The solemn nature of Memorial Day has been somewhat lost through the years. With so much going on, it’s easy to start thinking about the weekend as the launch point of summer, a day off work, or maybe a great time to get a good deal. The truth we all know is that Memorial Day is set aside to remember those who sacrificed everything to preserve our live, liberty, and pursuit of happiness.
I don’t know what it is like to lose a family member to the trauma of war, but I do know how devastating it is for a child to lose her father. That is where my mind ultimately goes each Memorial Day: to the children, spouses, parents, and friends who are here today, reminding us that the price for freedom is high.
One of the most difficult things I’ve had to do while in office is call the families of a soldier who has fallen in action or lost their life to the physical and emotional wounds incurred in service. My heart shatters thinking about all they’ve lost, but even so, I know I can’t understand the true depth of their suffering. So, I pray for them.
The debt we owe these families and the service members they love can never be repaid. Nonetheless, we owe them our undying gratitude through our words, prayers, and actions.
One of the ways I tried to mark that recently was by flying a flag over the United States Capitol earlier this year to recognize the service of Eugene Fedt of Bryant. Eugene has been a dedicated member of the American Legion for 50 years and a lifelong steward of the American land he vowed to protect. It’s my honor to personally thank him in this way.
I encourage you to spend time this week thanking a veteran or the family of a fallen soldier. Take President John F. Kennedy’s advice that when expressing this gratitude “never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.” Visit the Black Hills, Fort Meade, or Hot Springs National Cemeteries. Attend a Memorial Day celebration. Sit down with a disabled veteran. Invite a military family to dinner. Reach out to a member of the South Dakota National Guard and congratulate them on taking Gold in the 2016 Army Communities of Excellence Awards earlier this month. There are little things each of us can do this week and throughout the year to show how much we appreciate their sacrifices.
Author Joseph Campbell wrote: “A hero is someone who has given his or her life to something bigger than oneself.” To all our heroes – past, present and future – and to their families, I want to say thank you for dedicating yourself to something bigger. I am truly humbled and inspired by your service.Read More
Reps. Kristi Noem (R-SD) and Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) as well as House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce (R-CA) and Ranking Member Eliot Engel (D-NY) today introduced the Women, Peace, and Security Act. This bipartisan legislation would require the U.S. to develop a comprehensive strategy to increase and strengthen women’s participation in peace negotiations and conflict prevention globally.
“Conflict knows no gender just as peace should know no gender, and still, women are underrepresented when it comes to preventing conflicts and building peace,” said Rep. Noem. “The bipartisan Women, Peace, and Security Act ensures, through meaningful congressional oversight, that women have a seat at the table during peace negotiations. Especially at a time when the world is so volatile, I’m grateful to my colleagues for working to advance this tool, which we’re hopeful will produce more sustainable outcomes during future conflict resolution and peace negotiation processes.”
“Women must play a more prominent role in building peace around the globe,” said Rep. Schakowsky. “All over the world women are the victims of war and violent conflict, but are all too often shut out from the peace negotiation process. We have seen time and again that women’s active involvement leads to lasting peace agreements that are more stable and even-handed. This bipartisan legislation would empower women by giving them a seat at the negotiating table, ensuring that their voices are heard and their concerns are addressed in the peace process.”
“As a recent Foreign Affairs Committee hearing profiled, when women are at the peace negotiating table, success is more likely,” said Chairman Royce. “From Northern Ireland to Africa to Asia, women have played pivotal roles in ending a number of modern-day conflicts – yet they continue to be underrepresented in peace negotiations. I am pleased to cosponsor this bill to prioritize women’s participation in ending conflicts and promoting peace.”
“Nearly five years ago, the Obama Administration launched its landmark National Action Plan on Women, Peace, and Security to help ensure that as we work around the world to end conflict and advance stability, women are a major part of the process. Women can play an outsized role in preventing crises and building peace, so it made sense to develop a policy that included women every step of the way. Now, Congress is taking this effort further by making sure that women’s full participation in conflict resolution is a permanent part of our foreign policy,” said Ranking Member Engel. “I want to thank Representative Schakowsky, who has been calling for a measure like this for many years, and Representative Noem for her bipartisan leadership. I look forward to working with Chairman Royce to advance this bill in the Foreign Affairs Committee.”
Research shows that peace agreement is 35 percent more likely to last at least 15 years when women are involved. While some work has been done to include women at the negotiating table, this legislation would require a focused strategy with greater congressional oversight. Sens. Mark Kirk (R-IL) and Barbara Boxer (D-CA) have introduced similar legislation in the Senate.Read More
Rep. Kristi Noem today applauded the introduction of the FY2017 Interior and Environment appropriations bill, which – after collaborating with Noem – includes targeted support for Indian Health Service (IHS) facilities in crisis. Additionally, the legislation prevents the administration from closing hatcheries, such as the D.C. Booth Fish Hatchery. The proposal also keeps public lands open to hunting and recreational shooting and offers resources targeted to wildfire suppression.
“The added funding will not solve IHS’s deep-rooted problems, but I’m hopeful it will help as we work to put real reforms in place,” said Noem. “We need to fundamentally change how this agency is run and how it delivers care, which I’m proud to begin addressing with my upcoming legislation. Nonetheless, I’m grateful to the committee for reflecting my concerns and making support for IHS a priority.”
