Below are several legislative accomplishments that U.S. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) led, authored, or co-authored during the 114th Congress (2015-2016). During the 115th Congress, which begins on January 3, 2017, Thune and his Senate Republican colleagues will continue fighting to make America’s economy stronger, the government more efficient and accountable, and our nation and world safer and more secure. For more information and additional legislative accomplishments, visit www.thune.senate.gov.
“My role as chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee puts me in a strong position to address the needs of rural states like South Dakota and deliver positive results for American consumers, producers, and shippers,” said Thune. “It has been a busy two years. We have a lot to show for it, but there’s more work ahead in 2017.”
114th Congress Highlights:
Strengthened Airport Security
Thune’s airport security legislation, which was signed into law in July 2016, takes important steps toward protecting the traveling public and tightening the vetting process for airport workers who have access to secure areas. Thune’s bill was the largest airport security bill in over a decade.
Made it Easier for Air Travelers, Families to Book Seats and Recover Fees
The Thune-led Commerce Committee played an integral role in getting Thune’s Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Extension, Safety, and Security Act of 2016 to the president’s desk in July. The bill provides stability for the aviation system by authorizing FAA programs and funding aviation infrastructure investment through fiscal year 2017. The bill also ensures families are able book seats next to one another on flights and baggage fees are refunded when bags are lost or significantly delayed.
Improved Investments in Infrastructure and Cut Red Tape for Agriculture Producers
Thune helped author and negotiate the first long-term highway bill in over a decade. The bill, which was signed into law in December 2015, ended the need for short-term patches that fueled uncertainty in the industry and extended for five years provisions that will increase funding for South Dakota roads and bridges by millions of dollars. As chairman of the Commerce Committee, Thune authored a major title of this bill, including provisions to cut red tape for agriculture producers and fund a new freight rail investment program and South Dakota’s 24/7 sobriety program.
Addressed Rail Backlog and Ensured South Dakota Shippers Are Treated Fairly
In response to the 2013 and 2014 rail backlog, Thune authored legislation to improve the Surface Transportation Board’s (STB’s) current dispute resolution process, ensure it has the authority to proactively resolve problems before they escalate into larger disputes, and improve the agency’s structure and decision making process by expanding the board’s membership from three to five. Thune’s bill, which was signed into law in December 2015, reformed the STB for the first time in 20 years.
Fought for Completion of the Powder River Training Complex Expansion
An effort nearly nine years in the making, Thune was able to help secure expanded military training airspace over South Dakota, North Dakota, Montana, and Wyoming. The expanded airspace will help increase Ellsworth Air Force Base’s mission capability and training opportunities for service members, ensuring it maintains its role in keeping America safe well into the future.
Improved Delivery of Rural Health Care
Multiple Thune-authored provisions, which were included in the bipartisan 21st Century Cures Act and signed into law in December 2016, will protect South Dakota seniors’ access to durable medical equipment, allow health professionals to volunteer their services at community health centers, and prevent Washington bureaucrats from interfering with therapeutic services in rural areas. Thune’s Rural Health Care Connectivity Act, which was signed into law in June 2016, helps increase access to telehealth technologies for patients in rural nursing homes by allowing access to support from the Universal Service Fund’s Rural Health Care Program.
Secured Multiple Tax and Trade Provisions for South Dakota Businesses and Families
Thune’s provisions, which were signed into law as part of the bipartisan trade enforcement bill in February 2016, will cut taxes on Internet service in South Dakota, help small businesses engage in global commerce, and ensure fair treatment of U.S. honey producers.
Helped Prevent Future Carelessly Started Prescribed Burns
Thune’s Prescribed Burn Approval Act of 2016, which will be signed into law this year, will require collaboration between the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) and local officials before initiating a prescribed burn on USFS lands when fire danger is rated as extreme.
Blocked IRS From Levying Victory Tax on Medal-Winning Olympic Athletes
Thune’s bipartisan and bicameral United States Appreciation for Olympians and Paralympians Act, which became law in October 2016, exempts Team USA athletes with an adjusted gross income of $1 million or less from being taxed by the Internal Revenue Service on medals or prize money received from the U.S. Olympic Committee.
Protected Consumers Who Write Honest Online Reviews
Thune’s Consumer Review Freedom Act would outlaw the use of “gag clauses” in non-negotiable form contracts, which protects online consumers who wish to post honest reviews of businesses or products. The House version of Thune’s pro-consumer bill will be signed into law this year.
Helped Address Tribal Youth Suicide Epidemic in Indian Country
Thune’s provisions, which became law in December 2015, require greater coordination among federal agencies to report on their efforts to address youth suicide, and they expand the use of Project School Emergency Response to Violence funds to include preventative efforts against youth suicide and other school violence.
Highlighted Tourism Opportunities in Native American Communities
Thune’s bipartisan Native American Tourism and Improving Visitor Experience Act, which became law in September 2016, will enhance and integrate native tourism, empower native communities, and expand unique cultural tourism opportunities in South Dakota and across the United States.
During the 114th Congress, Thune served on the Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry Committee; the Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee (of which he is chairman); and the Finance Committee. Thune also served as chairman of the Senate Republican Conference, the number three position in Senate Republican leadership, and was re-elected to that position for the 115th Congress.