Kristi Noem

Kristi Noem

SOUTH DAKOTA

Noem Updates U.S. Attorney General on SD Violent Crime Wave, Urges Collaboration and Action

2017/02/21

In a letter to U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Rep. Kristi Noem today updated the administration on a recent uptick in violent crimes committed in South Dakota and urged the agency to redouble its efforts to combat intrastate drug trafficking, among other things. Noem also requested a meeting with the Attorney General to discuss the situation and opportunities for collaboration.

“Levels of violent crime in South Dakota have risen steadily over at least the past decade,” wrote Noem. “According to the most recent data from the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the rate of violent crimes in South Dakota nearly doubled between 2005 and 2015. The detailed statistics are even more shocking. The South Dakota State Attorney General’s 2015 crime report shows crime was up across the board from 2014: drug arrests increased more than 22 percent, rapes increased 11 percent, and murders increased 35 percent.”

Noem continued: “I have met with numerous state, local, and tribal law enforcement officers during my tenure in the U.S. House of Representatives. I fully support their work on the front lines. To supplement their work, I would like to meet with you as you evaluate the nation’s law enforcement needs so we can discuss the situation in South Dakota and other rural states. Additionally, I urge you to redouble your agency’s efforts to combat intrastate drug trafficking, gang proliferation, as well as the violent crime that all too often follows.”

--

The Honorable Jeff Sessions
Attorney General
U.S. Department of Justice
950 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20530

Dear Attorney General Sessions,

Congratulations on your recent confirmation as our nation’s chief law enforcement officer. I look forward to working with you to ensure the safety and security of the constituents I represent in South Dakota. As you begin your work, I write today to make you aware of an urgent matter in my state.

In his inaugural address, President Trump lamented the decaying state of public safety in our country, a theme he highlighted throughout his campaign. However, while the President has focused primarily on crime in America’s large cities, it is critical that we address issues in rural areas, as well. South Dakota’s small towns, for example, have traditionally been safe places in which to live and raise a family, but in recent years, our communities have been increasingly threatened by a precipitous rise in violent crime.

Levels of violent crime in South Dakota have risen steadily over at least the past decade. According to the most recent data from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the rate of violent crimes in South Dakota more than doubled between 2005[1] and 2015.[2] The detailed statistics are even more shocking. The South Dakota State Attorney General’s 2015 crime report shows increases in violent crime from 2014: drug arrests increased more than 22 percent, rapes increased 11 percent, and murders increased 35 percent.[3] The increase in murders followed a 66.7 percent increase between 2013 and 2014.[4] Of course, this disturbing trend did not occur in a vacuum, and law enforcement officials generally blame the increase in violent crime on a combination of illegal drugs and gang activity.

Many states are experiencing severe opioid crises that often begin with prescription drug addiction and result in heroin use. South Dakota is no different, but our state has also long been plagued by methamphetamine addiction.[5] Sioux Falls police are arresting more and more people each year for meth possession.[6] Drug cases in the city have increased by nearly 1,000 in the past four years, necessitating additional Drug Task Force personnel.[7] Cheap, highly addictive meth has been flowing into South Dakota from neighboring states. Drug interdiction is increasingly important, given that law enforcement officials have found that the drug is typically no longer produced locally in large labs. Rather, it is being produced in small quantities or being trafficked into the state by Mexican drug cartels.[8] South Dakota officials are working to combat this problem, with Governor Daugaard recently announcing the formation of a Drug Interdiction Task Force.[9]

Where drugs go, violence follows. According to recent news reports, more than half of the property crimes reported to Sioux Falls police are related to meth.[10] After 2015 became a “record year for murder” in Rapid City, the city’s police chief explained that most of the cases “have a direct nexus to meth.”[11] Sadly, 2017 does not seem like it will break the trend, as police are already investigating three homicides, due to “the increased use of methamphetamine.”[12] Aggravated assaults are also on the rise. While the increase is partly due to a change in the legal definition of aggravated assault and population growth, a recent report found an increase even after accounting for the changes.[13]

The rise in violent crime has led to Sioux Falls, the largest city in South Dakota, being given the dubious distinction of having higher violent crime rates than other similarly-sized cities in the region, including Omaha, NE, Lincoln, NE, and Fargo, ND.[14] This is echoed in recent increases in sexual violence. A recent news report based on the most recent FBI statistics found that in 2015, Sioux Falls had a per capita rate of forced rape that was 65 percent higher than similar cities. [15] Sadly, that statistic is reflected across the state, as South Dakota had the second highest rate of rapes per capita in the entire country.[16]

