Kristi Noem

Kristi Noem

SOUTH DAKOTA

Weekly Column: Log in to Safety

2016/04/29

Remember the days before you could just Google it?  If you wanted to figure out where the most complete skeleton of a T-Rex was found, for instance, you had to go to the library, dig through the card catalogue, find a book about dinosaurs, and fight through the paper cuts to find the answer.  That doesn’t need to happen anymore.  Through a device that fits in the palm of your hand, you can access the world – and by the same account, the world can access you.

Often times, we choose to allow the world to see a piece of us.  It’s that culture of sharing that has resulted in 300 hours of video being uploaded to YouTube every single minute and 70 million photos being posted on Instagram every day.  Twitter, Facebook, and Snapchat let us share our every thought with followers, while text messaging and email has infinitely increased the speed of written communication.

But like all things, there are smart ways to use these new technologies and some not so smart ways.  Earlier this year, I teamed up with Google to offer Rapid City middle schoolers some advice on how to stay safe online.  They shared five tips all of us should note.

First, think before you share.  Anything you put online – even if it’s done so privately – can be shared.  If you don’t want it to get out, don’t post it.

Second, protect your stuff.  One of the best ways to do this online is to set strong passwords.  HowToGeek.com offers this advice for setting a strong password:  Select a password that has 12 characters, minimum.  Include numbers, symbols, capital letters, and lower-case letters.  Try not to use a dictionary word or a combination of dictionary words.  And finally, don’t rely on obvious substitutions, like changing all of the O’s to zeros. 

Third, know and use your settings.  Around 15 percent of Americans have never checked their social networking privacy or security account settings. These settings let you choose who you are sharing your information with.  Check yours out and adjust them as necessary today.

Fourth, understand how to identify and avoid scams.  Every year, our office gets calls from dozens and dozens of South Dakotans who have received scam calls from someone pretending to be from the IRS.  This is an obvious scam because the IRS will never reach out to you by phone without sending you a letter first.  Other times, however, scammers may try to be more devious, posing as someone you know.  Maybe they tell you your grandson needs money.  If they start asking for personal information, hang up and give your grandson a call – he’ll be able to tell you if it’s legitimate or not. 

The final piece of advice that Google offered was to stay positive. Follow the golden rule:  Don’t post, comment, or forward something unless you’d be alright with someone doing the same to you.

We live at an incredible time that lets us be more personally connected to the world around us than ever before.  I encourage you to take the time and learn how to be safe in this new environment.

Oh, and before you pick up your smartphone to Google more about where that T-Rex was found – I did it for you.  It was discovered near Faith, South Dakota in August 1990 – just months before the first webpage was posted to the World Wide Web.

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US House passes bill to make the buffalo a national symbol

2016/04/28

A recently passed bill by the US House is bringing the buffalo one step closer to becoming the national mammal of this country.

It is expected that the Senate will adopt the House bill very soon before sending it to President Obama for his signature.

South Dakota Representative Kristi Noem was one of many who were instrumental in championing the National Bison Legacy Act, which will make the buffalo one of three official symbols of the us.

Jim stone, Executive Director for the Intertribal Buffalo Council, which has worked to restore the animal to tribal lands, says the buffalo has played a huge role in American history and believes it should represent the United States.

"The Buffalo is an iconic species in this country. You have a bald eagle, which is recognized as a symbol, and it's very deserving of that position, yet the buffalo had more to do with the United States, pre–discovery, than the bald eagle in some senses. It provided everything for the Native American's way of life", said Stone.

He adds that the recognition as a national symbol will create educational opportunities to tell the story of how the buffalo has rebounded from the brink of extinction.
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American bison on track to becoming national mammal

2016/04/27

The American bison is well on its way to becoming the country's national mammal.

The National Bison Legacy Act, which makes the designation official, was passed Tuesday by the U.S. House of Representatives. The Senate passed an earlier version of the bill in December, and it is expected to agree with the slightly different House version later this week before the bill heads to President Barack Obama's desk for final approval.

Rep. Kristi Noem, South Dakota's lone representative in the U.S. House and a Republican, was one of the bill's co-sponsors. Noem has championed the legislation since 2012, which she says also recognizes the importance of bison to Native American communities.

"The Tatanka is important both physically and spiritually in Native American culture. This bill recognizes that," Noem said in a statement. "Bison are a cultural example of how to live in a healthy and productive manner. There are also lessons to be learned about resilience from these animals, which were nearly being wiped from existence at one point. Through the efforts of tribes, ranchers, conservationists and others, the species has survived and can once again be lifted as a literal and cultural example of productivity from which each of us can learn."

Rep. Kevin Cramer, a North Dakota Republican, also co-sponsored the House bill.

"The bonus for me is that we have this rather fantastic mammal that represents a really cool university and serves as a great, majestic mascot," he said.

Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., one of the senators who introduced the bill, explained in December the bill won't add any restrictions for bison ranchers, who might breed the animals. U.S. Sens. John Thune and Mike Rounds, both Republicans representing South Dakota, also co-sponsored the Senate bill.

