Opinion

Week Two Legislative Update

By Rep. Marli Wiese

Bill proposals are beginning to fill up committee time this week.  We have heard from department heads about policy and budget requests.  Many bills filed initially deal with clean up language to make prior bills passed more consistent. So far, 81 bills have been introduced in the House and 69 in the Senate.   

With the small amount of time that we have outside of committees or floor sessions, we have been meeting as whip groups and as a caucus to discuss how to find funding for teachers, providers, and state employees. There is a lot of support among legislators to do what we can to help fund those groups.

The various tourism groups from all parts of the state were in Pierre last week to bring attention to what tourism contributes to our economy.  Tourism week culminated in the governor’s award banquet where several people and businesses were honored for service to South Dakota.

The education committee heard presentations from the Board of Regents and the Department of Education. Those entities provided valuable background information for the bills we will be seeing in the coming weeks. Health & Human Services committee heard presentations on opioid abuse and nursing home issues on finding and keeping employees.

I am impressed with the work we can accomplish in Pierre when we work together. The parties have differences, but that is understandable since we all come from different backgrounds and experiences. As we move forward through the session, we cannot allow divisiveness to work against us.    

Please contact me at marli.wiese@sdlegislature.gov.  I have heard from many constituents this week and try to answer as many e-mails as possible.  Thank you for your input on issues important to District 8.

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.

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