Drugs and related crime are also affecting South Dakota’s rural tribal communities. Sadly, substance abuse has long been a critical problem for Indian tribes in South Dakota, whose communities are home to some of the most vulnerable populations in the entire country. Substance abuse infiltrates and damages these communities and families, resulting in a heartbreaking cycle of broken homes, suicide, and increasing violence. New 2016 FBI data shows the homicide rate is nearly double the 2015 level on the Pine Ridge Reservation, home to the Oglala Sioux Tribe. FBI officials linked the uptick to “an increase in illegal drug use, particularly methamphetamine.”[17]

As in Sioux Falls and Rapid City, it is likely that most of the meth found on South Dakota’s Indian reservations is not produced there; one 2006 report estimated that more than 70 percent of meth on Indian reservations is now smuggled into the U.S. from Mexico.[18] Indeed, it is no secret that drug cartels have long targeted reservations.[19] That cartel presence and the high rates of substance abuse are a deadly combination that has inevitably led to violence. A 2009 report documented at least 39 gangs on the Pine Ridge Reservation alone, adding that the gangs “are being blamed for an increase in vandalism, theft, violence and fear.”[20] Former Oglala Sioux Tribe President John Yellow Bird Steele said of one recent incident, “If a person sits down here, he can connect the dots. It’s several incidents of our tribal members being murdered. And it’s all related to drugs.”[21]

Tribes are doing all they can to break the trend of substance abuse and violence, but they face an uphill battle. Then-President Steele found the drugs and gang violence on Pine Ridge so pressing that he declared a state of emergency on the Reservation, citing a need for additional law enforcement officers.[22] In 2015, the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribal Council voted to dis-enroll and banish any tribal member convicted of manufacturing or dealing drugs. The resolution said in part, “methamphetamine has caused an increase in murder, suicides, assaults, burglary, vandalism, child abuse, child neglect among many other injustices…”[23] To make matters worse, large reservations, especially those in the Great Plains, are notoriously difficult for law enforcement to patrol due to their massive size. According to the National Congress of American Indians, many tribes are only able to field two or three officers each shift, each patrolling several hundred miles.[24]

I have met with numerous state, local, and tribal law enforcement officers during my tenure in the U.S. House of Representatives. I fully support their work on the front lines. To supplement their work, I would like to meet with you as you evaluate the nation’s law enforcement needs so we can discuss the situation in South Dakota and other rural states. Additionally, I urge you to redouble your agency’s efforts to combat drug trafficking, gang proliferation, as well as the violent crime that all too often follows.

Thank you for your assistance in this matter. I stand ready to work with you. If I can be of any help, please contact my staff at 202-225-2801.

Sincerely,

KRISTI NOEM
Member of Congress


[1] Crime in the U.S., 2005. Federal Bureau of Investigation. Available at: https://ucr.fbi.gov/crime-in-the-u.s/2005.

[2] Crime in the U.S., 2015. Federal Bureau of Investigation. Available at: https://ucr.fbi.gov/crime-in-the-u.s/2015/crime-in-the-u.s.-2015/tables/table-5.  

[3] Crime in South Dakota 2015. Office of the Attorney General. Available at: http://atg.sd.gov/docs/SAC_2015_CSD.pdf.

[4] Crime in South Dakota 2014. Office of the Attorney General. Available at: http://atg.sd.gov/docs/SAC_2014_CSD.pdf.

[5] “Meth and heroin use rising in SD.” KSFY, April 6, 2016. Available at: http://www.ksfy.com/home/headlines/Meth-and-heroin-use-rising-in-SD-374845921.html. 

[6] “Sioux Falls police chief blames drugs for increase in crime.” Mitchell Daily Republic, Jan. 19, 2017. Available at: http://www.mitchellrepublic.com/news/4202381-sioux-falls-police-chief-blames-drugs-increase-crime.

[7] Id.

[8] [8] “Police chief: Meth cause of violent crime increase in SD.” Sioux Falls Argus Leader, Sept. 28, 2016. Available at: http://www.argusleader.com/story/news/crime/2016/09/28/police-chief-meth-cause-violent-crime-increase-sd/91222030/.