"Carson Wentz isn't the only bison getting national attention this week," Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, North Dakota Democrat and co-sponsor of the Senate bill, said in a statement Tuesday. "As a symbol of our heritage and a proud part of many Native cultures, the 500,000 bison that roam the continent exemplify the spirit and traditions that make the United States great."

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Noem, House to designate bison as national mammal

2016/04/27

Make room, bald eagle. The U.S. House, with support from Rep. Kristi Noem, R-S.D., has voted to designate the bison the national mammal of the United States.

The move seeks to elevate the bison's stature to that of the bald eagle, long the nation's official bird. There has not been an official mammal of the United States.

Prior to approving the measure by voice vote Tuesday, House members spoke of the significance to the nation's history of the bison, also known as buffalo. The animals were central to many Native American cultures and were on the verge of extinction before revival efforts established herds on national refuges and parks.

“The Tatanka is important both physically and spiritually in Native American culture. This bill recognizes that,” Noem said in a news release.

The measure passed by the House must go to the Senate for final passage, expected later this week, before it can go to the president's desk.

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Letter: Thank you to watchdog representatives

2016/04/26

When was the last time you heard of a tax being repealed? Thanks to taxpayer watchdogs like Sen. John Thune and Rep. Kristi Noem, a bill that became law last month will permanently ban state and local taxes on Internet access. The law will affect all states, but South Dakotans will see more benefit than most states.

S.D. is one of seven states that had pre-existing internet access taxes grandfathered-in and protected from a federal moratorium. So unlike other states, South Dakotans have been forced to pay taxes for access to the Internet. Under the new law, S.D., and the other grandfathered states: Hawaii, North Dakota, Texas, New Mexico, Ohio and Wisconsin, are given four years to phase out taxes on Internet access.

Passage of this law results in a $15 million tax cut for S.D. residents.

The Internet plays an important role in our lives. State government shouldn’t impose regressive taxes that hinder opportunities provided by internet access including commerce, entertainment and education.

Taxpayers had a rare victory with the passage of the Permanent Internet Tax Freedom Act. South Dakotans should thank Senator Thune and Representative Noem for their leadership and continued efforts to reduce taxes.

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Noem Leads House in Recognizing Bison as National Symbol of Resilience and Native American Heritage

2016/04/26

Rep. Kristi Noem today helped lead the House in passing H.R.2908, the National Bison Legacy Act, which would adopt the North American Bison as the national mammal of the United States.  The legislation passed without opposition.

“The Tatanka is important both physically and spiritually in Native American culture.  This bill recognizes that,” said Noem.  “Bison are a cultural example of how to live in a healthy and productive manner.  There are also lessons to be learned about resilience from these animals, which were nearly being wiped from existence at one point.  Through the efforts of tribes, ranchers, conservationists and others, the species has survived and can once again be lifted as a literal and cultural example of productivity from which each of us can learn.”

WATCH: Noem Advocates for Bill on House Floor

“The Ihanktonwan people and the Tatanka Oyate were placed on this earth together and have survived as one, beating tremendous hardships through our resiliency,” said Robert Flying Hawk, Yankton Sioux Tribal Chairman. “We appreciate the recognition of this journey through the efforts of Rep. Noem and her colleagues to establish the platform which acknowledges the buffalo as the iconic figure it is.”

“Thank you to Rep. Noem for championing this act,” said Wayne Frederick, Inter Tribal Buffalo Council (ITBC) board member and Rosebud Sioux Tribal Councilman.  “Buffalo to the Titowan tribes are an integral part of our existence, it is known that without them we would cease to exist.  The buffalo also are a symbol of freedom, courage, and perseverance. Let us make sure the buffalo receive the respect that they have shown us over a millennium.”

“The Tatanka Oyate have been a part of our spiritual, cultural, and economic lives for generations.  They have given us everything we needed to survive,” said Mike Faith, ITBC Vice-President and Standing Rock Sioux Tribal Councilman. “I think anyone looking at the relationship between the tribes and the bison can learn something about the utility of the world around us and how precious that balance is.  With the help of Rep. Noem, we hope to be able to secure a place for this lesson as an iconic American symbol.”

“The return of the buffalo has re-energized our culture in many ways,” said Ben Janis, ITBC board member and Lower Brule Sioux Tribe Wildlife Director.  “I am hopeful that through Rep. Noem’s legislation, we can ensure the story of the buffalo and its place in our traditions can remain a prominent figure within America’s historical landscape.” 

“The buffalo and our tribes have been intertwined since time immemorial and we are very pleased to see this being represented through this effort,” said Jim Stone, ITBC Executive Director and Yankton Sioux Tribal Member. “This will allow us to share or story and provide education about this relationship for years to come. We would like to thank Rep. Noem for her efforts.”

