SD State Legislative Candidate Survey: Jess Olson
RAPID CITY, S.D. (KOTA) - Jess Olson (R-Rapid City) is running for re-election to the South Dakota State House in District 34. The district is made up of western Rapid City. She faces two primary challengers; Mike Derby and Jodie Frye.
1. Tell us about yourself?
Just like my neighbors in District 34, I enjoy working and raising my family right here in Rapid City. I have some amazing kiddos who are the light of my life and have been my motivation through thick and thin. I’ve learned from working in the for-profit and non-profit sectors, as a business leader, board member and volunteer, that great service comes through hard work, listening and good, common sense decision making. I have a proven track record of finding efficiencies and enacting positive solutions in my career and in the legislature.
2. Why are you running for this office?
Simply put: our state needs leaders. I’ve always looked to bring the experience of a mom and business owner to Pierre to make sure that we are protecting our families, communities, and businesses by doing good work for the people of South Dakota. In addition, I love being able to serve the people of District 34 and seeing the final products of the solutions we’ve accomplished!
3. What would be your top three priorities if elected?
First and foremost, I want to make sure that we are prioritizing our families in the state legislature. I’ve worked to bring the biggest investments to our adoption system in a generation and want to keep building on that success. Next, I am looking to keep ensuring a smart and focused conservative approach to spending in the state legislature to protect our businesses and taxpayers alike. Third, we need to keep working to improve our communities through building on the landmark investments we made in housing over the last session.
4. What relevant experience would you bring to the office?
I’m no different than many of those in our great state- I go to work, church, and do everything I can for my family. Those are the same things that have helped me to develop the experience to bring solution-focused legislation over the past 4 years. I know what it’s like to build a business from the ground up, ensure my children and family have what they need, and to keep the South Dakota values of honesty, integrity, and respect. My commitment to my community is what has allowed me to bring the solutions in adoption, housing and military support I have championed as your Representative, and I will keep working for the people of District 34 with this same commitment and values.
5. Do you support tax relief for South Dakotans? If so, what type and how would you make it happen?
I have and will always ensure we look to do everything we can for South Dakota taxpayers. I have proudly served on the House Taxation Committee and Military Affairs Committee during my time as your Representative. I have voted in favor of lowering and capping taxes for our elderly, disabled, and military families. I will continue to support these efforts of streamlining property tax relief and finding effective solutions to ensure we can keep property taxes low, especially for our most vulnerable citizens. As our state continues to grow, I look forward to using any extra revenue we have to do everything we can to help South Dakota taxpayers.
6. Housing availability has become an issue for many South Dakotans. How would you seek to make housing more affordable?
I was proud to be at the forefront of the landmark investments we made in housing over the last session. My efforts made sure Rapid City and all communities across the state will receive equitable distribution of funds with a long-term revolving fund which is one of the best ways to ensure we are able to address this issue through South Dakota Housing Authority. My work was recognized by Habitat for Humanity, and I was honored to be the Chairwoman for Women Build this year. I will continue to work with our local and state experts to ensure that all South Dakotans have access to quality housing options.
7. South Dakota correctional facilities have been dealing with a number of issues, most prominent among them overcrowding and staffing shortages. What would you do to help combat these issues?
First thing- we need to be doing more to prevent crime. I was at the forefront of bringing solutions to South Dakota to help fight addiction in our communities and will keep bringing those efforts full speed ahead if re-elected. In addition, we had the opportunity to invest in the land and planning for a new correctional facility in Rapid City this past session. I was in support of this as it will allow for a more successful reintegration of those coming back into the community to turn their lives around as well as address the overcrowding issue for women in the Pierre correctional facility. I have also supported providing pay that is competitive for our state employees who work at these facilities, and I will continue to support legislation that ensures their safety.
8. What steps should the legislature take to entice young people to remain in the state?
We need to make sure that we are constantly bringing cutting-edge innovations to our universities and providing an environment that make our young people want to plant roots of their own in our communities. We’ve brought investments to Black Hill State, SDSU, and USD over the last couple years. I’m very proud to have helped pass the legislation this year to invest in the School of Mines for their Innovation Center so students in Rapid City can turn their ideas into business realities for the benefit of our Rapid City community.
9. Do you support any changes to the way elections are run in South Dakota?
South Dakota has always had safe, secure, and fair elections. I am confident in the leadership of our state and will always protect the precedent of strong election laws in South Dakota.
10. A U.S. Supreme Court decision is looming on a landmark abortion case that could ultimately overturn Roe v. Wade. Governor Kristi Noem has indicated she would like to ban abortion outright, and a “trigger law” already on the books would so, with only an exception in place when the mother’s life is at risk. Do you support banning abortion to this extent? If not, what exceptions would you like to see made?
I have always worked to make sure our families are protected, and will apply that same dedication to any conversation around these laws that may take place soon. This year, I worked very hard to pass my legislation, House Bill 1133, to provide the largest investment our state has made in expanding adoption and foster care support for South Dakota families in a generation. I focus on compassionate, real solutions to this difficult topic and am always focused on taking care of South Dakota’s children. Furthermore, it is prudent we review the final decision before jumping to any conclusions.
11. What is your stance on legalized, recreational marijuana in South Dakota?
As an elected official, I always want to make sure that the will of the voters is upheld in South Dakota. We have put in place some critical infrastructure to ensure that we have safe and secure laws around potential marijuana usage in the future, and we should continue to lay the groundwork in case voters support recreational marijuana in the future. I have been and will continue to advocate that funding is available for addiction treatment, especially if recreational marijuana is passed.
State legislative candidates in contested districts this primary season were emailed the same survey to complete for Dakota News Now/KOTA Territory News. Candidates were asked to keep their responses limited to roughly 4-5 sentences for each question. With the exception of a quick spelling and grammar check, answers were not edited by the poster. Those who responded to the survey questions had their results posted.
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