By Sen. John Thune
I’ve often said that my Senate committee assignments put me in a unique position to give issues that are important to South Dakota the attention they deserve, and there are plenty of results to show for it. For example, my spot on the Agriculture Committee allows me to advocate for South Dakota’s farmers and ranchers, and with their help, I’ve been introducing bill after bill over the last year as we approach this fall’s deadline on the next farm bill. No one knows agriculture policy better than the folks who help make agriculture our state’s top industry, and because of them, we’re in a much stronger position.
Serving on the Finance Committee, which sets our nation’s tax policy, gave me the opportunity to help deliver tax relief to South Dakota families and businesses, including farms and ranches. These reforms, which are the most significant changes to tax law in a generation, are already benefiting South Dakotans. While there have been plenty of good stories to share lately – like bonuses, higher wages, and expanded benefits for workers – I believe there’s still more to come.
I’ve served as chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation since January 2015, and while not everything generates front page headlines, there’s significant work that takes place behind the scenes, and it’s having a big impact on the state’s economy and the folks who call South Dakota home.
The Commerce Committee has one of the largest jurisdictions of all the committees in the Senate, covering everything from planes, trains, and automobiles to federal communications policy to interstate commerce to technology and beyond. Since so many of these issues have a direct effect on South Dakota, I’ve invited numerous South Dakotans, including Gov. Dennis Daugaard, former Pierre Mayor Laurie Gill, and Lake Area Technical Institute President Michael Cartney, to testify at committee hearings over the years. Their perspective on these issues has proven to be invaluable.
I recently released a report, which can be found on my website, that highlights my work on the Commerce Committee and several big ticket items that have positively affected South Dakota, including my effort to expand cybersecurity research at Dakota State University, enhance Ellsworth Air Force Base’s strategic value, address unique needs for agricultural transportation, and promote internet-enabled health care solutions for South Dakotans who live in rural parts of the state.
Last year alone, 10 committee-approved proposals were enacted into law, including my Weather Research and Forecasting Innovation Act. The committee approved nearly 50 bills overall, of which 20 received the full Senate’s stamp of approval. We approved 20 of the president’s nominees, including two cabinet officials and the Federal Communications Commission chairman, and we held 63 hearings and eight legislative markups.
The committee has more opportunities to deliver for South Dakota and the rest of the American people in 2018, not the least of which is getting my Senate-passed MOBILE NOW bill, legislation that would help lay the groundwork so America – specifically South Dakota, I hope – can lead the way on 5G technology, to the president’s desk.Our goals are big, but achievable, and I’m continually humbled by the opportunity to pursue them on behalf of South Dakotans.