“The Bison have rekindled a link to the past and have become living symbols of our Members perseverance and rich historical culture,” said Karena Miller, Assistant Manager of Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate Buffalo Farm Management. “Buffalo took care of us for centuries and now it is time for us to take care of them. They will then be able to take care of us again. The bison have become an integral part of Tribal life.”

Noem first helped introduce this legislation in 2012.  She did so again in each successive Congress.  In addition to adopting the bison as the national mammal, this legislation recognizes the cultural and spiritual significance of the bison to Native American communities as well as the work of tribes, conservationists and producers to bring the bison back from the brink of extinction. 

The legislation will now be sent to the Senate for final consideration before arriving at the president’s desk for his signature.

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Local Officials Journey To Washington

2016/04/25

The Beltway got a visit from Yankton last week.

Nine representatives of local commerce, the City of Yankton and Yankton County took an opportunity to participate in the annual Yankton Area Chamber of Commerce D.C. fly-in.

Chamber Executive Director Carmen Schramm told the Press & Dakotan that the fly-in had a new addition this year.

"When we do this fly-in, we generally like to take some people from the city, some people from the Chamber membership," Schramm said. "This year, we actually were able to take a representative from the county as well."

That county representation was county commission chairman Todd Woods, who told the Press & Dakotanthis would not be the last time the county was represented.

"My intent would be to have a County Commissioner go on these trips because I think it’s very valuable to have a team approach," Woods said. "Having the city there, Yankton Area Progressive Growth and the Chamber there shows that we are all together and moving in the same direction."

Schramm said the trip is about providing the Yankton area a voice in the seat of the federal government.

"The purpose of the trip is to talk to our delegates as well as different agencies and take our issues and advocate for our members," she said. "(We) also check out new programs that might be available that we might qualify for with the agencies that we visit. It’s a good time to get in front of all of our delegates and give them our issues, but also thank them for things that they have done for us."

The group was able to meet with Rep. Kristi Noem and Sens. John Thune and Mike Rounds during the trip. During these meetings, the Yankton delegation discussed a host of items, including healthcare reimbursements and regulations, education funding, mental health funding, area events, airline transportation, transportation funding, the Main Street Fairness Act and overtime regulations.

Schramm said the local delegation also had a chance to visit with representatives from the U.S. Deptartment of Agriculture, the Main Street Group and the National Endowment for the Arts.

Woods said one of the big county issues discussed last week was the effort to find ways to add a sewage district along the Highway 52 corridor.

"We also spoke with the USDA Rural Development on the sewer district we would like to do in the near future," he said. "We talked about some sewer district options with Napa Junction to see if we could connect the two together in some fashion."

He said he was encouraged by the conversations regarding the potential for funding options.

Schramm said having a D.C. presence on an annual basis helps forge partnerships to tackle regional issues.

"It’s all about relationship building," she said. "I’ve been here for about seven years now, and they know us. When we call to make an appointment, they’re like, ‘Oh yeah, this is Yankton.’ They like to hear about what we’ve got going on. This year, especially with some of the agency groups that we met with, they were like, ‘Here’s what we have and think would fit really well for you.’ That’s not a conversation you get the first couple of years you go."

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Noem talks IHS

2016/04/24

Indian Health Services is nearing the end of its extension to reach a significant improvement agreement with federal officials, in order to avoid losing Medicare and Medicaid funds.

The funding cutoff comes after inspectors found serious deficiencies within their health care systems at the Pine Ridge and Rosebud hospitals.
Representative Kristi Noem weighed in on the matter, following a recent conversation she had with Indian Health Services director, Mary Smith, and calls the need for reform an emergency situation.

Representative Kristi Noem says, "I was concerned with the fact that they're closing contract bidding right now for services to reopen at the Rosebud and Pine Ridge hospitals. I'm hoping that our local health care systems had the chance to bid for those and that we could have people that were familiar with our tribes working with them and give them the kind of care they deserve."

Noem worries that this is a short-term solution and she thinks a long-term fix is necessary.

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Rep. Noem, Google come to Rapid City to talk online safety

2016/04/22

Southwest Middle School students were in for a treat Friday afternoon with a little help from State Representative Kristi Noem and Google.

The tech giant's ‘Good to Know Roadshow’ came to the school Friday to teach the students about maintaining a safe presence on the internet.

It's a 45-minute interactive presentation with five tips the students can remember while using technology.

Rep. Noem briefly spoke with the students before the presentation about why she thinks it's important for the kids to know these online tips.

"I think a lot of times parents don't realize how people have access to their children until something bad happens, and that's what we want to avoid,” Rep. Noem said. “We want them to realize that dangers are out there before anything bad happens. Still let them enjoy social media, but do it in a manner that's going to benefit them and not harm them."

Rep. Noem also said that as a mother herself, she's hopeful that educational programs like these will enhance online literacy for kids in South Dakota.