[9] Daugaard Discusses Meth Epidemic, IM 22 in Sioux Falls. KDLT News, January 16, 2017. Available at: http://www.kdlt.com/2017/01/16/daugaard-discusses-meth-epidemic-im-22-sioux-falls/.

[10] “Police chief: Meth cause of violent crime increase in SD.”

[11] Id.

[12] “3 homicide investigations in Rapid City in new year.” Rapid City Journal, Feb. 3, 2017. Available at: http://rapidcityjournal.com/news/state-and-regional/homicide-investigations-in-rapid-city-in-new-year/article_e9f475d4-6ba0-5e67-8b2f-48e17d684db7.html.

[13] “Is South Dakota more violent than it’s ever been?” Sioux Falls Argus Leader, Jan. 13, 2017. Available at: http://www.argusleader.com/story/news/crime/2017/01/13/south-dakota-more-violent-than-s-ever-been/96456896/.

[14] Id.

[15] “South Dakota ranks 2nd highest per capita for rapes. KSFY, Feb. 14, 2017. Available at: http://www.ksfy.com/content/news/413788893.html. 

[16] Id.

[17] “Homicides on Pine Ridge reservation nearly doubled in 2016.” Sioux Falls Argus Leader, Feb. 12, 2017. Available at: http://www.argusleader.com/story/news/2017/02/12/homicides-pine-ridge-reservation-nearly-doubled/97826540/.

[18] “Methamphetamine in Indian Country: An American Problem Uniquely Affecting Indian Country.” National Congress of American Indians. Available at: https://www.justice.gov/archive/tribal/docs/fv_tjs/session_1/session1_presentations/Meth_Overview.pdf.

[19] Id. 

[20] “Gang Violence Grows on an Indian Reservation.” The New York Times, Dec. 13, 2009. Available at: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/12/14/us/14gangs.html.

[21] “Pine Ridge officials look to curb drug-related violent crime after recent shooting.” KEVN Black Hills Fox, Oct. 18, 2016. Available at: http://www.blackhillsfox.com/content/news/Pine-Ridge-officials-look-to-curb-drug-related-violent-crime-on-reservation-397524801.html. 

[22] “Officials declare state of emergency on Pine Ridge.” KEVN Black Hills Fox, May 12, 2016. Available at: http://www.blackhillsfox.com/home/headlines/Officials-declare-state-of-emergency-on-Pine-Ridge-379280551.html.

[23] “Cheyenne River Sioux Tribal Council Votes to Banish Drug Dealers for Life from Tribe.” Native News Online, July 9, 2015. Available at: http://nativenewsonline.net/currents/cheyenne-river-sioux-tribal-council-votes-to-banish-drug-dealers-for-life-from-tribe/.

[24] “Methamphetamine in Indian Country: An American Problem Uniquely Affecting Indian Country.” 

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Weekly Column: Grain Bin Safety

2017/02/17

My dad was one of those people who just got things done.  He worked hard and he worked fast.  It’s a skill set many farmers share, but that day, I wish he would have slowed down a bit.  He had gone into a grain bin and things went wrong.  By the time I got there, neighbors were digging through piles of corn from the bin that was torn apart trying to find him.  When they did, CPR started immediately.   Despite the doctors working to save him for hours, we lost him that day and in that instant, my whole world changed.

In 2014, more than three dozen farmers were trapped in grain bins, resulting in at least 17 deaths.  In most cases, it took only seconds for the producer to become engulfed – and getting out without assistance at this point is nearly impossible.  Still, there are things that can be done to help prevent accidents like this and improve the chance of a successful recovery if something does go wrong.

Every year, the last week of February is reserved as Grain Bin Safety Week.  It’s a good opportunity to take a look at some of your operation’s practices to see if there’s something more you could do to improve the safety of your farm.

A few years back, the South Dakota Corn Growers Association offered a few tips that I wanted to share today.  First, farmers often work alone.  They recommend that when cleaning out your grain bins, use a buddy system.

Additionally, especially after a wet harvest, don’t forget to wear a mask.  This is going to help make sure you don’t breathe in harmful molds.

Be aware that the grain in the bin might not be as it appears.  Crusting can deceive you and lead to dangerous falls, even entrapment.

As an added measure of precaution, I encourage you to touch base with your local first responders.  They can seek out training on rescue techniques and specialized equipment.

