EDITORIAL – Covering the 2013 South Dakota Legislature


Don’t Kill the Messenger…Notes from the Editor’s desk

by Tasiyagnunpa Livermont

While I have had previous experience doing communication and support work for a grassroots organization that was member-based and helped those members navigate the South Dakota legislature, this will be the first year as a newspaper editor working to keep our local readership informed on the goings on in Pierre.

With the 2013 South Dakota Legislature about to convene next week, I am excited to use what I learned at Dakota Rural Action for the benefit of all the West River Eagle’s readers and coverage area.

While Dakota Rural Action staff focused on the members needs, not much has changed in how the information is gathered. A community organizer was sent to Pierre as a lobbyist, but his main duty was to provide on on-site resource to members coming to Pierre to being citizen lobbyists and visit with legislators on bills Dakota Rural Action was sponsoring or to show support or rejection of other bills affecting them.

One year, I was proud to serve as a Dakota Rural Action lobbyist on our lobby day, going to Pierre with my coworkers and members. I learned a lot just walking the halls of the capital, reading the nametags on all the dressed up suits lobbying for big industries.

Something I learned was that there is a LOT of lobbying for the medical and insurance industries. Seems like that was most of the nametags I was reading.

I also learned how nice it is to know someone who already knows their way around the capital. It can be something of a maze if you’ve only been there to visit and haven’t tried to find committee meetings so that you can catch a legislator between meetings and bend their ear to what you think would be best for South Dakota.

While at Dakota Rural Action, I also learned how lucky we are in South Dakota to have the citizen legislature we have. While they are not perfect, we still are able to walk up to them as a citizen with few hoops to jump through. They get a lot of feedback from people, but still seemed to have time for folks, some displaying that more than others.

We also have a terrific legislative website that I used when helping do the communications for our members weekly throughout the season. I wasn’t the lead staff on that, but I did get to help publish Dakota Rural Action’s Legislative Guide, which had a lot of good, basic information to put at citizens’ fingertips.

That is something I hope to bring to the West River Eagle’s coverage of the 2013 South Dakota Legislature–basic tools so that you the citizen can contact your representatives and those on the committees or sponsoring the bills that matter to you.

However, I will need your help. When I was Dakota Rural Action, we already knew what people wanted to know about each week. That’s not the case here at a weekly newspaper, so this is what I’m going to do:

1. Provide basic information on our local representatives (see our front page.)

2. Provide regular refresher pieces on civic processes, like how bills are passed or what committees do.

3. Strive to bring you hyper-localized information by focusing on covering our representatives committees and any bills they are sponsoring.

4. Listen to our readers on issues or topics that they feel concern them here in our area, whether municipal, county, state or in Indian Country.

5. Be open about where I am acquiring my information, so that you can find out more details on specific items that we don’t cover. If you want information on tracking bills, let me know.

So this is my game plan for covering the 2013 South Dakota Legislature, and I hope you find it useful and informative. If you have questions, ideas, suggestions or other input, please email me at tasi@westrivereagle.com, submit a Letter to the Editor or call (605) 964-2100.