Week 1 District 8 Legislature Report

By Rep. Randy Gross

Once again, I wish to thank the citizens of Lake, Moody, Miner and Sanborn counties for the honor of serving in the South Dakota Legislature on your behalf.

At the beginning of the Legislative Session, I reflect on ways I can best represent the people of the 8th District.  Last year, more than 470 bills and joint resolutions were introduced on topics ranging from agriculture to workers benefits. Before this 2020 session even began, there were more than 100 bills pre-filed, also covering a wide range of issues.

I have learned that even the most experienced legislator can’t be an expert on every topic. However, they need to be diligent in getting good information from those who are experts. The more people I meet, the more I am impressed with the quality and diversity of our citizen legislature. Those serving in Pierre offer a wide range of talent and expertise on issues.  

Fortunately, it is easy for South Dakotans to keep up with the legislative process and to communicate with their legislators. An excellent starting point is the Legislative Research Council (LRC) website www.sdlegislature.gov. It provides comprehensive information about bills, committee agendas and minutes, and floor action. You can read the texts of bills and resolutions, see when they are scheduled for committee hearing and find out what amendments have been offered. You can listen to committee discussion and floor debate and see how legislators voted.

When communicating with legislators, there are a few key points to remember. The first is that we are elected to represent the people of our district.  E-mails, phone calls and letters from those in my district receive more attention than those from outside the district. Anonymous emails and those from out-of-state groups generally receive limited attention.

E-mails do not need to be lengthy. It’s enough to identify the issue (use the bill number if you know it) and explain briefly how it affects you. Mass e-mails or copy and paste emails are ineffective. It is far better to explain one or two key points in your own words about why you support or oppose a measure. Also remember that we have a diverse district and legislators are usually hearing from constituents on both sides of an issue. Therefore, it is helpful if you can point out unintended effects, if you can offer technical information or if you can offer solutions. If you have constructive suggestions or workable alternatives, please let us know.

Since it is early in the session, bills are just beginning the process of working their way through committees. Committees meet in the mornings, and the full House and Senate each meet in the afternoon.  

On Tuesday, Governor Noem presented her State of the State address. On Wednesday, we heard the State of the Judiciary address from the Chief Justice David Gilbertson, and on Thursday, we heard the State of the Tribes address from The Honorable Lester Thompson, Crow Creek Tribal chairman. Each of those presentations is available in the South Dakota Public Broadcasting archives.

Next week, the pace will pick up as bills and resolutions will begin making their way to either the House or Senate for action. I will work to stay informed about actions impacting the 8th District while serving on the Appropriations Committee.

Please remember, this is your government and all citizens are welcome to visit the Capitol and testify on bills or simply observe the process. I can be contacted at Randy.Gross@sdlegislature.gov.

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