As a new Legislative Session gets underway on the second Tuesday in January, District 24 residents will have a new team representing them in Pierre. After eight years in the House, I will be moving to the Senate, and Mike Weisgram and Will Mortenson will be joining the House.
At the beginning of each Legislative Session, I reflect on ways to best represent the people who live in Hughes, Hyde, Stanley, and Sully counties. I have learned 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.
We are fortunate to have a media presence in Pierre that is committed to reporting on legislative activities. In addition, the Legislative Research Council (LRC) website provides comprehensive information about bills and amendments, committee work, and floor action. By going to the website www.sdlegislature.gov, you can find the texts of bills and see when they are scheduled for committee hearing. You can see what amendments have been offered. You can listen to committee discussion and floor debate, and see how legislators voted on a bill.
The best way to contact me during session is to send an email to Mary.Duvall@sdlegislature.gov. When communicating with legislators, one key point to remember 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. If you can point out unintended effects, 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.