Week number one of the 95th SD legislative session is complete. We heard from Governor Noem on Monday about the state of the State. It was gratifying to hear that her administration reports possible improved sales tax numbers in the coming weeks. Our caucus has been meeting to talk about budget priorities and will have more to report soon.  

Chief Justice Gilbertson spoke to the combined chambers for the last time, as he is retiring this year. He reported of the success of drug courts and encouraged further expansion of diversion programs in the state. A request was made for funding to provide for a statewide network of drug and alcohol courts to continue this success.  

Crow Creek chairman Lester Thompson gave the state of the tribes address to a joint session on Wednesday. He spoke of the lack of communication on last session’s SB 189 & 190 and hoped to rebuild the lines of communication between the state and the tribes. There is a serious known meth problem that he hopes to work to alleviate with help from the state.  

Legislators have been attending training sessions to learn to use the new electronic system.  The need for use of less paper in state government comes with a learning curve for some, and the staff has been very helpful in ironing out the problems that come with a new system.  

It was great to meet some 4-H members from Sanborn County this week, and I hope to meet with many more district eight constituents in the near future. Let us know when you will be visiting so we can arrange to meet with you.  

Thank you again for the privilege of serving as your representative. I need your input as we address concerns important to our district and the state of South Dakota.

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.

Vaca to LA

Parker's Prose

After I started having nightmares about people sending things on Tuesday mornings that they wanted in that week’s paper, I decided it was finally time for a vacation. I hadn’t had one since one of my cousins in Texas got married back in the fall of 2017, so it was high time for another getaway. I decided to go visit my brother, Rob, and sister-in-law, Mindy, in Los Angeles since I hadn’t gone to see them there since they moved at the end of 2015. My mom, wanting to see them too and probably worried for me since I’d never flown alone before, decided to tag along. We decided on Memorial Day weekend so we could enjoy an extra day.

Our Sioux Falls flight was set to depart on Wednesday at 5 in the morning… Ugh, I am not a morning person. We stayed in the hotel connected to the airport Tuesday night, but had trouble sleeping. On top of that, Mom had us get up at 3 in case we ran into any problems boarding the plane, but we ended up standing around waiting for the security check to open at 4. We did find out that we had TSA pre-check on our tickets, so we got to skip some of the security hassle.

We had a layover in Minneapolis before taking the four-hour flight to LA. I tried to sleep on the plane, but since I didn’t know how to tilt the seat back, I couldn’t get comfortable enough. Thus, I opted to finally read the poetry book I’d bought, written by one of my college English professors. It’s titled “Keeping Them Alive” by Christine Stewart-Nuñez. If you’re into poetry, I highly recommend it. She was recently named the next South Dakota Poet Laureate, as well!

We landed in the bustling LAX airport. The first thing I noticed when getting off the plane was that a section of the wall didn’t appear completely painted! My brother later cleared that up by stating how LAX is a small airport, but they’re so busy that they can’t ever really finish the renovations that they start. We spent the rest of the day at Rob and Mindy’s flat since we were tired from our flight. It felt five hours later than it actually was with my lack of sleep and the change in time zones! 

Rob had asked me before we left what I like to eat, so he made sure to stock up on my very particular tastes! He and Mindy asked me every time they cooked if it tasted alright. Rob joked that I was like an alien that they offered food in the hope I wouldn’t kill them! “If we wrote a movie about you, everyone would say you weren’t a believable character.” I’ll take that as a compliment! 

While we were visiting, we also watched a few things Rob helped shoot: “Fastest Car” on Netflix (the second season is coming out soon, as well, for any car enthusiasts that are interested), “Santa Girl” and “The In-Between,” which Mindy directed, co-wrote, and starred in.

