Senator John ThuneOne of the many things that make our nation unique is the diversity of its people and places. People from big cities as well as rural areas are united by a common identity and many common interests. All Americans want good schools for their children, safe communities, and the opportunity for economic success, and leaders at all levels of government should work to meet those needs. Today, however, we are increasingly seeing rural priorities take a back seat to the interests of urban areas.
Our Second Amendment right to bear arms is well-respected in South Dakota, but there are places where the right to own and carry firearms is not as cherished. The federal courts play a significant role in interpreting state, local, and federal firearms laws, which means that the Senate's role in confirming federal judges is important for upholding Second Amendment rights. Recently I sat down with Judge Sonia Sotomayor, President Obama's nominee to the Supreme Court. Due to various opinions Judge Sotomayor issued in the past concerning the Second Amendment, I believe there are a number of areas that warrant additional explanation and I hope that her past opinions will be scrutinized during her upcoming hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Also of great concern to a large number of South Dakotans is last month's passage of the so-called "cap and trade" bill in the House of Representatives. Although this legislation attempts to curb greenhouse gas emissions, it effectively amounts to a national tax hike on all families and would have a disproportionate impact on rural states like South Dakota. Instead of working to create reasonable incentives when it comes to fostering cleaner forms of energy, the House-passed bill would create a huge government bureaucracy that would stifle future economic growth.
Another cause for concern is the fact that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is considering including so-called "indirect land use decisions" in the carbon-output scores of biofuels. This means that American ethanol will be punished for unrelated, carbon emitting land use decisions in other countries. Similarly, the EPA's attempt to regulate greenhouse gasses could result in fines being imposed on farmers and ranchers for naturally occurring livestock emissions, which would have a disastrous effect on South Dakota's ranching industry. I have introduced legislation in the Senate to ensure such taxes are not imposed on our agricultural producers.
Americans are blessed to have the choice of calling a big city or a rural community home. The differences between rural and urban life, however, present challenges in creating public policies that suit both interests. Rural America's priorities should not have to take a back seat to liberal big-city policies, and I will continue working with my Senate colleagues from both large and small states to advance an agenda that benefits South Dakota.