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Tribal advocates keep up legal pressure for fair political maps; 12-member jury sworn in for Trump's historic criminal trial; the importance of healthcare decision planning; and a debt dilemma: poll shows how many people wrestle with college costs.

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Civil rights activists say a court ruling could end the right to protest in three southern states, a federal judge lets January 6th lawsuits proceed against former President Trump, and police arrest dozens at a Columbia University Gaza protest.

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Wyoming needs more educators who can teach kids trade skills, a proposal to open 40-thousand acres of an Ohio forest to fracking has environmental advocates alarmed and rural communities lure bicyclists with state-of-the-art bike trail systems.

Rural Advocates Want Less Corporate Retail in SD's Small Towns

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Tuesday, September 12, 2023   

Travel through rural parts of South Dakota and chances are you will pass a "dollar store". A new report says corporate retailers have too big a presence in smaller communities, and that certain policies could help Main Street businesses compete. The 2023 Rural Policy Action report, which has input from nearly 30 organizations, urges federal policymakers to advance bills that would strengthen antitrust laws in hopes of seeing fewer mergers, including in agribusiness.

Katy Milani, the associate director for policy and advocacy for the Independent Business Institute for Local Self-Reliance, contends big box chains have been given a lot of flexibility to add stores across rural America.

"We have seen, in the last 50 years, significant consolidation in our economy," Milani said. "You go to any town across the country and a lot of them look the same, it's the same dollar store, it's the same Walmart. "

Milani added these trends push out independent businesses, preventing small towns from taking agency over their ability to flourish. Her group notes the FTC needs stronger enforcement of laws addressing deals that bigger retailers get from suppliers, allowing them to mark down prices. Chains like Dollar General defend their growth, saying they often get requests from rural areas for new stores.

The report also calls for investment in foundational infrastructure in rural areas, such as healthcare access. The authors said these communities are more diverse than people think, and residents deserve equitable opportunities. Milani added there are too many questions that cannot be ignored.

"What does economic-racial justice, around rural issues and also gender - what does that look like?," she said.

She noted those discussions need to be free of the political divide that often clouds public discourse. The report added protecting democracy and access to voting allows diverse rural communities to have a voice on these matters without intimidation. A recommendation asks the federal government to make bigger investments in election safety and security, noting the burden often falls on state and local governments, some of which lack the resources to block threats.


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