Finally, I’d add, take the time to educate your kids about safe practices on the farm.  Raising our kids on the ranch has been one of the best parenting decisions we’ve made.  I’m proud of the work ethic they’ve earned – the commonsense problem solving skills they’ve developed – the understanding they’ve gotten about how our food is grown.  But I’m also very much aware of how dangerous it can be. 

Farming is risky enough. Please take time this week to evaluate your current grain bin safety procedures.  It’s worth the attention. 

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U.S. House votes to overturn Obama regulation forcing states to fund Planned Parenthood

2017/02/16

The  U.S. House of Representatives voted 230 to 188 today to overturn former President Obama’s "eleventh hour" HHS rule forcing states to give Title X money to organizations that commit abortions.

Title X money comes from the government to fund "family planning services," but technically not abortion.

Before he left office, Obama pushed through an HHS regulation that essentially forces states to give Planned Parenthood Title X funding. Under this rule, states must give Planned Parenthood or abortionists Title X grants and may not choose to redirect those funds to comprehensive healthcare clinics.

Planned Parenthood is the nation's largest abortion provider. It commits more than 300,000 abortions annually.

Family Research Council president Tony Perkins called the Obama HHS regulation a "backdoor handout for the abortion industry."

But thanks to the Congressional Review Act, Congress may overturn such agency regulations within 60 legislative days. Only 51 Senate votes are needed now that it has passed the House.

Rep. Diane Black, R-TN, introduced H.J. Res. 43 to overturn what pro-life groups call the Obama administration's "parting gift" to Planned Parenthood.

On February 14, Planned Parenthood sent an email to supporters warning that if the House voted to overturn Obama's HHS rule, it would be a "devastating attack" for them. It will "embolden extremist politicians to block" funding to "a health center just because that center also provides safe, legal abortion," Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards wrote.

Black said letting states have the right to not give Title X grants to groups that commit abortions "shouldn't be" a partisan issue.

"You don’t have to be [pro-life] to support this resolution," said Black. "You just have to support the 10th Amendment."

"We are not voting to defund Planned Parenthood in any way, shape, or form," she continued. "We are not voting to cut Title X funding. And we are not voting to restrict abortion rights."

"Without this bill, states would be forced to fund the abortion industry by federal bureaucrats," said Rep. Luke Messer, R-IN.

Two abortion-supporting Democratic Congresswomen used language about protecting the vulnerable when arguing in favor of the pro-abortion rule.

Rep. Nita Lowey, D-NY, said that allowing states to opt out of funding Planned Parenthood through Title X would harm the "neediest Americans."

Rep. Diana DeGette, D-CO, called H.J. Res. 43 "another bill that threatens access to family planning care for millions of our most vulnerable citizens."

"Just this afternoon, I read a quote. And here’s what it said: 'Patients and doctors should be making the big decisions, not government bureaucrats.' Who said this?"asked DeGette. "Margaret Sanger? No. Cecile Richards? No. Hillary Clinton? No. The person who said this this afternoon is the Speaker of the House Paul Ryan. I couldn’t agree with him any more."

Sanger was the founder of Planned Parenthood. She supported racism and eugenics. 

"It's cost-effective for all of us" to support liberal Title X policies "because it saves public money on prenatal, maternity, and newborn care. And it has worked to decrease teenage and unintended pregnancies," said Rep. Kathy Caster, D-FL. "In Florida, in 2014 alone, over 160,000 were counseled through non-profit agencies and community health centers and over 38,000 unintended pregnancies were prevented, which helped prevent about 18,000 unintended births."

Male Democrats implied they speak for women and women's health during the debate.

Rep. Dan Kildee, D-MI, complained, "Republicans are again focused on attacking women’s health."

"The women of America are watching ... the mothers and daughters, Mr. President, are watching," said Rep. Ami Bera, D-CA.

Other Democrats noted the year. 

"It is 2017 and a woman’s uterus is not a political football," said Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-WA. 

"We are debating contraception in 2017. Astonishing," said Rep. Jan Schakowsky, D-IL. 

Pro-life congresswomen such as Rep. Kristi Noem, R-SD, and Martha Roby, R-AL, joined Black in expressing their support of the resolution. Noem said there are more community health centers in South Dakota than the state's one Planned Parenthood, and the community health centers operate in many different locations.

“Planned Parenthood dismembers or chemically poisons a baby to death every two minutes," said Rep. Chris Smith, R-NJ. "Why are U.S. taxpayers giving half a billion dollars each year to Planned Parenthood?"

