Notes from the Senate–Tom Hansen

Posted January 2, 2013 at 8:00 am

The period between the general election fall and the beginning of the annual Legislative Session is short. Members  who have been elected have several bases to cover before going to Pierre to actually begin their work.

During that two month period they will make the transition from campaign mode over to the anticipation of doing the work they were elected to do. Each of the four party caucuses have met and chosen their leaders.  Most of the Legislators have made a trip to the capitol to hear first-hand a budget as proposed by the Governor. Those who will be joining the Legislature for the first time will also have an opportunity to attend a short orientation session sometime during this period.

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Notes from the Senate By Tom Hansen, Senator District 22

One thing that has always impressed me going back several years is the structure and formality of the Legislature and how the members conduct themselves.  These are things stressed to them during that orientation. Our Legislature meets for such a short amount of time. It is therefore important that the Senators and Representatives understand the Legislative rules and the proper way to debate the issues they will soon be facing. They must not allow themselves to be overwhelmed by the task now before them.

Lobbying is not limited to conversations that take place during the session in Pierre.  Local constituent groups often seize the chance to meet with their Legislators. Their goal is to discuss some of the issues that are important to them. National organizations also begin to cultivate relationships with Legislative members. The volume of mail and e-mail picks up dramatically.

Americans for Tax Reform is a national interest group that offers Legislators an opportunity to sign a pledge to “not raise taxes.” That sounds like a noble philosophy. Many have just finished a campaign where that same phrase may have been uttered. As I remember I received that same piece of mail each year. That request to join with the many others who have pledged to “not raise taxes” is similar to a person being asked to sign a petition for some cause or another. For many it is easier to just sign and  be on your way rather than actually giving some thought to the significance of becoming a party to it.

I have never seen any  great willingness of the South Dakota Senators or Representatives to make such a commitment.  I think the mood of most of the Legislative members I have known is to vigorously resist tax increases but who are not willing to commit to do or not do something out into the future.

Grover Norquist is the name associated with Americans for Tax Reform. His name and quotations often appear in print. This interest group has received renewed attention at the national level now when the Congress is wrestling with budget issues and possible reform of some of our tax codes.

We watch with special interest the congressional interest in recognizing the need for states to be allowed to enforce their sales tax laws when residents purchase goods from nonresident retailers.  Permission can only come through passage by Congress. We view it as the collection of a tax that is already owed. It is not a new tax.

Norquist and his group has worked hard to disagree. Those who have signed the pledge “to not raise taxes” have difficulty recognizing the importance of the issue.

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