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Weekly Column: Commonsense Accountability

2016/04/22

With Tax Day only a week or so behind us, the amount of personal information we send in with our tax return is still fresh in our minds: Social Security numbers; our annual salary; in some cases, the routing number for our bank account!  That’s the kind of information we wouldn’t share with just anyone, so it begs the question: whose hands does this information fall into once it arrives at the IRS?

Before we get too far in, I want to say that I’ve met with some incredible folks in South Dakota who do some of this work and do it with integrity.  But the IRS is a nationwide agency.  Not everyone lives up to South Dakota’s standards, including many decision-makers within the IRS.

In the past few years alone, the agency has targeted groups based on their political beliefs.  They’ve let criminal acts pass by the wayside, sending out billions of dollars in improper payments.  They’ve let calls from taxpayers go unanswered, picking up just 15.6 percent of calls during the height of tax-filing season this year.  Thousands of employees have neglected to pay their own taxes.  And all the while, the agency has handed out about $6 million worth of bonuses.

With all of this as background, it may come as no surprise that the IRS also knowingly hired hundreds of former employees who had previously been fired for misconduct. Some of these people had been fired from the IRS for filing false documents.  Some accessed sensitive taxpayer information without permission.  Some just didn’t show up to work for what totaled about 8 weeks’ worth of work, leading to a stamp on their personnel file saying: “Do Not Rehire.”  Incredibly, all of these people were rehired.

Nearly one in five of the rehired employees had new performance issues when they returned to the IRS, according to a federal report.  This defies commonsense.

What’s more, the IRS has shown a complete disregard for changing the practice and insists that prior conduct or performance issues do not play a significant role in deciding the candidates they choose to hire.  I couldn’t let this policy stand. 

I introduced legislation to prohibit the IRS from hiring employees they had already fired once for misconduct.  It earned bipartisan support, and on April 21, the House of Representatives gave the legislation its stamp of approval.  The Senate has already started its work on this legislation.  I’m hopeful they can sign off on this bill soon and put this commonsense reform on the President’s desk.

In addition to the bill I introduced, the House passed legislation that ended bonuses to IRS employees until the agency starts to fix its terrible customer service record.  We also passed a bill to get rid of an unaccountable IRS slush fund, giving taxpayers a greater say over how fees the IRS collects are used.  Finally, we passed legislation to stop the IRS from hiring any new employees until they can certify that no employees are delinquent on their own taxes.  These are commonsense, if you are out there to protect hardworking taxpayers.

These bills are only a snippet of what must be done to correct a broken system.  Nonetheless, as we work toward a fairer, flatter and simpler tax code, I’ll be looking for more opportunities to make the IRS more accountable to you.

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House Passes Noem's IRS Workforce Integrity Bill

2016/04/21

Rep. Kristi Noem today led the House in passing her Ensuring Integrity in the IRS Workforce Act (H.R.3724), which would prohibit the IRS from rehiring an employee who has been fired for certain forms of misconduct.  The legislation passed with broad bipartisan support by a margin of 345-78.

“The IRS has rehired hundreds of people who had already been fired once for misconduct.  This practice needs to end and that’s exactly what my bill does.  It’s just commonsense,” said Noem.  “Much more must be done to correct our broken tax system.  Nonetheless, as we work toward a fairer, flatter, and simpler tax code, I’ll be looking for more opportunities to make the IRS more accountable to you.”

In February 2015, Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) publicly released a new report explaining it had “identified hundreds of former employees with prior substantiated conduct or performance issues ranging from tax issues, unauthorized access to taxpayer information, leave abuse, falsification of official forms, unacceptable performance, misuse of IRS property, and off-duty misconduct.”  

The agency went on to say that nearly one in five of the rehired employees with a record of prior misconduct had performance issues when they returned to the IRS.  For more information on TIGTA’s findings, click here.

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House easily passes Noem's IRS misconduct bill

2016/04/21

The Internal Revenue Service would have a harder time rehiring former employees with past misconduct under legislation passed by the House Thursday. 

The GOP-led House approved legislation introduced by Rep. Kristi Noem, R-S.D., that would prevent the IRS from rehiring employees who have already been fired for certain forms of misconduct, such as accessing taxpayer information without permission, filing false documents or not doing their own taxes. The measure easily passed by a 345-78 vote.

The bill, introduced in October, came following a February 2015 report from the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration that chided the IRS for rehiring hundreds of former employees with conduct issues. The review found nearly 20 percent of the rehired staff had performance issues when they returned to the IRS.

“The fact that they didn’t fix it themselves just says, 'Well, then we’ve got to pass legislation.' It’s unfortunate because you would think common sense would say change the policy, we don’t hire these people back,” Noem said in an interview. This bill “tries to put some integrity back into an agency so it can take care of people better.”

The IRS declined to comment on Noem's bill.

Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., has introduced similar legislation that was passed by the Senate Finance Committee Wednesday. The full Senate has yet to act.

The Obama administration opposes the House legislation.

