News from the Secretary

News from the Secretary
The Political Season.

The state political season is upon us. It will soon be time to push, pull or get out of the way.

I doubt the average citizen realizes how much impact they can have on our legislative process. It works nothing like the legislatures of states with full-time legislators.

Our legislators are just our friends and neighbors who have been chosen as our community's voice among 105, who gather in Pierre for 35 or 40 days each winter to do the public's business.

If voters chose wisely, they have done the most important part of the job. But, there are two other important roles for citizens to play in our process.

First, citizens should tell their representatives about problems that government should fix and the ones where government should not meddle.

Not all problems can or should be fixed by government. Elected officials need to know your views on that.

Secondly, people should participate in the hearing process. When bills go through committee everyone is allowed to speak for or against them. Those voices really do count in the minds of legislators.

Many approach government like I did. I was an automatic opponent of changes in the law. If someone could convince me that the change would improve the way government works or solve a particular problem that only the government could solve, I would become a proponent.

Assuming the law does not need changing is really a burden of proof system that prevents pointless or trivial dabbling with the law for some ulterior motives (politics). That is why the proponents of a bill get to speak first. It is their job to convince the legislators.

A few legislators want to ignore problems. A few want to sensationalize problems. A few think their answer is the only answer. But all of those types are a small minority.

We even have a few "professionals" who have perfected the art of "horse trading" in politics and appear to thrive on that activity. They too are a minority.

Most of our legislators just want to do the right thing. Nothing pleases them more than solving a real problem for real people who need help from them.

Most are good legislators and really listen to what the people say. For them, those few days are all about getting it done and solving real

problems.

I served 16 years in the Legislature. I still look forward to session, but not as much as I once did. For one thing, session is not as entertaining as is used to be.

Just think how many years it's been since anyone rode a horse up the capitol building steps. (Hmmm ? I wonder if that could be done with steel shoes on the horse?)

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