The Role of Lobbyists

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Lobbyists.

That word evokes a variety of reactions among those who participate in our political process.    For  some, the word is a pejorative.  I don’t agree with that assessment.

This past week, our state and community were stunned by the death of a well-respected lobbyist – Greg Dean.  Not only was Greg a friend to many, he was also the epitome of a great lobbyist. He was an example of the important work that lobbyists provide in the legislative arena.

As legislators work to represent their districts and develop good policy for our state, we quickly realize that we simply do not have the time to become experts on all the issues that come before us.  We may be knowledgeable about some of the topics that confront us, but there is simply not the luxury of time to be good at all the issues.

That is where lobbyists play an important part.  Because they focus on specific topics, lobbyists have the time to understand the nuances of different policy approaches and are invaluable in helping navigate the questions of how to craft good legislation.  They are a valuable resource for legislators with limited time.  They help fill the gap for those of us who have no research staff.

As contentious issues come up, I look to lobbyists on each side of an issue to help me better understand the pros and cons of what I am voting on.  Lobbyists help identify the good and bad of various pieces of legislation and are important in developing a more informed vote.  Legislators soon learn that not all lobbyists are created equal.  We know which ones we can trust implicitly, and which ones we “trust but verify.”

Greg Dean was one of those we could trust to tell us the good, the bad, and all that is in between.  Our hearts go out to Greg’s wife, Jill, and their three boys.  We grieve with his family and with all who had the privilege of counting Greg as a friend. We grieve for the state of South Dakota who lost a good man who loved his state, who gave generously to his community, and who showed kindness to all.

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