Senator John ThuneOne of the most important obligations of any elected representative is to be willing to listen to the opinions and ideas of the people they represent. I am always impressed with how closely South Dakotans pay attention to what happens in Washington, and I welcome their opinions, even when we disagree. My offices in Washington and South Dakota receive many letters, calls, and emails from South Dakotans about many issues, and I value this connection between people and their representatives as an important part of our republic's strength.
Technology has the ability to connect South Dakotans with their representatives in exciting ways. When I was in government class at Jones County High School, I never could have envisioned sending an email to my senators, but now email and my Senate website are valuable tools for staying in touch with South Dakotans.
Recently, I hosted a "teletownhall" meeting with South Dakotans. Through the telephone, I was connected live with thousands of South Dakotans, and for an hour I took questions directly from constituents about issues ranging from the health care debate to the House-passed cap and trade proposal to the future of renewable energy production in South Dakota. I am always happy to discuss issues like these with South Dakotans, from run-ins in the coffee shop to forums such as this where a large number of people can share their thoughts at once.
The issues discussed on the call reflected the things I frequently hear about in the state when I'm home on weekends or during time when Congress is out of session. The health care debate is understandably drawing national attention, and South Dakotans are asking the important questions about what could happen if Congress enacts the proposals that are being drafted by Democrat leaders in the House and Senate. South Dakotans are justifiably concerned that they will see their own health care costs rise, their taxes increased, and some express concern that they may lose control of their health care coverage to Washington bureaucrats. South Dakotans deserve a debate about health care that focuses on increasing choices and lowering costs and they deserve time to better understand how the current proposals will impact them.
Cap and trade is another issue that South Dakotans understand could cripple our economy. Our state's agricultural producers, the backbone of our economy, rely heavily on energy. A cap and trade program like the controversial one passed by the House of Representatives amounts to a national sales tax on energy, with rural states like South Dakota shouldering an unfair share. I anticipate carrying the views of constituents forward when the Senate considers this issue this fall.
I will be visiting communities throughout South Dakota in August. I value these visits as opportunities to gather the views of South Dakotans on the issues facing our nation. I look forward to taking your views back to Washington in September when the Senate will debate some of these pressing issues.