In a statement Monday, the White House's Office of Management and Budget (OMB) warned that the bill would force the IRS to immediately fire workers terminated and rehired many years ago even if they had "blemish-free" records since returning. It added that "the bill's prohibition is also unnecessary because current IRS processes already ensure the agency does not rehire former employees who had significant conduct or performance problems during prior employment with the agency."

Other legislation approved by the House this week would ban the IRS from hiring new employees until it confirms that no agency workers have seriously delinquent debt such as back taxes. The IRS also would be prevented from offering performance awards to its employees until the Treasury Department develops and implements a plan to improve customer service.

"These bills would impose unnecessary constraints on the Internal Revenue Service's operations without improving the agency's ability to administer the tax code and serve taxpayers," according to the OMB.

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House passes bills to enhance IRS oversight

2016/04/21

The House on Thursday passed legislation to increase oversight of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).

The bills were part of a series of IRS-related measures the House passed this week following Monday’s tax-filing deadline.

The Obama administration opposes both of Thursday's bills, calling them unnecessary. But it stopped short of threatening a veto of either measure. 

One of the bills, passed easily by a vote of 345-78, would prevent the IRS from rehiring employees who had previously been fired for misconduct. 

Republicans said the bill is necessary in light of a Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration report that found the IRS, from 2010 to 2013, rehired hundreds of former staffers with significant performance or conduct issues.

Rep. Kristi Noem (R-S.D.), the author of the legislation, cited examples of the IRS rehiring employees who had been absent without leave for weeks at a time and accessed sensitive taxpayer information.

“IRS leadership has failed to acknowledge its mistakes or change its processes. Instead, they stuck their heads in the sand,” Noem said.

Democrats said Republicans should instead be focusing on legislation to stop U.S. companies from moving their addresses overseas for lower tax rates, transactions known as corporate "inversions.” Rep. Joe Crowley (D-N.Y.), the vice chairman of the House Democratic caucus, said the legislation could have been fast-tracked for quick passage instead of a more drawn-out debate on the House floor.

In a statement of administration policy, the Office of Management of Budget (OMB) said the IRS currently has processes in place to ensure it does not rehire former employees with significant performance issues.

“The bill as written could force the immediate termination of employees who had been terminated and rehired many years ago, even if their performance since rehiring has been blemish-free,” the OMB said.

The second bill, approved by a vote of 260-158, would prevent the IRS from paying employees bonuses until the agency implements a comprehensive customer service strategy.

Republicans said the bill is important because recent customer service offered by the IRS has been abysmal. 

According to the Government Accountability Office report, in fiscal 2015, only 38 percent of callers who sought live assistance from the IRS received it, and the average wait time was more than 30 minutes. 

“We’re asking very simply in the bill, do your job. And until you’ve done that job, which other agencies are very capable of doing, no bonuses get paid,” said Rep. Patrick Meehan (R-Pa.), the bill’s author.

Democrats said the agency’s taxpayer service has suffered because the IRS is significantly underfunded. The tax agency's funding level is more than $900 million below its 2010 level.

“Look, the reason the phones aren’t being answered is because the Republican majority has failed to answer to its responsibilities,” said Rep. Sandy Levin (Mich.), the top Democrat on the tax-writing House Ways and Means Committee. “The House Republicans are trying to pass the buck because they’re not providing the bucks necessary for adequate taxpayer services.”

The IRS received a $290 million funding increase for 2016, and IRS Commissioner John Koskinen said the funding boost led to significantly better customer service this year. Koskinen said Tuesday that the rate of taxpayer calls answered during the filing season was above 70 percent and that once seasonal employees depart, the average phone service level will be about 47 percent for the year.

The Obama administration said the IRS already has started executing a strategy to improve customer service. 

“The real constraint on the IRS's ability to serve taxpayers effectively is severe underfunding, including for taxpayer services,” OMB said.

Thursday was the third day in a row that the House passed legislation targeting the IRS. On Tuesday, the chamber passed by voice vote a measure that would prohibit the IRS from using funds to target taxpayers for exercising First Amendment rights and a resolution that urges the agency to make paper copies of the tax-filing instruction book available for free. On Wednesday, the House passed bills that would restrict IRS hiring and spending, largely on party lines.

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Noem tightens up the taxman's hiring practices

2016/04/21

The U.S. House of Representatives on Thursday easily passed South Dakota's Kristi Noem's IRS Integrity Act by a vote of 345-78.

Republican Noem enjoyed wide bipartisan support for the legislation to ban the IRS from rehiring people who were fired for serious misconduct.

"The IRS rehired employees who falsified documents, they failed to pay their own taxes, they accessed sensitive taxpayer information without permission," said Noem on the House floor before the vote. Noem said some of the stories she shared bordered on the "absurd."

In February 2015, a federal investigation revealed that hundreds of IRS employees canned for serious misconduct had been rehired. The report said that nearly one in five of these rehired employees had performance problems with then returned to the IRS.

Noem described her legislation as just commonsense.

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House bill targets misconduct within IRS

2016/04/21

Once an employee is fired for misconduct, they're usually not rehired. But that's not the case with the Internal Revenue Services.