“Rep. Noem has been relentless in working with this committee to ensure necessary resources were made available to help address the health care emergency in tribal communities,” said Interior Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman Ken Calvert, the bill’s sponsor. “Her guidance throughout this process has been very much appreciated and we’re hopeful we can continue working with her until this crisis is resolved.”
The current proposal offers an increase for IHS of $271 million over FY2016 levels. Included in the proposal is $6 million to support facilities facing accreditation emergencies, like those at the Rosebud, Pine Ridge, and Sioux San hospitals. This figure triples what was enacted in FY2016.Read More
A proposed House appropriations bill would authorize $6 million to help support deficiencies recently found at some of South Dakota's Indian Health Service hospitals.
Since 2015, service at three IHS hospitals in southern South Dakota has been deemed deficient by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, but Rep. Kristi Noem hopes the recently introduced appropriations bill to fund the Department of the Interior for 2017 would address some of the insufficient health care provided at South Dakota's IHS facilities.
"The added funding will not solve IHS's deep-rooted problems, but I'm hopeful it will help as we work to put real reforms in place," said Noem, South Dakota's at-large representative, in a news release Wednesday. "We need to fundamentally change how this agency is run and how it delivers care, which I'm proud to begin addressing with my upcoming legislation. Nonetheless, I'm grateful to the committee for reflecting my concerns and making support for IHS a priority."
On Monday, the federal government threatened to cut funding for Medicare and Medicaid patients at the Sioux San Hospital in Rapid City due to a lack of appropriate medical screenings in the facility's emergency department. Hospitals on the Pine Ridge and Rosebud Indian reservations have also received funding cutoff deadlines if the hospitals do not improve service.
The appropriations bill would provide $6 million to help hospitals like the three in South Dakota re-gain accreditation for emergencies. The IHS would also receive an increase of $271 million in funding compared to its 2016 levels.
On Tuesday, Sen. John Thune spoke on the senate floor in support of a measure to reform the "mismanagement" within the IHS through the IHS Accountability Act of 2016. The legislation would expand removal and discipline procedures for "incompetent" employees and require tribal consultation prior to the hiring of area directors.
While Thune and Noem have spoken out about deficient IHS care in recent months, Thune's Democratic opponent in the 2016 Senate race said he should have taken action sooner.
"I am pleased that Senator Thune is introducing legislation to address the serious issues with the IHS facilities in South Dakota, although I wish he would have taken action before the election was right around the corner," Jay Williams said in a statement issued Wednesday.
Williams said Thune has shown "little interest" in problems facing Native Americans prior to this election season, but commended him for introducing the IHS Accountability Act.
Lawmakers from areas where people get medical care through the Indian Health Service are pressuring their congressional colleagues to exempt Indian tribes from the federal health law’s employer mandate.
Rep. Kristi Noem, R-S.D., testified during a House Ways and Means Committee hearing last week about the bill (HR 3080) she introduced last year. She said in a statement that removing the requirement was a commonsense solution.
“It’s a bipartisan and bicameral bill that gets rid of a duplicative, unnecessary, and costly regulation on tribal communities who are already struggling with high unemployment and significant economic challenges,” Noem said.
Under the 2010 federal health law (PL 111-148, PL 111-152) employers with 50 or more full-time workers have to provide insurance coverage. Employers who do not comply or provide coverage that meets minimum requirements face a penalty. Tribes have been fighting for years for an exemption. Native Americans and Alaska Natives are already exempt from the individual mandate portion of the health law that requires most people to get coverage.
The employer mandate is “inconsistent with the federal trust responsibility and Indian-specific provisions of the ACA” according to Liz Malerba, director of policy and legislative affairs for the United South and Eastern Tribes in an email. She said that forcing tribal businesses to pay for health insurance when the federal Indian Health Service is supposed to provide free care violates the trust agreement.
“Whether choosing to offer coverage or pay the penalty, many Tribes Nations would have no choice but to divert a significant portion of funding away from essential government functions, diminishing services to their citizens,” Malerba said.
William Kindle, president of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe and Byron Wright, treasurer for the tribe, wrote in a July 2015 letter supporting Noem’s bill that covering the South Dakota group’s 800 employees would cost them as much as $6 million annually.
“This could quite possibly mean dissolution of many of the tribal jobs that do exist on the Rosebud,” they said. “It will also result in a reduction in services of our elders and youth and the imposition of severe limitations on various other social programs.”
Noem’s push comes as lawmakers examine an increased number of troubling reports concerning the Indian Health Service, the agency responsible for providing health care for 2.2 million American Indian and Alaska Native people. One issue is the ongoing Rosebud Hospital emergency room closure from Dec. 5. While IHS has a special agreement to reopen the emergency room by next year, the tribe filed a federal lawsuit against them on April 28 through the U.S. District Court in South Dakota. That same day a scathing Government Accountability Office report criticized IHS for not tracking patient wait times for primary care appointments.
The news led lawmakers on the Senate Indian Affairs Committee to introduce a bill (S 2953) on May 19. That bill calls for doing a variety of things including requiring: tribes to be consulted about certain hires, more GAO reports, and additional whistleblower provisions for IHS employees and ways to beef up staff retention. The measure also would require the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Inspector General to investigate IHS patient deaths.
Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, said in a news release about the legislation that a “patient-centered culture change at the Indian Health Service is long-overdue.”
“We have heard appalling testimonies of the failures at IHS that are unacceptable and will not be tolerated,” Barrasso said. “We must reform IHS to guarantee that all of Indian Country is receiving high quality medical care.”Read More
Kassidy, our oldest daughter, graduated from SDSU a few weeks ago, officially making Bryon and I the parents of a bona fide college graduate. She finished in four years with her Bachelor’s degree in Agricultural Business, something she earned while also being heavily involved in athletics, clubs, and intramural sports and working on the side. Kassidy is largely paying her own way, but she’s busy becoming a licensed appraiser now to start making a dent in those student loans.
I guess that pretty much sums up her last four years. Still, it doesn’t quite encapsulate the person she’s become in this time. To say that Bryon and I are proud of her would be an understatement. Kassidy is a hard worker. She’s incredibly responsible. She’s kind and adventurous – and perhaps most importantly, she has a deep love for the Lord.
As she walked across the platform in Frost Arena, my mind went back to the day she was born. It was several weeks after my dad had been killed in an accident at our family farm. We were struggling as a family to imagine a future without him. The days were filled with trying to make decisions, calve out the cows, and get the crop planted. The nights were filled with tears and wondering how God could have thought he needed a 49-year-old farmer in heaven when he still had so much to do here with us. I’ll be honest with you: I was mad and I felt devastated. The only thing that seemed to bring me any kind of peace was keeping busy with the cattle, so having a baby was not something I spent much time getting ready for.
Then came April 21 and everything changed. When Kassidy was born, she reminded our family how to be happy again. We started being optimistic about the future; I actually began to look forward to the next sunrise.
Kassidy, who we quickly nicknamed “Hop-a-long,” spent hours in tractors and combines and with Grandma Corinne. Even at three years old, she could sense when I was tired (and yes, maybe a little cranky). She’d look at me with these scolding eyes and remind me to fix my attitude, saying: “somebody's crabby...!" She had a special love for animals. Almost everything was “pretty neat, huh?” And we always told her wonderful stories about her Grandpa Ron and how much he would have loved to meet her.
As Kassidy grew, more cousins were born and there was a lot for her to do. She kept them in line, made sure they behaved, and handed out chores like a boss. On my side of the family, she was the first cousin to play sports, go to school, drive, rodeo, and run equipment.
Today, Kassidy loves traveling, the outdoors, hunting and spending time with her family. She is often the one who volunteers to take long road trips with me when I need to attend meetings across the state. Time and again, she’s filled in for me if I have to be in DC as well.
Our second oldest, Kennedy, and I were discussing a trait of Kassidy's the other day. Kennedy said, “I think Kass just has really high standards for other people.” I hadn't really thought about it like that before, but Kennedy was right. Kassidy expects people to try to be their best, to be responsible, to serve the Lord, and to work hard, because she does. It may seem bossy to a little brother or type A to a friend, but it's not a bad thing as long as it's done with love.
Many families across South Dakota are celebrating graduations this time of year. It is a wonderful time to reflect on childhood memories and dream about the future. For our family, I'm excited to see what God has in store for Kassidy. While so much is unknown, I am confident that Grandpa Ron would have been proud.Read More
U.S. Rep. Pat Tiberi (R-OH) convened a hearing on Tuesday that explored proposals to improve healthcare by changing the way it is treated in the federal tax code.
Tiberi, the chairman of the House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Health, said that members of Congress have put a lot of work into drafting tax-related polices to improve healthcare, and the hearing presented an opportunity to share them.
“In addition to my colleagues from Ways and Means, I am excited to hear from those members who serve on other committees, but who have worked diligently on health-tax bills,” Tiberi said. “We are committed to working through regular order and that includes hearing from all those who are working in this space.”
U.S. Rep. Charles Boustany (R-LA) testified about three health-tax bills that he has authored – the Small Business Healthcare Tax Relief Act, H.R. 2911; the Repeal of the ACA’s Health Insurance Tax Act, H.R. 928; and the Reinvigorating Antibiotics and Diagnostic Innovation (READI) Act, H.R. 3539.
“Today, Americans are struggling to afford the high cost of healthcare that has been made worse by the government mandates imposed through Obamacare,” Boustany said. “As a doctor, I know that limiting access to care will only drive up healthcare costs and worsen our public health. These commonsense proposals will allow for more flexibility and choice in the marketplace, reduce costs for consumers, and ensure the United States remains on the cutting edge of medical innovation.”
U.S. Rep. Martha McSally (R-AZ) testified about her bipartisan bill, the Halt Tax Increases on the Middle Class and Seniors Act, H.R. 3590, that would prevent a tax increase under the Affordable Care Act.
A provision of the healthcare law would make out-of-pocket medical expenses that exceed 10 percent of seniors’ adjusted gross income tax deductible beginning in 2017. Currently, amounts exceeding 7.5 percent are tax deductible.
“Healthcare costs are already high and since 2005 have risen faster than inflation every year except 2008,” McSally said. “Additionally, the trend toward rising health insurance deductibles is leaving people exposed to increasing out-of-pocket costs. We should be working to reduce this burden, not making it worse, but that’s not what a hidden tax hike in the Affordable Care Act would do.”
