At the beginning of each Legislative Session, I reflect on ways I can best represent the people who live in District 24, which is comprised of Hughes, Hyde, Stanley, and Sully counties.
Last year, more than 470 bills and joint resolutions were introduced, on topics ranging from aeronautics to workers compensation. Before the 2020 session even began, there were more than 100 bills pre-filed, with topics ranging from agriculture to wireless telecommunication.
One thing that I have learned over the past seven years of serving in the House of Representatives is that legislators don’t have to be an expert on every topic. However, they need to be diligent in getting good information from those who are the experts.
Fortunately, it’s easy for South Dakotans to keep up with the legislative process and to communicate with their legislators.
An excellent starting point is the Legislative Research Council (LRC) website (www.sdlegislature.gov). The LRC website provides comprehensive information about proposed bills, committee agendas and minutes, and floor action. You can read the texts of bills and resolutions, see when they are scheduled for committee hearing, and find out what amendments have been offered. You can listen to committee discussion and floor debate, and see how legislators voted on a bill.
The LRC website also lists a phone number for each legislator, as well as provides a way to send emails directly to a legislator. My legislative email address is Mary.Duvall@sdlegislature.gov.
When communicating with legislators, there are a few key points to remember. The first is that we are elected to represent the people who live in our district. E-mails, phone calls, and letters from those in my district receive more attention than those from outside the district. Anonymous emails or those from out-of-state groups generally receive limited attention.
Emails do not need to be lengthy. It’s enough to identify the issue – use the bill number if you know it – and explain briefly how it affects you. Mass emails or copy-and-paste emails are ineffective. It’s far better to explain one or two key points in your own words about why you support or oppose a measure.
It’s helpful if you can point out unintended effects, if you can offer technical information, or if you can offer solutions. If you have constructive suggestions or workable alternatives, please let us know.
It’s a privilege to represent this district where many constituents are state employees who have an in-depth understanding of various aspects of state government. Others in this district have areas of expertise that can help ensure state government works well. I encourage you to contact me with questions, comments, or suggestions on the legislative issues we will be tackling over the next nine weeks.