In South Dakota, we are represented by a citizen Legislature that mirrors the diverse communities across the state.
Many of those legislators also have ties to the smaller communities they originally came from.
Our legislative body is made up of farmers, small-business owners, teachers and individuals from all walks of life who feel they have a service to offer. They are the kind of people who are willing to take time from their busy lives and careers to serve our state. With compensation of $6,000 a year, legislators don’t serve for money or fame.
In our state, we have nearly unlimited access to our elected officials. Because they come from our communities, they understand what we are going through and live through the same ups and downs with us.
South Dakota legislators are a group of individuals who willingly participate in the tradition of public service.
The more I watch our legislators, the more I’m thankful that I live in a state where the people who represent us come from differing backgrounds, yet all have similar ties to the people and communities across the state. They all have their own strengths and convictions that make them unique, yet they share a common vision and interest in the future of our state.
Whether we agree or disagree with their decisions, our legislators put in the time few are willing or able to commit.
There are some perks to being a legislator, but they also put themselves forward to be judged publicly by the members of their community. Sometimes what they feel is right is not popular, and solutions are often not simple. The decisions they make will affect us, and they know it. They know that the people judging them are their friends and neighbors.
Being an elected official tests individuals and defines their principles. Serving might cost them friendships and create adversaries while it strengthens their allies. Yet individuals continue to serve for little pay and little attention because they have the commitment and resilience to step forward.
Too often, we minimize the importance of our state lawmakers by comparing them to those who serve in Washington, but our state legislators have an equally important role.
In a recent study by the American Legislative Exchange Council (alec.org), South Dakota ranks fourth in economic performance among the 50 states. According to the authors, “Generally speaking, states that spend less – especially on income transfer programs – and states that tax less – particularly on productive activities such as working or investing – experience higher growth rates than states that tax and spend more.”
The policies created by our legislators add to South Dakota’s strength. In a difficult recession, our legislators have put our state in a relatively strong position. For example, our state legislators must work until they reach a consensus that balances the budget for the fiscal year.
The qualities that we look for in our legislators are integrity and sincere authenticity. We want them to go out of their way to listen to the people of their districts who have varying opinions so that they can form a solid understanding of issues.
Most of them understand that differences of opinion regarding issues are frequently not partisan; different opinions often come from individuals of the same party.
Our best legislators are disciplined in principles, strong character and faith, with the highest respect for the people they serve and the offices they hold.
With our legislators, it is their strong quality of character that we should value, as well as their willingness to step forward and serve our state.