U.S. Rep. Adrian Smith (R-NE) testified about legislation he introduced to exempt consumers who purchased coverage through a Consumer Operated and Oriented Plan (co-op) that was later terminated from paying ACA individual mandate penalties.
“The premise of my legislation is simple – regardless of one’s opinion of the ACA, the facts remain: consumers were required to purchase health insurance under that law, many chose to purchase insurance through the state and federal health exchanges, and consumers in 13 states who chose co-op plans lost coverage through no fault of their own,” Smith said. “Those consumers who made a good faith effort to comply with the law should not be forced to pay a penalty because the plan they chose ceased operation.”
U.S. Rep. Kristi Noem (R-SD) testified that her Tribal Employment and Jobs Protection Act, H.R. 3080, would shield Native American tribes from the ACA employer mandate.
“Only in Washington – with hastily written legislation like the Affordable Care Act – could you come up with the scenario tribes and their members now find themselves in,” Noem said. “Tribes are being forced to offer coverage, or pay a tax penalty for not providing coverage, to people the federal government is already responsible for caring for. This unnecessarily diverts limited resources that could be used better in other areas. We owe it to tribes to provide them the certainty they need to provide for the general welfare of their members and exempt them from the employer mandate.”
U.S. Rep. Luke Messer (R-IN) discussed his SCHOOL Act, which would exempt schools and educational agencies from ACA’s employer mandate.
“I’ve heard from school leaders across the sixth district of Indiana who say their school systems cannot afford the employer mandate,” Messer said. “One particular superintendent said this portion of the law will cost his school system almost $1 million annually. That means classroom aides will lose their jobs, sports will be cancelled, and access to more up-to-date instructional materials will be diminished. That’s not fair to our students or our teachers. The House has taken action to exempt our nation’s veterans from the employer mandate. Let’s protect our educators as well.”Read More
Rep. Kristi Noem today joined the U.S. House of Representatives in passing legislation funding priorities for veterans, including language Noem has championed to prevent the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) from ending or limiting hospital-based services at facilities like the Hot Springs VA Hospital through FY2017. The legislation – H.R.4974, the FY2017 Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations Act – passed the House with bipartisan support, 295-129.
“South Dakota veterans have made clear how important it is to maintain services at the Hot Springs VA Hospital and yet the administration has gone to all lengths to reduce and eliminate services,” said Noem. “Veterans and the Hot Springs community deserve long-term certainty about the future of this facility, but until we can do that in a way that preserves the care they’ve earned, I’m proud to once again prohibit the VA from spending money to shut down or limit services for rural veterans, including those who are treated in Hot Springs.”
Noem initially proposed this language as an amendment to last year’s Military Construction and Veterans Affairs appropriations bill, which was then included. Understanding the importance of this provision, Noem’s language was built into this year’s legislation from the onset.
In addition to offering protections for rural health care facilities, like the Hot Springs VA Hospital, H.R.4974 would provide additional funding for VA medical services, including those that address mental health, suicide prevention, and traumatic brain injury. Support was also given to help modernize the VA with electronic health records and address the ongoing claims and appeals backlog. Additionally, H.R.4974 prevented the closure of Guantanamo Bay and prohibited funding for a facility in the U.S. for detainees.Read More
U.S. Sens. John Thune (R-S.D.) and Mike Rounds (R-S.D.) and U.S. Rep. Kristi Noem (R-S.D.) today urged U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Tom Vilsack to reevaluate the selection process for the general Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) sign-ups. The results of the 49th annual general CRP sign-up, which was conducted December 1, 2015, through February 26, 2016, were recently released, and although 727 South Dakota applications for more than 42,000 acres were submitted under the general CRP sign-up, only 101 acres were accepted by USDA.
“Drastically restricting the number of general CRP contract enrollment acres in our state removes the option for most expiring large landscape CRP contract acres from being reenrolled in CRP,” the delegation wrote. “And as a result, because they are denied the option to enroll in general CRP contracts, tens of thousands of acres of marginal land in expiring CRP contracts will be returned to crop production, resulting in higher costs to taxpayers due to increased commodity crop base acres and payments, and increased crop insurance subsidy and indemnity payments. In addition, South Dakota’s already shrinking grassland landscape will dwindle at an accelerated pace.”
Thune, Rounds, and Noem also requested that in the absence of a general CRP enrollment in South Dakota, USDA allocate sufficient continuous CRP acres in a timely manner when needed and requested.
While the delegation acknowledges that USDA has accepted more than 37,000 acres in continuous CRP practices effective at the beginning of 2017, they point out that large landscape contracts enrolled under general CRP sign-ups are critically important for reenrollment of expiring contracts and for maximizing CRP’s usefulness in South Dakota.
Full text of the letter can be found below:
Secretary Tom Vilsack
U.S. Department of Agriculture
1400 Independence Ave., SW
Washington, D.C. 20250
Dear Secretary Vilsack:
We are writing regarding the recently announced results of the 49th general Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) sign-up conducted December 1, 2015, through February 26, 2016. CRP has played a key role in South Dakota’s landscape, outdoor recreation, land stewardship efforts, and economy. However, we are very concerned that with CRP’s dwindling enrollment and loss of general CRP enrollment acres in South Dakota our state will suffer damaging setbacks in these critical areas.
