2013 and 2014, does not happen again. Also, just a few weeks ago, the Senate passed a long-term highway bill that is critical to South Dakota’s economy. This legislation not only passed with 65 votes, but includes a host of legislative priorities that I worked to include, such as provisions that will strengthen rail and highway safety, while cutting regulatory red tape for agriculture producers who rely on a national transportation system to get their goods to market.

On Saturday, I delivered the weekly Republican address to the nation and shared this important progress with all Americans. While we have accomplished a lot so far, there is much more work to be done during the second half of this session of Congress, and I will continue to fight for South Dakota’s priorities and the priorities of the American people.


Senator Mike Rounds’ Weekly Column: Angels in Adoption

RoundsPressHeader MikeRounds official SenateAngels in Adoption
By Senator Mike Rounds
August 21, 2015

Providing children with a loving home is one of the greatest gifts anyone can give. Strong families are an important pillar of society that help bring stability to communities and teach core values to future generations. Every child deserves the love and support that a family provides. I applaud those who are committed to strong and healthy families, especially those involved in adoption and foster care. That is why it is an honor to nominate Bethany Christian Services of Eastern and Western South Dakota as 2015 Angels in Adoption.

For more than 25 years, Bethany Christian Services has been helping children find loving, permanent homes in which to thrive and grow in South Dakota. Bethany accomplishes this by offering support for both international and domestic adoptions, which includes foster care adoption. I have always been pro-life, so participating in the Angels in Adoption program is important to me. Life is a wonderful gift, and families who adopt or foster children in need are giving back the gift of love. I admire organizations like Bethany Christian Services, who facilitate adoptions, help women through pregnancies and find foster parents for abused and neglected youth. Through their dedication and commitment to foster care and adoption, Bethany Christian Services has touched the lives of thousands of children and helped them overcome tough challenges at a young age. Nominating them as Angels in Adoption is the least I can do to say thanks.

Angels in Adoption is a non-profit program sponsored by Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute (CCAI) that seeks to raise awareness about the unique needs of children without families and advocate on behalf of orphans and foster children. Each year, Members of Congress have the opportunity to nominate an “Angel” – an individual, family or organization that has made extraordinary contributions on behalf of children in need of families.

According to CCAI, more than 100,000 kids in the U.S. are eligible for adoption, but nearly 32 percent will wait more than three years before being placed in a permanent home. Worldwide, the numbers are even more staggering. The Angels in Adoption program sheds light on the need for loving families to open their homes to these children. It also seeks to raise awareness about the rewarding and positive difference adoption makes in the lives of children, parents and their communities.

The adoption process can often be cumbersome and difficult, but organizations like Bethany Christian Services work to streamline the process and make certain both the children and adoptive families have a positive experience.  I’m proud to partner with CCAI to nominate Bethany Christian Services of Eastern and Western South Dakota as 2015 Angels in Adoption. May the organization – and others like it who offer adoption and foster care services – continue to do great work to help children find forever homes. I am inspired by all families who chose to open their homes and hearts to kids in need, as well as the organizations that support them. The impact adoption can have on families, children and societies is truly life-changing.

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Congresswoman Kristi Noem’s Weekly Column: Boosting Opportunity

noem press header kristi noem headshot May 21 2014Boosting Opportunity
By Rep. Kristi Noem
August 21, 2015

South Dakota is a small business state.  Drive through nearly every town and the main street will be lined with family-owned businesses – the café, the grocery store, the seed dealer, the hair salon, you name it.  It’s part of what makes South Dakota so great to live in.  We can do business with people we know, and that’s a rare thing in today’s world.

My own family has run small businesses throughout our lives.  We’ve built up a family farm, managed a restaurant, even opened a hunting lodge at one point. Those experiences have given me an understanding of the challenges small businesses face in getting the word out about what they have to offer.  And doing so efficiently when margins are tight is imperative.

That’s why I was proud to work with the Sioux Falls Chamber of Commerce and Facebook for a “Boost Your Business” event earlier this month.  I wanted it to be another tool to help level the playing field so growing South Dakota businesses can better compete in their communities and across the globe.  All in all, more than 300 South Dakotans turned out for the event, learning from social media experts and their peers in South Dakota about how to use technology to grow their customer base.

I’m proud to be able to help facilitate opportunities like this.  To me, unlocking the potential of others is one of my primary responsibilities and something I work to do not only at events like this, but also through the policies I help advance as South Dakota’s lone representative in the U.S. House.

This year, I’ve helped push an opportunity-driven agenda that works to pave the way for South Dakota businesses to thrive.  For instance, I helped the House pass the America’s Small Business Tax Relief Act. Provisions in this bill make Section 179 expensing levels permanent, so small businesses and millions of Americans who depend on them can better plan for the future.  This has been a critical provision for many South Dakota farmers and small businesses.  If it’s made permanent, I’m hopeful we can give these job creators more incentive to invest and greater certainty.

Additionally, we took up and passed the Small Business Regulatory Flexibility Improvements Act.  According to the National Federation of Independent Businesses, “government requirements and red tape” ranked as one of the biggest issues facing small business. This bill helps cut through that red tape by requiring federal agencies to consider the impact on small business when writing new regulations.  It also provides greater opportunity for these growing businesses to offer input on the rules and regulations that will hit them hardest.

