Sen. John Thune
If you live in South Dakota, you know how quickly the weather can change. One minute it’s warm and sunny, and in the blink of an eye, you’re in the middle of a torrential downpour. From harsh winters to hot summers, we get a little of everything. And as folks in some parts of South Dakota recently discovered, it doesn’t matter what the calendar says, winter will end when it’s good and ready.
The University of South Dakota’s (USD’s) Derek Miles has been known for a lot of things over the years, including being a father, husband, athlete, coach, and Olympian, just to name a few. Now, nearly a decade after competing in the Olympic Games in Beijing, China, he will be forever and finally known as an Olympic medalist. While nothing can replace standing on the podium in Beijing, I think Derek would agree that getting to share this special moment with friends, family, and the USD community will be a memory not soon forgotten.
Let’s be honest, no one enjoys paying taxes. While that might be the understatement of the century, it’s worth pointing out now that tax season is upon us once again. April is typically enjoyed for other, more enjoyable seasons, like the return of spring or Major League Baseball. Unfortunately, a lot of Americans spend a significant amount of time figuring out whether a return is headed their way or if they’ve struck out with the IRS and will need to write a check to Uncle Sam.
South Dakotans are well aware of the uniqueness that each season of the year brings to the state. From spring’s planting season to fall’s hunting season and everything else in between, there’s always something to do or see. South Dakotans who travel to our nation’s capital in the spring or summer, or any of time year for that matter, will discover similarly unique experiences.
The old expression about "wearing something on your sleeve" took on a bit of a literal connotation during a recent meeting I had with former Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue. Shortly after he was nominated to lead the U.S. Department of Agriculture, I had the opportunity to visit with him in my office in Washington, D.C. When he strolled in wearing cowboy boots and a necktie covered in pheasants, I knew we were going to get along.
I can't think of a more personal aspect of someone's life than that of his or her doctor-patient relationship and the decisions they make together. Whether it's a routine exam or a serious surgery or treatment, each decision — however large or small — can have a lasting effect on an individual and his or her family. The most important and fundamental part of this, of course, is first having access to affordable health care so these relationships can be built and the care can be delivered.
When Justice Antonin Scalia unexpectedly passed away last year, the country lost more than veteran of the Supreme Court. It lost a man who was universally respected by his colleagues in the courtroom, both behind and in front of the bench, and a man who will undoubtedly go down as one of the most brilliant legal minds in American history. Justice Scalia's reverence for the law and Constitution was as evident in his written work as it was in his methodical and oftentimes witty oratory. He loved the court and his country, and his shoes will be big ones to fill.
The Republican-led Congress heard the American people loud and clear on Obamacare. The law is broken beyond repair, and Americans are looking for a better, more patient-centered approach. According to a recent poll, 80 percent of Americans want to see the law substantially changed or repealed and replaced entirely. In South Dakota alone, I've heard from hundreds of people who have been negatively affected by Obamacare, and it is heart wrenching to read some of their stories.
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.
For many South Dakotans, the presidential election probably dominated conversations with friends and family for much of the year. It's no surprise, considering how historic the election was from beginning to end. And while that certainly makes 2016 a year for the history books, I'm sure there are many other reasons why South Dakotans will remember the last 12 months and be thankful for the opportunities that came their way. So before we flip the calendar from 2016 to 2017, I wanted to share just a handful of reasons why this year has been so special for me.