South Dakota landowner interest in CRP remains at very high levels as evidenced by the 727 applications for more than 42,000 acres in the 49th sign-up by South Dakota landowners. However, we are very disappointed that for South Dakota only two CRP offers totaling 101 acres were accepted in the 49th general sign-up.
We appreciate that for fiscal year 2017 more than 37,000 acres have been accepted in continuous CRP in South Dakota as well as more than 18,600 acres in the Grasslands CRP initiative. However, we point out that acreage enrolled under general CRP sign-ups are larger landscape contracts that provide greater environmental and wildlife benefits than continuous CRP practices. In particular, larger acreage general CRP tracts play a critical role in support of South Dakota’s economically significant and treasured pheasant hunting heritage by supporting nesting pheasant needs.
Drastically restricting the number of general CRP contract enrollment acres in our state removes the option for most expiring large landscape CRP contract acres from being reenrolled in CRP. And as a result, because they are denied the option to enroll in general CRP contracts, tens of thousands of acres of marginal land in expiring CRP contracts will be returned to crop production, resulting in higher costs to taxpayers due to increased commodity crop base acres and payments, and increased crop insurance subsidy and indemnity payments. In addition, South Dakota’s already shrinking grassland landscape will dwindle at an accelerated pace.
We request that you reassess the selection process for general CRP sign-ups. It is imperative that each state’s cadre of CRP initiatives and programs that focus on and have successfully addressed specific environmental and wildlife needs remain balanced. An action such as the elimination of the 49th general CRP sign-up enrollment in our state leaves a significant void in CRP’s effectiveness.
We also request that in the absence of a general CRP enrollment in South Dakota that you timely allocate sufficient continuous CRP acres when needed and requested.
Please consider our requests so CRP can continue to successfully function in its key role as a land stewardship tool that protects South Dakota’s marginal land, water, and wildlife.
Member of Congress
South Dakota's congressional delegates strongly oppose a new mandate to double the salary threshold for which employees qualify for overtime pay, unveiled Wednesday.
The Department of Labor released the final ruling on the qualifications for overtime pay. Currently, full-time salaried employees do not qualify for overtime pay if they make $23,660. This new rule will increase the salary threshold from $23,660 to $47,476.
The Labor Department estimates that the rule would boost the pay of 4.2 million additional workers, according to the Washington Post. The change is scheduled to take effect December 1.
The change is not scheduled to take place until December, but there are several efforts in Congress underway to overturn and stop the implementation of this new rule.
Sen. Mike Rounds issued a statement that said the new rule will hurt employees and the employers who hire them in South Dakota.
"Under this rule, restaurants, retailers and small businesses across South Dakota will be faced with increased labor costs or be forced to transition their managers from salary to hourly pay and most likely limit the number of hours they work," Rounds said in a press release. "This rule makes it more difficult for new and mid-level workers to support their families and advance their career. The best way to strengthen the middle class is to grow our economy by lowering the tax burden, removing costly regulatory mandates and increasing workplace flexibility. Unfortunately, this new rule will have the opposite effect."
Rep. Kristi Noem said the new overtime regulations will be an obstacle in improving the economy, not improve it.
"The best and most sustainable way to increase wages is to grow the economy, but like many of the Obama administration's regulations, this new, one-size-fits-all overtime mandate limits opportunity and puts obstacles in the way of building a healthy economy," Noem said. "A more sincere approach would be to focus on proven growth policies, including those that simplify the tax code, cut down on red tape, and promote innovation and job creation."
Sen. John Thune also opposes the new mandate, stating that it will hurt many industries in South Dakota.
"The Obama administration's misguided overtime rule will not only have a negative effect on the people the administration claims to be helping, but is another example of this administration's failed top-down, government-knows-best approach to regulation," Thune said. "This will burden employers and hurt jobs, and it could harm a variety of industries in South Dakota."
Rep. Kristi Noem today testified before the House Ways and Means Committee on her Tribal Employment and Jobs Protection Act, which would protect Native American tribes from the Affordable Care Act’s costly employer mandate. The federal government is already responsible for providing healthcare to tribal members. Imposing the employer mandate on them is unnecessary and duplicative. Without relief, tribal governments could be required to cut important services while tribally-owned businesses could be forced to cut jobs.
WATCH NOEM’S TESTIMONY
Link to YouTube
“Only in Washington – with hastily written legislation like the Affordable Care Act – could you come up with the scenario tribes and their members now find themselves in,” said Noem. “Tribes are being forced to offer coverage, or pay a tax penalty for not providing coverage, to people the federal government is already responsible for caring for. This unnecessarily diverts limited resources that could be used better in other areas. We owe it to tribes to provide them the certainty they need to provide for the general welfare of their members and exempt them from the employer mandate.”
Exempting tribes from the employer mandate has been endorsed by the Great Plains Tribal Chairmen’s Health Board, which represents tribes in South Dakota, North Dakota, Nebraska and Iowa. Additionally, the Tribal Employment and Jobs Protection Act has been endorsed by the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI), the National Indian Health Board (NIHB) and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
The legislation, which Noem sponsored alongside Rep. Ryan Zinke (R-MT) in the House, has also been introduced by Sens. John Thune (R-SD) and Steve Daines (R-MT) in the Senate.Read More
In Washington, Rep. Kristi Noem introduced the Biodiesel Tax Incentive Reform and Extension Act of 2016. This legislation would extend the $1-per-gallon tax credit for biodiesel through the end of 2019 and reform the credit so it is only used for fuel produced in the U.S.
