The Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation isn't always in the spotlight, but that doesn't mean it isn't making meaningful progress.
In a report released today, U.S. Sen. John Thune runs down a list of achievements and successes he's been a part of on the committee, which he's chaired for three years. And while items like tax reform or the health care debate often draw attention, the South Dakota Republican is proud of his committee's work to move forward items that have real-world implications for those in his state and throughout the country.
"It isn't the kind of stuff, like I said, that generates a lot of headlines, but behind the scenes there's a ton of work that goes on that makes South Dakota's economy more successful," Thune told The Daily Republic on Tuesday.
Thune is well aware his work on the Senate Committee on Finance and the Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry are often given more attention, as many South Dakotans know of his work on the farm bill or his influence in the recent tax reform talks in Washington, D.C.
But in the bipartisan-minded Commerce Committee that has a large jurisdiction over national affairs, Thune suggested South Dakota will benefit greatly from recent actions.
Thune cited his work to help secure the approval to expand the Powder River Training Complex at the Ellsworth Air Force Base in 2015, which he said will have an impact on South Dakota for years to come.
"That will have a lasting, significant, durable, enduring impact on western South Dakota because what that does to enhance the base's future is - it's hard to even quantify it, it's going to be really important," Thune said.
He also acknowledged his role in promoting cybersecurity research at Dakota State University in Madison, although he was quick to give DSU the lion's share of the credit for building its nationally recognized cybersecurity program. But, in 2016, Thune encouraged the National Security Agency to enhance its partnership with the university.
Thanks to Thune's time as chair of the Commerce Committee, several South Dakotans have been able to weigh in on important issues either in D.C. or at field hearings.
According to Thune's office, Gov. Dennis Daugaard was welcomed to offer input during a discussion about access to infrastructure across the country. South Dakota Public Utilities Commissioner Chris Nelson was asked to speak on the risk of waste, fraud and abuse in the Federal Communications Commission's Lifeline program. Several others have represented South Dakota, including former Pierre Mayor Laurie Gill, Lake Area Technical Institute President Michael Cartney and Troy Knecht, of the South Dakota Corn Growers Association.
While Thune's given South Dakotans the ability to offer insight to the committee, the Commerce Committee itself has a lot on its plate in 2018. From continuing to monitor the progress of the MOBILE NOW Act - which has yet to pass through the House, but would reduce obstacles to broadband development - to the possible consideration and review of an infrastructure bill, 2018 is setting up to be a busy year.
And despite a busy year, Thune knows the Commerce Committee might not get a ton of attention. But he knows its work will benefit South Dakota.
"There are just a whole range of areas where we touch South Dakota's economy, in a very, I think, relevant way," Thune said.