On Thursday, we went to the Griffith Observatory. On the way, I was surprised that the traffic didn’t seem much worse than in Sioux Falls. Rob had said when we landed that LA was just a downtown with sprawling suburbs. I didn’t believe him at the time when we were racing down the busy freeway, but it seemed he wasn’t completely wrong, though the parking is horrible almost everywhere you go. We managed to find a spot and began the long, mile trek up the steep hill. Mom had to stop to catch her breath, and said it made her realize she was getting old! We didn’t go inside the observatory, but Mom made sure to take pictures of the view. I wasn’t keen about posing for a picture with just a stomach-high railing preventing me from plummeting several yards. Mom and Rob took one look at the picture and said I looked like I was in pain!

After that, Mom and Rob went to John Wick 3, and I stayed behind and played games with Mindy. I absolutely dominated in Hangman, to the point you’d think I was reading her mind, but she turned the tables with Uno. I’d swear she had Draw Fours stuffed up her sleeves if she didn’t have them rolled up! We had a lot of fun and a lot of laughs.

Friday, I had plans to finally meet up at Little Tokyo with my online friend, Yoru, for the first time offline. Mom later said she nearly had a panic attack when she and Rob left me there. Rob told her I do have a phone if I’m in trouble, no matter how stupid my phone may be. (I’ve been very adverse to spending hundreds of dollars on a smart phone for features I’ll rarely use.) Yoru and I had a lot of fun checking out the shops. I didn’t end up blowing too much money and just walked away with some candy and comics.

I decided to be a little adventurous for once and try out some new food while we were there, which ended in disappointment. I wasn’t a big fan of beef curry; the ice cream inside mochi ice cream was good, but the mochi (pounded sticky rice) itself wasn’t; and I would’ve liked the potato croquette had they not ruined it by baking peas and carrots inside! After venturing to the Cold Stone ice cream parlor that I’d heard her praise so much online, Yoru and I had to say our goodbyes, and Rob and Mom picked me up. The first thing Mom asked when I got in the car is if we took a picture together. Whoops… Well, at least that gives me an excuse to visit again.

Afterwards, Mom, Rob, and I (power)walked to the theater that was about 10 blocks from where they lived to see the new Aladdin live-action movie. It was nice seeing Jasmine get more character development, but I feel they could’ve explained Jafar’s motivations further (why he wanted to start a war against other kingdoms), and the fact Iago wasn’t comical anymore was a bit of a let down. 

Saturday found us at Santa Monica boardwalk/beach. We ate at Bubba Gump Shrimp, where I, of course, had a hamburger and fries. Rob and I happened upon both a Mario Kart and Luigi’s Mansion game in the boardwalk’s arcade, and we Nintendo nerds had a blast playing them! We went down to the beach to bag some sand a co-worker of Mom’s asked to bring back for her. There, I saw a seagull swoop down between too little girls and knock the hotdog right out of one of the girl’s hands! Gutsy little thief!

Sunday came, and we had lunch with Mindy’s side of the family at Lucille’s Smokehouse BBQ, where I ate the most tender steak I’ve ever had. Then, we spent the rest of the day playing board games and video games. I struggled with Mario Party (I’ve never been that great at luck-based games), but that’s okay because I got to stomp Rob in almost every other video game we played. 

With that day gone, it was already time for us to go. Rob dropped us off more than two hours early at the airport, because, again, Mom wanted to make sure we would still be on time if we ran into any difficulties. Granted, we did have a little. Mom got stopped in security because they thought she might be smuggling drugs; it was just her bag of sand. On a side note, to anyone like me without much flying experience, the snacks and non-alcoholic drinks they provide are complimentary (i.e. free), as is the TV, at least on the flights we went on. I didn’t know this going out there, but made sure to indulge on some cookies while watching “The Kid Who Would Be King” on the way back. The TV even lets you track where the plane is on a map. As we were flying over Sioux Falls, Mom texted Dad to tell him it’s too bad they couldn’t just drop us off there before continuing on to Minneapolis. Dad texted back to jump. That’s funny coming from the person I inherited my fear of heights from!

It was honestly a little distressing having to go back to work the next day, especially when I didn’t get home until 1:30 in the morning. I found myself already wondering when my next vacation would be. It goes to show that a couple days off a week is no substitute for an actual vacation, and I certainly won’t be waiting for over a year before taking another!

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