“South Dakota can play a meaningful role in fueling our future,” said Noem. “Increased energy independence is essential to strengthening both economic opportunities and our long-term national security needs. By continuing our commitment to renewable fuels like biodiesel, we can reduce our reliance on foreign fuels from volatile areas of the world and put that energy back into our own economy.” Rep. Noem introduced similar legislation in 2015, and an extension of the credit was included in a year-end tax deal.Read More
U.S. Sens. John Thune (R-S.D.) and Mike Rounds (R-S.D.) and U.S. Rep. Kristi Noem (R-S.D.) recently joined Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, in sending a letter to U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell requesting that the Indian Health Service (IHS) provide answers regarding the recent system improvement agreements executed by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) and the IHS. These agreements were designed to avert the imminent loss of CMS reimbursement due to non-compliance at multiple IHS facilities in the Great Plains Area.
In the letter, the delegation and Barrasso pose several questions that have yet to be answered by IHS concerning the agreements, despite multiple requests from Indian tribes.
“During a recent briefing for congressional staff, the acting director of the IHS presented a system improvement agreement, which we understand is intended to improve the quality of care at IHS facilities in the Great Plains Area,” the members wrote. “We want to be helpful in this endeavor, but must also ensure that this approach is viable and responsive to the needs of impacted tribes. Unfortunately, during [a] recent briefing, more questions were raised than answered.”
The letter continues to pose seven questions to Secretary Burwell and requests the department’s prompt response. “The speed and efficacy with which your department and its agencies act directly impacts patient care and safety in the IHS system,” the members continued. “We look forward to your prompt response to these questions by June 1, 2016.”
In February, Chairman Barrasso, Thune, and Rounds participated in an oversight hearing and listening session on the substandard quality of care provided by the IHS to the Great Plains Area. Barrasso, Thune, Rounds, and Noem have continued to raise concerns about the quality of care at the IHS, particularly in the Great Plains Area, and remain committed to finding ways to improve the IHS.
Full text of the letter can be found below:
The Honorable Sylvia M. Burwell
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
200 Independence Avenue, S.W.
Washington, DC 20201
Dear Secretary Burwell:
We write to ask for additional information regarding the recent system improvement agreements executed by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) and the Indian Health Service (IHS). As we understand, these agreements were designed to avert the imminent loss of CMS reimbursement due to non-compliance at multiple IHS facilities in the Great Plains Area.
As you are aware, in 2010, Senator Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.), then-Chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, produced a report outlining many of the same issues identified this Congress through investigation by the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs. Recent congressional investigations made clear that despite significant examination and documentation of the systemic problems at IHS, the agency was still not providing tribal citizens access to safe, quality health care.
During a recent briefing for congressional staff, the Acting Director of the IHS presented a system improvement agreement, which we understand is intended to improve the quality of care at IHS facilities in the Great Plains Area. We want to be helpful in this endeavor, but must also ensure that this approach is viable and responsive to the needs of impacted tribes. Unfortunately, during this recent briefing, more questions were raised than answered.
So that we may assist the Department in its work to improve the quality of care in the Great Plains and be responsive to Indian tribes, we hope your staff can respond in writing to the following questions.
As you know, workforce recruitment and retention has been a significant challenge for IHS in the Great Plains Area and nationally, yet the system improvement agreements appear to provide little information about how the IHS plans to improve staff recruitment and retention. The new system improvement plan requires the IHS to “identify needs, barriers, and potential resources and actions to design and implement an effective long term workforce development strategy...”
Finally, we understand that IHS continues to suffer from significant vacancies, both in the Great Plains Area and nationally.
The speed and efficacy with which your Department and its agencies act directly impacts patient care and safety in the IHS system. We look forward to your prompt response to these questions by June 1, 2016.
Chairman, Senate Committee on Indian Affairs
Member of Congress
Legislation was introduced May 13 by Reps. Kristi Noem, R-S.D., and Bill Pascrell, D-N.J., to extend the biodiesel tax incentive through 2019 and reform it as a domestic production credit. Biodiesel supporters have long sought a multiyear extension of the credit to foster investment in the industry, and to avoid the on-again, off-again scenario the sector has experienced with the tax credit since 2010, when it first expired. Also, for more than a decade, the federal tax incentive has been a credit collected by blenders, but a strong movement to convert it to a producers credit made headway in Congress last year. The National Biodiesel Board has been leading the charge to reform the incentive to a producers credit in order to curtail subsidization of foreign biodiesel production. The measure was ultimately defeated but NBB vowed to continue the fight this year.
“While oil tax breaks remain permanently written into the tax code, the biodiesel tax incentive is yet again set to expire in less than eight months,” said NBB Vice President of Federal Affairs Anne Steckel. “This is no way to do business. Biodiesel producers need stable, predictable tax policy to continue to grow and hire. We want to thank Reps. Noem and Pascrell for taking the lead on this issue to create that stability and spur economic activity.”