In South Dakota, 82,705 small businesses employ nearly 200,000 workers.  In fact, more than 96 percent of employers in our state are small businesses.  We need to make sure we do all we can to unlock the potential of each of these businesses.  So whether it means plugging family businesses into social media networks or giving them a bigger voice in the federal rule-making process, I’m committed to doing all I can to support them.


Governor Dennis Daugaard’s Weekly Column: Good Times At The South Dakota State Fair

daugaardheader DaugaardGood Times At The South Dakota State Fair

A column by Gov. Dennis Daugaard:

Classes are beginning again, football season will soon be underway and South Dakota’s favorite end-of-summer event is coming up – the South Dakota State Fair, held Sept. 3 through Sept. 7 in Huron.

The State Fair has a proud history of educating children (and their parents) about how our farmers and ranchers produce food. Whether it’s watching a livestock show, getting “up close and personal” with a calf or lamb, sitting in the seat of a new combine or tractor, asking an exhibitor what their goats eat, or learning Mrs. Olson’s secret for growing massive pumpkins, there are a host of opportunities for inspiring and educating young people about the wonders of agriculture.

Of course, the State Fair is located in Huron, but for a few days each year, the fairgrounds become a community unto itself. Be sure to stop at the FFA Animal Nursery and ask state officers how their year of service is going. Take a walk through the exhibition halls and chat with 4-H’ers about their projects. Visit with the vendors. Dozens of families from South Dakota and around the country come back year after year because they have such a good time. And everyone has a story to share.

This annual celebration wouldn’t be complete without the great fair food, exciting carnival rides and unique activities. Enjoy The Band Perry concert at the grandstand, try your luck in the arm wrestling competition, take your spouse for a twirl in the jitterbug contest, or play a game or two on the midway. No matter your interest, you’re bound to have a good time.

I am proud of our State Fair. It’s a one-of-a-kind celebration of agriculture and community. I hope you will mark the dates on your calendar and make plans to come out for at least one day. It’s worth the trip.


Converting to Uber. And why can’t we have it in SD?

As I’m sitting in the airport café, enjoying a nice breakfast before I have to find my gate, I was pondering the ride I took to get here.

And wondering – why in the heck don’t we have Uber in South Dakota?

Now, it’s not perfect. That whole surge pricing/multiplier thing is confusing, so a ride I thought was going to cost me $11-15 ended up costing me thirty. 

It doesn’t explain ahead of time that the multiplier is added on top of the fare instead of being the fare. But, my ride was pleasant, arrived on my location within two minutes, and I didn’t have to leave a tip.

In a taxi, with the tip, the ride would have been $30 anyway, so it was a wash.

The ease and convenience of using Uber was tremendous. So, of course, in South Dakota it runs up against attitudes like this:

Assistant City Attorney Keith Allenstein said though the companies themselves would fall outside of Sioux Falls’ jurisdiction because they don’t operate local brick and mortar dispatch centers, existing city rules governing both independent contractors and taxi cab drivers would apply to ride-hailing drivers.

“If they keep a vehicle as a vehicle for hire, then these do apply,” Allenstein said. “I don’t think there’s a need to change anything in ordinance right now to regulate the drivers.”

Uber drivers are independent contractors and in Sioux Falls would need to apply for operators permits, have their vehicles inspected, obtain independent contractor licenses, provide proof of insurance and get commercial license plates. Sales tax remittance would also be required.


But others aren’t so sure the rules should be tinkered with. Councilor Rex Rolfing said although he’s always open to revisiting city ordinances, certain parts of what’s on the books are necessary for public safety and fairness. Waiving the sales tax requirement, for instance, would create an uneven playing field between Uber drivers and traditional taxi cabs, he said.

“Who would (pay) it if they didn’t do it?” Rolfing asked. “It’s like doing things in a cash-only situation. That’s not going to be good for everybody in the long run.”

Read it here.

With attitudes like that, we should not be shocked if it’s reported that politicians like Rolfing bemoan the use of an automobile over the horse and buggy.

With attitudes like that at the city level, it also becomes incumbent upon legislators at the state level to provide a framework for modern notions of the taxi service, since local officials are still wondering where all the dinosaurs went.

In our society, one certainty is progress. In all aspects, we simply don’t do things as we have for the past hundred years. In business, “It’s the way we’ve always done things” is a recipe for failure and extinction. 

If business finds better and more efficient way of doing things, such as a modern notion of the taxi, government should be there to facilitate. 

So, legislators….  If the city of Sioux Falls is too bound by inertia and a desire to be trapped in the past, ignore those still looking for dinosaurs and standing around. Take the lead. 

Augie AFP attendees catch some press on presidential nomination

from Newsmax, some of my fellow South Dakota AFP attendees were mentioned in a new story today on whether they like Trump:

A group of college students in a Republican club at Augustana College in South Dakota felt he was too much of a bully.

“He’s mocking it with his presence,” said Cara Beck, 20, as she stood with five male students between 19 and 21 years of age. Their picks were Bush, former Ohio Governor John Kasich, Kentucky Senator Rand Paul and Rubio.

Read it here.