School is back in session, which means so is Congress. I spent the last six weeks in South Dakota for the summer in-state work period. I’ve said it before – I don’t think Congress needs a six-week break. We have work to do in Washington. However, my time spent in the state was valuable. When Congress is in session, I typically try to cram my weekends full of meetings and visits with constituents or local businesses, so it was refreshing to have more time to meet with many of the community leaders and constituents I haven’t sat down with yet.
I began my stint of summer meetings with a town hall in Rapid City. Maybe you’ve seen my “Inside Scoop” announcements on social media or in your local paper. I believe elected officials should be accessible and unfortunately, too many politicians hide in their offices. If we expect to better our country and influence real change, we need to sit face-to-face with the folks that elected us. Politicians get a bad rap because they become disconnected from the bosses – the constituents. These town halls allowed me to engage with hundreds of constituents – Republicans and Democrats – and because of these discussions on immigration, the economy, and discourse in politics, I will head back to Washington with a clearer understanding of where South Dakotans stand on specific issues.
It was a top priority of mine to visit our state’s reservations this summer. I visited a total of seven and appreciated the opportunity to meet with tribal leadership to discuss concerns and priorities. When I visited Rosebud, I toured the addiction treatment program on the reservation. The death rate for Native Americans from opioid and meth overdoses is the highest of any racial demographic. There’s no doubt the work of the Rosebud Treatment Center is crucial to tribal wellness and combating drug abuse.
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The bulk of my August work period was spent touring small businesses and meeting with community leaders across the state. Small businesses are the backbone of our state’s economy, so I sat down with a range of businesses - fertilizer operations, communications operations, machinery stores, and plastic manufacturers. According to the Small Business Administration, small businesses employ more than 59% of the workforce in South Dakota. Many of our state’s business owners, farmers, and producers have been impacted by ongoing trade negotiations with China. Our state’s community leaders are looking for the light at the end of the tunnel – they want trade negotiations resolved and they want to see the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement passed as soon as possible. In fact, I can’t recall a single meeting this summer where trade did not come up.
As I travel back to Washington for the month of September, I can’t help but feel grateful for these last six weeks at home. I appreciate the time people took to attend a town hall, give me a tour of their business, or just say hello when I stopped in at the local coffee shops. I’m ready to hit the ground running and fight for winning trade deals as I spend the next several weeks in Washington.