Steckel added, “Incentivizing foreign biodiesel production was never the intent of this incentive, and Congress should reform it immediately.” She said reforming the blenders credit to a producers incentive “would not only reduce the cost of the tax incentive to the treasury, but it would level the playing field for American producers who are now competing against predatory imports that are getting subsidies in their country of origin only to be shipped to the U.S. to receive another incentive from American taxpayers.”
Biodiesel producers outside the U.S. are increasingly taking advantage of the incentive by shipping their product to U.S. shores. In 2015, approximately 670 million gallons of biodiesel was imported to the U.S., comprising roughly one-third of the U.S. market.
“The bill from Reps. Noem and Pascrell is something the American Soybean Association is extremely pleased to see, as it seeks to extend the biodiesel tax credit through 2019, and restructures the credit to further promote value-added domestic production,” said Richard Wilkins, ASA president and Delaware farmer. “If not renewed, the $1-per-gallon credit will expire at the end of this year putting a damper on production and preventing the industry from maximizing the benefits provided from this domestic, renewable energy source. In a farm economy that is dealing with low crop prices, that uncertainty and added stress are things that farmers don’t need.”
Wilkins added, “In the challenging political environment of an election year, it may be easier for lawmakers to pull back from working together, even on common-sense legislation like this, which is what makes the leadership shown by Reps. Noem and Pascrell so commendable. We appreciate their work on this issue and we urge Congress to support the extension and restructuring of the biodiesel tax credit.”Read More
South Dakota's Congressional delegation wants new answers from the embattled Indian Health Service.
The IHS recently signed agreements aimed at improving Indian health care at reservations in South Dakota and in other Plains states.
U.S. Senators John Thune (R) and Mike Rounds (R) and U.S. Representative Kristi Noem (R), want to know the estimated costs of these agreements and how much 'say' the tribes themselves will actually have. Another question the lawmakers have is how do the agreements cover the challenges of health care staff recruitment and retention?
Thune, Rounds and Noem have signed on to a letter sent to the Department of Health and Human Services by Wyoming U.S. Senator John Barrasso (R), Chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs.Read More
It could start with a headache. Or perhaps an injury from sports or even a military deployment. Maybe it was a surgery and the prescription pain medication was supposed to be used only for a short time. Eventually, however, the medicine you relied on to heal became the drug that made you sick.
Nationwide, around 15 million Americans abuse prescription drugs annually, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Drugs like hydrocodone, oxycodone, and morphine – which as a category are called opioids – are frequently prescribed by doctors and some are even common in medicine cabinets and on bathroom counters across South Dakota. If they are abused or happen to fall into the wrong hands, they can be fatal.
In 2013 alone, the latest year where reliable data is available, 32 South Dakotans died from opioid overdoses. Nationwide, we lose one person to a drug overdose almost every 12 minutes.
Earlier this month, I voted to advance a series of bills that combat the opioid epidemic and help heal those suffering most. It was a bipartisan effort that I’m incredibly proud of.
One of the bills, which I helped lead on, specifically addressed opioid addiction in mothers who are pregnant or just had their babies. The number of infants born to mothers dependent on drugs nearly quadrupled from 2004 to 2013. In South Dakota, there were more than 200 reported cases of opiate use by new moms between 2009 and 2013, according to a presentation given at SDSU in coordination with the South Dakota Department of Health.
The bill I cosponsored improved the support offered for counseling, pediatric health care, prenatal and postpartum health care, and parental training. It also created a pilot program for state substance abuse agencies to figure out ways to bridge the gaps in service for pregnant and postpartum women who are addicted to drugs.
In addition to these provisions, I helped pass legislation to get first responders better access to the training and equipment needed for administering new medicines that can reverse opioid overdoses on the spot. This is a goal the South Dakota legislature has been working toward as well, passing legislation in recent years to help give first responders and family members better access to these life-saving antidotes. I’m hopeful our efforts on the federal level can support what’s already being done in the state.
Treating only the symptoms will not cure the problem though. Approximately three-fourths of the world’s opioid prescription drugs are prescribed in the U.S. – even though we only comprise about 5 percent of the world’s population. If this legislation becomes law, it would bring together federal agencies, state medical boards, health care professionals, and experts from pain and addiction-recovery communities, challenging them to come up with better practices to manage acute and chronic pain.
The Senate has also acted on a bipartisan legislative package to fight opioid addiction. With two strong bills on the table, the House and Senate will be coming together to work out the differences before getting it to the President to sign. There’s momentum on both sides to get this done, so I’m optimistic new provisions will take effect soon.
No state – no community – is immune from opioid addictions. Whether in Sioux Falls, Pierre or Pine Ridge, families are struggling with it. But while it is a chronic disease, it doesn’t have to be terminal. I’m hopeful new federal resources will be available soon. Still, to overcome the epidemic, all of us need to play a role. If you or a family member is concerned about the use or abuse of prescription pain medication, please talk to your doctor immediately. Help is out there.Read More
Rep. Kristi Noem Thursday testified before the House Natural Resources Committee on her Black Hills National Cemetery Boundary Expansion Act, which would transfer nearly 200 acres of land outside Sturgis from the Bureau of Land Management’s jurisdiction to the Department of Veterans Affairs.
Nome says the transfer would give the Black Hills National Cemetery additional space to serve future veterans: Listen
Without legislation to make the transfer permanent, federal law limits transfers like this one to a lifespan of 20 years.
