• February/March 2020

Support your employees in public service

By Debra Owen
Sioux Falls Area Chamber of Commerce

With the 95th Legislature in full swing, it's a good time to communicate about an issue your Chamber leadership has discussed over the last few years. In a nutshell it is the desire to see candidates and public office holders who will work to ensure our region continues to have a pro-business environment. At the request of leadership, the Chamber has expanded our efforts in the field of public policy. One such addition is the legislative scorecard, which is published in the spring after the legislative session. But the desire to ensure our economy remains robust has led to broader initiatives as well.

The key is providing flexibility for your employees to serve.

We need elected leaders who support business-friendly policies and who understand the importance of a strong economy to maintaining our excellent quality of life. The question then, is how do we encourage the best individuals to serve in public office? Serving in the state legislature, for example, requires the individual to leave home and employment for more than 40 days every year. This is time away from family, personal activities and job-related activities. Moreover, there may be additional days away from work outside of the regular session to serve on an interim study committee. For those who serve in leadership of the House or Senate, the responsibilities and time away from their employment is even more significant outside of the traditional 40 days of legislative session. This is a price many South Dakotans cannot afford.

Local office holders are not required to be away from home for such a long period of time, but their service can be just as demanding with weekly meetings and hours dedicated to listening and responding to constituents.

Our business community has begun to respond. There are several employers in our community who have sought to support their employees by continuing pay and not requiring legislative time to serve as vacation time. In addition, there is flexibility extended to the "workday" as legislative weeks are four-day weeks and not five-day weeks. This allows individuals to get caught up at work. The key is providing flexibility for your employees to serve.

If you have an employee who expresses interest in seeking elected office, or an employee you believe might be well-suited to public service, I encourage you to have a conversation with them about ways you might be able to support their efforts. Whether it is a local position, like school board or city council, or a state legislative seat, please consider investing in your employees venturing into the arena of public service.

To those employers who already have workers serving in public office – thank you. Please share your experiences with other business owners and managers, so they can explore ways to do the same in their organizations.

The Chamber appreciates the service of our elected officials. Please support and encourage pro-business office holders and office seekers. In this election year, let's work to keep a good thing going and keep our economy moving forward.

Thank you to our Chamber News Premium Sponsors

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