That's why U.S. Representative Kristi Noem is offering up her Ensuring Integrity in the IRS Workforce Act. The bill prohibits the IRS from re-hiring employees fired for misconduct. The House of Representatives passed the legislation Thursday with broad bipartisan support by a margin of 345-78.

The Treasury Inspector General reported hundreds of examples of the IRS overlooking misconduct, such as employees accessing taxpayer information without permission, falsifying forms, and failing to pay their own taxes. The report also stated that nearly one in five re-hired employees with a record of prior misconduct had performance issues when they returned to work.

Noem said she and her staff have met with numerous front line IRS employees from South Dakota who are sincere and hard-working individuals. “My bill is not aimed at them. This legislation is aimed at the IRS bureaucracy in Washington, and it's intended to address a very real problem that they have refused to fix. There's no reason that IRS leadership in Washington shouldn't be held to the same standard to which it holds you, the taxpayers."

Representative Noem said she'll be looking for even more opportunities to make the IRS more accountable to taxpayers.

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House would ban IRS from rehiring people fired for misconduct

2016/04/21

The Internal Revenue Service would have a harder time rehiring former employees with past misconduct under legislation passed by the House on Thursday.

The legislation, introduced by Rep. Kristi Noem, R-S.D., would prevent the IRS from rehiring employees who have already been fired for certain forms of misconduct, such as accessing taxpayer information without permission, filing false documents or not doing their own taxes. The measure easily passed by a 345-78 vote.

It advanced following a February 2015 report from the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration that chided the IRS for rehiring hundreds of former employees with conduct issues. The review found nearly 20% of the rehired staff had performance issues when they returned to the IRS.

“The fact that they didn’t fix it themselves just says, 'Well, then we’ve got to pass legislation.' It’s unfortunate because you would think common sense would say change the policy, we don’t hire these people back,” Noem said in an interview. This bill “tries to put some integrity back into an agency so it can take care of people better.”

The IRS declined to comment.

Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., has introduced similar legislation that passed the Senate Finance Committee Wednesday. The full Senate has yet to act.

The Obama administration opposes the House legislation.

In a statement Monday, the White House's Office of Management and Budget (OMB) warned that the bill would force the IRS to immediately fire workers terminated and rehired many years ago even if they had "blemish-free" records since returning. It added that "the bill's prohibition is also unnecessary because current IRS processes already ensure the agency does not rehire former employees who had significant conduct or performance problems during prior employment with the agency."

Other legislation approved by the House this week would ban the IRS from hiring new employees until it confirms that no agency workers have seriously delinquent debt such as back taxes. The IRS also would be prevented from offering performance awards to its employees until the Treasury Department develops and implements a plan to improve customer service.

"These bills would impose unnecessary constraints on the Internal Revenue Service's operations without improving the agency's ability to administer the tax code and serve taxpayers," according to the OMB.

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House passes bills to rein in IRS

2016/04/19

The House on Tuesday easily passed legislation to rein in the Internal Revenue Service as part of political messaging to mark this week’s deadline for Americans to file their tax returns.

Lawmakers approved the two noncontroversial bills by voice vote. The first piece of legislation would ban the IRS from using funds to target citizens for exercising their First Amendment rights.

Rep. Sandy Levin (D-Mich.), the top Democrat on the tax-writing House Ways and Means Committee, said the legislation was unnecessary but did not argue with its substance.

“It’s already in the Constitution. So let’s move on,” Levin said during floor debate. “We have so much more we could be doing today in terms of tax legislation.”

But Rep. Kristi Noem (R-S.D.) countered that the House should still warn the IRS to prevent another scandal over the targeting of political groups for additional scrutiny.

“It’s still important to have discussions like this to reassure the taxpayers back home that this type of targeting will never happen,” Noem said.

The House also approved a resolution that urges the IRS to make printed copies of the tax-filing instructions book available to taxpayers for free. 

The printed instructions had been available at public places like post offices until 2015, when the IRS began urging taxpayers to download them online to transition to a fully electronic filing system.

Rep. Glenn Grothman (R-Wis.), the bill’s author, said the change adversely affects populations like the elderly who might not be comfortable using computers.

“It just seems offensive, as you have older people out there, some are not familiar with the internet,” Grothman said. “That, again, is kind of, I guess I’d call, elitism on the part of the IRS because they don’t need the paper form.”

The American Forest & Paper Association supports the resolution. The group’s president, Donna Harman, said that the publication “is a basic taxpayer service that should be available in multiple formats and easily accessible to all, including computer savvy millennials who are more likely to file their taxes on paper than any other age group.”

Later this week, the House will vote on four more IRS bills that are more controversial.

One would prevent the IRS from rehiring any former employee who was fired for misconduct. Another would bar the agency from paying bonuses to employees until it implements a comprehensive customer service strategy.