Noem’s legislation is expected to be voted on by the full committee in the coming weeks.Read More
Rep. Kristi Noem today introduced the Biodiesel Tax Incentive Reform and Extension Act of 2016. This legislation would extend the $1-per-gallon tax credit for biodiesel through the end of 2019 and reform the credit so it is only used for fuel produced in the U.S.
“South Dakota can play a meaningful role in fueling our future,” said Noem. “Increased energy independence is essential to strengthening both economic opportunities and our long-term national security needs. By continuing our commitment to renewable fuels like biodiesel, we can reduce our reliance on foreign fuels from volatile areas of the world and put that energy back into our own economy.”
"The South Dakota Soybean Association applauds Representative Noem for her leadership on introducing this significant legislation,” said Jerry Schmitz, farmer from Vermillion and president of the South Dakota Soybean Association. “Shifting from a blender’s credit to a producer’s credit will eliminate the ability of foreign producers to claim the biodiesel credit, thus maximizing the added value of domestic production, U.S. jobs, and the economic impact for U.S. soybean farmers and our rural communities."
Rep. Noem introduced similar legislation in 2015, and an extension of the credit was included in a year-end tax deal (more information).Read More
The House Ways and Means Committee approved bills on Wednesday that were introduced by U.S. Reps. Bob Dold (R-IL), Kristi Noem (R-SD) and Todd Young (R-IN) to help families escape poverty.
The Accelerating Individuals into the Workforce Act, H.R. 2990, introduced by Dold, would encourage employer-led partnerships that help transition people from welfare programs to work.
“Expanding opportunity and helping families escape poverty is a bipartisan goal we can all get behind,” Dold said. “Solving this problem requires meaningful action and change—two things Washington does not often do well. The first step in the process is for more leaders to recognize that the one-size-fits-all programs of the past will not produce any better results in the future. This bill will equip each community with the resources and flexibility they need to help struggling families find work and get back on their feet.”
Under the bill, $100 million would be provided to states to subsidize wages for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) recipients to help them gain work experience. Up to 50 percent of an employee’s wage could be paid through subsidies, and employers or another funding source would pay the remainder.
The TANF Accountability and Integrity Improvement Act, H.R. 2959, introduced by Noem, meanwhile, would prohibit states from artificially inflating state spending on TANF commitments by counting outside spending as their own.
“Some states are falling short of their TANF commitments — both in terms of financial support and outcomes —and still receiving the full federal block grant,” Noem said. “It’s unfair to recipients who aren’t getting the support they need and to states, like South Dakota, that run the program as it was intended. H.R. 2959 helps close the loophole. I’m hopeful that by bringing greater accountability to the TANF program in this way, we can improve outcomes and ensure more families achieve financial independence.”
Under the bill, states would no longer be allowed to count third party spending as “state spending” to force states to engage more people in work-related activities to receive federal benefits.
The Social Impact Partnerships to Pay for Results Act, H.R. 5170, introduced by Young, would build public-private partnerships that use philanthropic and private sector investments to row and replicate science-backed social and public health programs.
“Washington spends too much time debating how much or how little to spend on social safety net programs, and not enough time asking whether or not we’re improving lives,” Young said. “For all our best intentions, evidence shows current federal programs aren’t doing much to improve income inequality. The American people feel the effects, and continuing to ignore the problem only fuels their resentment toward a system that’s failing them. By changing the federal government’s definition of success in federal social programs from inputs to actual outcomes, we can help our fellow Americans overcome the root causes of poverty and seize economic opportunities to work and provide for their families.”Read More
Rep. Kristi Noem today announced plans to introduce legislation aimed at stemming the current tribal health care crisis and putting structural reforms in place to make necessary long-term corrections.
“Tribal health care is in a state of emergency,” said Noem. “There are dangerous and deep-rooted problems within the Indian Health Service that have gone unresolved for years and its costing people their lives. We need real reforms to the system. By offering new incentives to attract a better medical and managerial workforce, getting more mileage out of every dollar IHS spends, and holding the agency genuinely accountable for the service it provides, my legislation will offer many of the real reforms tribal members need.”
WATCH NOEM DISCUSS HER BILL
Link to YouTube
Noem’s legislation is expected to be one of the most thorough bills addressing the crisis thus far. Included are provisions to:
+ Improve IHS’s ability to secure long-term contracts for hospitals in emergency conditions.
+ Address the current recruitment problem – for both medical staff and hospital leadership – by putting provisions in place to:
+ Reform the Purchased/Referred Care (PRC) Program by, among other things:
+ Restore accountability through strategies, such as:
“The problems plaguing IHS are profound, so producing real results will require collaboration with the medical community, tribal communities, tribal leadership, and IHS,” said Noem. “In the weeks after this legislation is introduced, I will be meeting directly with each of these constituencies to discuss my bill and get their input and feedback. We have to get this right.”Noem’s legislation is expected to be introduced in the coming weeks. Read More
1323 Longworth HOB
Washington, DC 20515
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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If you can’t get an answer from a federal agency or have been treated unfairly, my office can try to help >>> https://t.co/nR6Wg8sfO8
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Bryon sent me a video of home. Listen to the birds - so peaceful in South Dakota tonight. Not… https://t.co/NLcD4sQZfe
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