• September 2019

Research and learning outside of session have an impact

By Debra Owen
Sioux Falls Area Chamber of Commerce

Greetings from the public policy corner of your Sioux Falls Area Chamber of Commerce! Over the next few months, the Chamber, through the work of our Issues Management Council, will be gearing up for the 2020 Legislative Session. In the meantime, our public policy team remains engaged in the advocacy arena by attending the legislative interim study meetings and inviting our legislators and local elected officials to attend familiarization tours, called Development Connections, with our members.

...South Dakota is still a place where we can talk with each other rather than speaking at each other.

Partnering with the Development Foundation, the Chamber is involved in coordinating tours for elected officials of facilities such as Bell Incorporated and Glanbia. Both companies are located within the greater Sioux Falls area. Bell Inc. is the largest independent folding carton company in North America. If you’ve ever purchased a McDonalds Happy Meal, odds are that Bell manufactured the carton that meal came in. Likewise, Glanbia is one of the world’s top performing nutrition companies. If you’ve ever bought a protein drink or any performance nutritional product, odds are that those key proteins within the product were milled at Glanbia.

As they toured each facility, our legislative and local elected officials heard the policy concerns and needs of these highly successful employers. Two key concerns voiced by Bell and Glanbia were the need to provide legal immigrants driver’s license exams in Spanish and the need to legalize the growing and manufacturing of industrial hemp, respectively. These conversations were fundamental for legislators to hear. These issues, and others found in our Legislative Platform, arise directly from the business community and form the foundation of the Chamber’s advocacy efforts in Pierre.

Similarly, our legislators are working diligently in Pierre to better understand specific policy-related topics in their interim studies. Interim studies provide an opportunity for legislators to delve into topics and hear from experts both from academia and within a related industry. One such topic is legalizing industrial hemp. At least 30 states in the country permit licensed growers to produce industrial hemp, including North Dakota, Minnesota, Colorado and Wyoming. The interim study committee is hearing from state regulators in states that have legalized the plant, along with the agri-business community and manufacturers. We expect at least one bill on this topic to emerge from this committee during the upcoming session.

Other areas of legislative study this summer include: the delivery of health care in nursing homes, telehealth and telemedicine, community support caregiver groups, electric services in an annexed area, special education, mental illness and controlled substances. If we include all the standing summer committees, such as the Executive Board and the Government Operations and Audit Committee, there are 19 legislative committees meeting over the interim this year. These committees require a great deal of time and travel for those legislators who serve. We thank them for their diligence and effort to ensure proposed legislation is thoughtfully prepared and well-researched.

In closing, thank you for the privilege of advocating on your behalf in the policy arena of government, whether federal, state or local. Through the leadership of our Issues Management Council and our Board of Directors, our city is thriving. We are a community working together to solve problems and grow our economy. This makes our state fundamentally different from others as South Dakota is still a place where we can talk with each other rather than speaking at each other.

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