A third would prevent the IRS from hiring new employees until the Treasury Department certifies that no employees have seriously delinquent tax debts or issues a report explaining why it cannot do so. The fourth would repeal the IRS’s ability to spend the user fees it collects without approval from Congress.

House Republicans have said the bills would increase the IRS’s accountability to taxpayers. But Democrats have argued that if Republicans actually wanted to improve the IRS’s ability to do its job effectively, it should increase funding to the agency.

The Obama administration has said it opposes the four bills and issued a veto threat on the measure covering user fees.

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Rep. Kristi Noem: IRS Is Rehiring Employees Fired for Misconduct

2016/04/19

House Republicans are aiming at the Internal Revenue Service this week, taking up four bills to ensure integrity in hiring and better customer service.

"We have recently learned...that IRS employees that have been fired for misconduct have been rehired" in the last several years, Rep. Kristi Noem (R-S.D.) told a news conference on Tuesday.

"Now some of this may involve falsifying documents -- they failed to pay their own taxes. They may have been fired for accessing sensitive taxpayer information without permission. In fact, one employee had missed up to eight weeks of work without permission, had actually stamped on their personnel file, 'Do not rehire' -- and the IRS chose to rehire them."

Noem said Congress gave the IRS an opportunity to address the issue, and "they have stated that their policies are fine and are currently working for them."

She said that's why she's introducing the Ensuring Integrity in the IRS Workforce Act (H.R.3724). "It will prevent the IRS from rehiring employees that were fired for misconduct."

Noem called it a "commonsense" bill that passed unanimously through the House Ways and Means Committee, and "I expect it to have a lot of support on the floor."

The House is taking up another bill that would require user fees collected by the IRS to be spent on customer service, as Congress intended the money to be spent.

A third bill would prohibit the IRS from hiring new employees until the Treasury secretary certifies to Congress that none of them owe back taxes.

And a fourth bill would ban IRS merit bonuses awarded to employees until the Treasury secretary submits a comprehensive customer service strategy to Congress.

House Speaker Paul Ryan said the four bills are part of a Republican effort to force the IRS to accept more accountability and transparency.

"We know that the IRS cannot be trusted to police itself, Ryan said. "Each time we come up with more problems, the IRS comes up witih more excuses.

"Just recently, in the height of tax season, we learned that the agency still has not done enough to protect taxpayers from hackers. Asked about this, the IRS commissioner said, and I quote -- 'It's a complicated world,' close quote.

"There is nothing complicated about this!" Ryan said. "The IRS is not doing its job."

Ryan said ultimately, Congress needs to reform the entire tax code, not just the agency itself:

"Right now we have a tax code that no one can understand being enforced by an agency that no one trusts."

He said a House Ways and Means Committee task force is now gathering ideas on a tax reform plan that Republicans can offer to the American people, "run on it," and "earn a mandate from the country this year to put tax reform in place in 2017."

Ryan said the Obama administration is "ideaologically out to lunch on this issue."

"People realize that our international system is killing American competitiveness. It's pushing businesses overseas, it's causing foreign companies to buy U.S. companies. We need a new president that is not such an ideologue, so that we can actually get comprehenisve, pro-growth tax reform."

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Weekly Column: The Families Who Serve

2016/04/15

This February in the Harrisburg High School gym, a young girl stepped up to the microphone, took a deep breath, and shared with each of us her heartfelt rendition of the National Anthem.  As each of us looked to the Stars and Stripes with hand over heart, the air in the room became noticeably heavier.  We were hearing our anthem not because it was almost time for tip-off, but because 39 soldiers from the South Dakota National Guard’s 196th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade were about to deploy to Kuwait.

I have the utmost respect and gratitude for those who volunteer to serve in our military.  It is because of them that we can live the lives that we do.  But I’m also careful to remember that service is not something only those in uniform do.  Their families serve alongside them.

April has been set aside as the Month of the Military Child.  In South Dakota, there are more than 7,100 military children whose parents serve in the National Guard, the Reserves, or active duty.  Regardless of whether their parent is at home, at drill, or deployed, the grit and resilience of these young people help enable their parents to serve.

South Dakota has always done a good job of keeping family at the center of everything we do and our military organizations are no different.  In three of the last four years, South Dakota National Guard units have been nationally recognized with the Department of Defense Reserve Family Readiness Award. These repeated awards speak to the integrity and value-system of the South Dakota National Guard, our service members, and their leadership.

While the military’s support for families of service members is mission critical, we, as civilians, share in that responsibility.  I was blown away by the attendance at the 196th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade deployment ceremony in Harrisburg.  The event was initially to be held in a much smaller room, but the community came out in overwhelming support.  It was truly incredible to see around 400 South Dakotans stand up in support of our men and women in uniform, letting the soldiers know they had a community back home to support their families in the months to come.

Our support for service members and military families must go far beyond the moment of deployment.  Having a parent away at drill is tough.  Just knowing they could be deployed is tough.  Readjusting to life after a parent returns home from a war zone is really, really tough.  Throughout April, I encourage you to consider how we can be more supportive of military kids at every stage of service. Just as that young girl sang last February in the Harrisburg High School gym, we are able to live in the land of the free, because we are home to the brave service members in uniform and the families who stand behind them.