Rep. Vicky Hartzler, R-MO, announced her "unwavering support for the lives of the unborn" and her decision to "stand in solidarity with the states" by supporting the resolution. 

"While this is merely taking back the small parting gift that President Obama left Planned Parenthood, the real prize is getting the Reconciliation bill passed by both Houses and signed by President Trump," said Kristan Hawkins, president of Students for Life of America. "We are hopeful this bill is a step towards ultimately defunding the nation's abortion giant."

"New videos investigating Planned Parenthood show why today’s House vote on H.J. Res. 43 is an important victory for states’ rights to spend taxpayer dollars on community health centers that provide comprehensive care, rather than channeling money to the nation’s largest chain of abortion clinics," said the Catholic Association's senior policy adviser Maureen Ferguson. Ferguson noted that many states didn't want to fund Planned Parenthood after undercover videos from the Center for Medical Progress showed it profiting from the sale of aborted baby body parts. 

"Many states rushed to redirect taxpayer dollars to community health clinics that actually offer complete prenatal care, mammograms, and other services not offered at Planned Parenthood abortion clinics, and outnumber them 20 to 1," she said. "The Obama Administration issued regulations prohibiting states from doing so, and today’s action in the House would rescind those regulations."

“Obama’s legacy of forcing Americans to finance the abortion industry is being steadily dismantled by our new pro-life President and the pro-life Congress," said Susan B. Anthony List president Marjorie Dannenfelser. "We look forward to swift passage of this resolution in the Senate so that it can receive President Trump’s signature."

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Noem, Schakowsky Introduce Bill to Increase Mental Health Care Access for Medicare Recipients

2017/02/16

Reps. Kristi Noem (R-S.D.) and Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) today introduced the Medicare Mental Health Access Act.  If enacted, this bipartisan legislation would give Medicare recipients better access to mental health care by removing barriers that force seniors to be referred to a primary care doctor before seeing a clinical psychologist.

“Millions of older Americans, but especially those in rural areas, lack adequate access to critical mental health services,” said Rep. Noem.  “Recognizing the important role clinical psychologists can play in a healthy aging process, we’re hopeful this legislation will break down the barriers of access many seniors face.  I thank Rep. Schakowsky for joining me in this effort to boost the mental health and wellbeing of seniors in South Dakota and across the nation.”

“Over 55 million seniors and people with disabilities are currently enrolled in Medicare. Far too many of them need critical mental health services and are unable to access them” said Rep. Schakowsky. “This bill would make a real difference in the lives of Medicare enrollees by allowing clinical psychologists to provide their services to beneficiaries without unnecessary burdens. I am proud to introduce the Medicare Mental Health Access Act with Congresswoman Kristi Noem today.”

The Medicare Mental Health Access Act would define clinical psychologists as “physicians” for the purposes of Medicare, thereby allowing patients to see them directly, rather than relying on a referral from their primary care doctor.  Noem and Schakowsky first introduced this legislation in 2015.

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Rep. Kristi Noem works to replace Obamacare

2017/02/15

Representative Kristi Noem says her attention has recently been spent on Health Care Reform and bringing the best to South Dakota.

Noem voted to start the process to repeal Obamacare. Now she says she is working to create a system that would replace the Affordable Care Act to best serve South Dakotans.

Representative Kristi Noem says, "options such as allowing people to form larger groups to perch health insurance purchase health insurance across state lines so that they can find policies that work better for them and their family at a more affordable cost medical malpractice and reform would be a part of that risk tools to help people to help cover people with per-existing conditions also tax credit so that people actually got the incentive to use their tax credit which would be refundable to go out and buy health insurance policies that make them much more accessible for them."

Noem plans to focus her time on Health Care reform and serve on the House Ways and Means committee.

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Noem, Peterson, Davis, and Loebsack Lead Call for Strong RFS

2017/02/14

Congressional Biofuels Caucus Co-chairs Congresswoman Kristi Noem (R-SD), Congressman Collin C. Peterson (D-MN), Congressman Rodney Davis (R-IL), and Congressman Dave Loebsack (D-IA), led Members of Congress in a bipartisan letter to the Trump Administration about the importance of a strong Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS).

In their letter to President Trump the lawmakers emphasized the economic benefits of the RFS saying, “In 2015 alone, the RFS is directly responsible for creating nearly 86,000 jobs ranging from farms to equipment manufacturers to ethanol production facilities.” The letter encourages the administration to create certainty in the market by continuing its commitment to the RFS.

