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THUNE: Off to a great start

This month not only marks the beginning of a new year, but also the start of a new Congress. With new beginnings come new opportunities, and the 115th Congress is already off to a great start. On day one, I reintroduced legislation that would help advance rural broadband services in South Dakota and around the country. Expanding access to these necessities of modern life is key for states like South Dakota, and by passing my MOBILE NOW bill, Congress could take a big step toward laying the groundwork for the future of the nationwide 5G network.

Also during the first week of the new Congress, I joined U.S. Sen. Mike Rounds and U.S. Rep. Kristi Noem in reintroducing our bill that would expand the boundary of the Black Hills National Cemetery just outside of Sturgis. The bill was near the finish line in December, which is why we quickly reintroduced it this month. I’m confident we’ll soon be able to send it to the president for his signature, which will ensure our military heroes have a place to rest in peace for generations to come.

While a great deal of attention is often paid to what happens on the Senate floor or in front of TV cameras and reporters, a lot of our most important work takes place behind the scenes in the various committees on which we serve. I’m glad that for the 115th Congress, I’ll again serve on the Commerce, Finance and Agriculture committees — three important committees that will help deliver positive results for South Dakotans.

The current farm bill expires in September 2018, but in my opinion, it’s never too early to start working on the next one. My role on the Senate Agriculture Committee means the countless suggestions I’ve received from South Dakota farmers and ranchers will also have the attention of my colleagues on the committee. I will continue to fight for South Dakota’s top industry and make sure our stakeholders’ voices are heard. This isn’t my first rodeo either. The 2018 farm bill will be the fourth farm bill I’ve helped draft during my time in Congress.

Comprehensive tax reform is another major agenda item we intend to tackle this year, and it’s long overdue. The federal tax code is too large, too complicated and too outdated. So outdated that neither of my daughters had yet been born when Congress last took a serious a look at reforming our tax code more than thirty years ago. For perspective, I’m now a grandfather. As a member of the Finance Committee, I look forward to playing a key role in our fight to simplify and modernize the tax code so that it helps, instead of hinders, economic growth and job creation in this country. I also hope this provides me with an opportunity to finally kill the death tax, something I’ve spent years trying to do.

This year I’ll be returning to the top spot on the powerful Senate Commerce Committee. The committee has already made some significant security and accountability reforms to our air, rail and highway transportation systems, but we’ve got more work to do in 2017. I’ll also be working with committee members this year to develop forward-looking technology proposals — like my MOBILE NOW bill, for example — that will hopefully help make life safer and more efficient for the American people.

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