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Meehan, Noem bills to bring accountability, transparency to IRS clear committee

2016/04/15

The House Ways and Means Committee approved bills on Wednesday introduced by U.S. Reps. Kristi Noem (R-SD) and Pat Meehan (R-PA) to enhance IRS transparency and accountability.

The House Ways and Means Committee approved four bills, including Noem’s Ensuring Integrity in the IRS Workforce Act, H.R. 3724, and Meehan’s IRS Bonuses Tied to Measurable Metrics Act, H.R. 4890.

Under Noem’s bipartisan Ensuring Integrity in the IRS Workforce Act, the IRS would be prohibited from rehiring employees who were previously fired for misconduct.

“If a person has been fired for accessing private taxpayer information without permission or filing false documents, they should not be rehired and given access once again to our sensitive data,” Noem said. “But the IRS has done this hundreds of times. My bill does what IRS bureaucracy has refused to do. It stops them from rehiring people who have betrayed the trust of taxpayers. With unanimous consent from the committee, I’m hopeful we can move this commonsense solution forward quickly.”

The Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) released a report last February that found that “hundreds of former employees with prior substantiated conduct or performance issues ranging from tax issues, unauthorized access to taxpayer information, leave abuse, falsification of official forms, unacceptable performance, misuse of IRS property and off-duty misconduct” had been rehired by the IRS.

Meehan’s IRS Bonuses Tied to Measurable Metrics Act, meanwhile, would institute a ban on IRS employee bonuses until the secretary of the treasury develops and implements a comprehensive customer service strategy.

“The IRS has shown that it will prioritize bonuses over assisting taxpayers,” Meehan said. “This legislation would bring accountability to the process by requiring the IRS to complete a customer service strategy before paying out any more bonuses.”

U.S. Rep. Erik Paulsen (R-MN), who voted in favor of both pieces of legislation during the committee markup on Wednesday, said that the measures would approve accountability and hiring standards within the IRS.

“As tax season winds to a close, it’s timely to review the recent performance at the IRS,” Paulsen said. “With customer service at all-time lows, more accountability is needed to ensure taxpayers have the support they need to file their taxes. Additionally, action is being taken to make sure that employees at the IRS are following the same rules that taxpayers are expected to follow.”

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Contact Information

1323 Longworth HOB
Washington, DC 20515
Phone 202-225-2801
Fax 202-225-5823
noem.house.gov

Committee Assignments

Ways and Means

U.S. Representative Kristi Noem is a wife, mother, experienced rancher, farmer, and former small business owner. Kristi was born and raised in rural Hamlin County in northeastern South Dakota and still lives there today with her husband, Bryon, and their three children, Kassidy, Kennedy, and Booker.

Kristi learned the value of hard work early in life from her father. He put Kristi, her sister and two brothers to work on the family farm at a young age caring for the cattle and horses and helping with planting and harvest. After graduating from high school, Kristi began attending college at Northern State University in Aberdeen. When her father died unexpectedly in a farming accident, Kristi returned to the family farm and ranch full-time. Her father’s death left a huge absence, so Kristi stepped up and helped stabilize the operation and provided leadership when it was needed most.

Kristi’s work on the farm and ranch didn’t go unnoticed. In 1997 she received the South Dakota Outstanding Young Farmer award and in 2003 she was honored with the South Dakota Young Leader award.

Kristi’s experience as a small business owner shaped her understanding of government and its purpose. Too often, government is inefficient and ineffective, simply getting in the way of small businesses and entrepreneurs who wish to create jobs and grow our economy. Realizing this, Kristi decided to get involved to try and make a difference.

Her service includes the South Dakota State Farm Agency State Committee, the Commission for Agriculture in the 21st Century, the South Dakota Soybean Association, and numerous other boards and committees. In the fall of 2006, Kristi was elected as the 6th District Representative to the South Dakota House of Representatives.

Kristi quickly realized she could serve her district, and the State of South Dakota, more effectively in a leadership position. So in her second term she ran for, and won, the position of Assistant Majority Leader in the State House, where she served until 2010.

Kristi was first elected to serve as South Dakota’s lone Member of the U.S. House of Representatives on November 2, 2010.

While keeping up with her Congressional duties in Washington, D.C. and work with constituents in South Dakota, Kristi continued to take undergraduate courses from South Dakota State University. In December 2011, Kristi graduated from SDSU with her Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science.

On November 6, 2012, Kristi was re-elected to the U.S. House of Representatives where she continues to serve on the Agriculture Committee and House Armed Services Committee.

Kristi enjoys helping her daughters compete in rodeo and 4-H. She has been a 4-H leader for 14 years. Kristi is also an avid hunter. She particularly enjoys pheasant hunting on the homestead and archery elk with her brothers.


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