“As a co-chair of the Congressional Biofuels Caucus, it is important to remind the new Administration of its commitment to the Renewable Fuel Standard and how it creates jobs and strengthens rural economies,” Peterson said. “I am pleased with the bipartisan support for this letter and will continue to fight for a robust Renewable Fuel Standard in the years to come.”

“A strong RFS is extremely important to our nation's economy,” Davis said. “The RFS is crucial to supporting jobs across rural America and in other parts of our country. I look forward to working with the new administration to ensure we maintain a strong RFS.”

“With advances in technology, we are growing more on fewer acres and using that efficiency to diversify the market,” Noem said.  “Through the RFS, we can make sure American-grown fuels have a place in our energy supply and give farmers and ranchers the opportunity to contribute to greater energy independence.”

“The RFS is more than just a number. It represents the hard work Iowa’s farmers and rural communities put into creating a fuel source for the future that also decreases our dependence on foreign oil.” Loebsack said. “As the co-chair of the Congressional Biofuels Caucus, I am proud to help lead the fight for a strong RFS and have worked to highlight its importance to Iowa. I look forward to working with my colleagues, the EPA, and new administration to ensure the RFS remains strong for our country, for our economy, and for Iowa.”

 

Letter’s language:

Dear President Trump:

As members of the Congressional Biofuels Caucus, we write you today to urge your administration to continue to support a strong Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). This is an important policy that creates jobs in rural America, boosts economic growth, and lowers gas prices nationwide.

As you know, communities in rural America depend on agriculture and manufacturing jobs for employment. The RFS supports 400,000 of these jobs across the nation. In 2015 alone, the RFS is directly responsible for creating nearly 86,000 jobs ranging from farms to equipment manufactures to ethanol production facilities. There is no doubt that rural Americans and their families benefit from the economic expansion and jobs created by the RFS.

In 2015, the RFS added $44 billion in economic activity. This is felt throughout greater America as farmers produce larger harvests to meet fuel demand. In turn, equipment manufacturers produce more efficient farm machinery, and truckers are relied on to move products. Engineers at ethanol and biodiesel facilities across the nation produce the most cost-effective biofuels in the world, lowering gas prices for all Americans and bringing high-paying jobs to rural areas.

In fact, biofuels play a major role in the reduction of gas prices. The biofuels production capabilities of our nation are extraordinarily efficient.  Studies show that ethanol can reduce gas prices by as much as $1.00 per gallon. With ethanol blended in 97% of gasoline, it is helping consumers save money virtually every time they fill up. A strong and continued RFS can reduce gas prices even further.

We encourage your administration to engage with the Congressional Biofuels Caucus to generate strategies that ensure the RFS remains strong. Continued commitments to this biofuels policy will create certainty and lead to additional jobs in rural America, enhanced economic growth, and help keep gas prices low. We look forward to working with you in the years that follow.

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Polar Plunge big hit once again

2017/02/13

Participants of the 8th Annual Watertown Polar Plunge couldn’t have asked for a better day to jump into an ice-cold lake on Saturday.

With temperatures in the mid-40s and very little wind, plungers of all ages jumped into a giant hole cut into the ice at Stokes-Thomas City Park at Lake Kampeska. In doing so, the plungers raised money for Special Olympics. The complete total of money raised wasn’t available as of Monday morning.

“It’s beautiful today,” said event coordinator SaLena Engels before the event started. “Last year it was horrible so we will take this.”

A total of 150 plungers took part in this year’s Polar Plunge. The number of plungers has varied over the eight-year history of the event with 2014 seeing the largest number of participants at 243. That year a total of $82,137 was raised.

The smallest number of participants came in the first year of the event in 2010 when 122 people jumped into the lake raising $35,017.

Of course, in order to make the Polar Plunge happen, many volunteers and workers are needed each year — something Engels says hasn’t been a problem in the community.

“The way our community pulls together is great. It’s been amazing,” said Engels. “Watertown is awesome. It takes everybody and everyone is great.”

The help included the National Guard, Hurkes Implement, Codington County Dive Rescue, the Watertown Police Department and many others.

This year’s plunge once again featured many colorful costumes and several different people from various organizations. Among the plungers was U.S. Rep. Kristi Noem, who jumped with a group from Northeast Educational Services Cooperative (NESC), which included team captain Brian Jacobsen of Lake Norden.

The youngest to plunge into the cold water was 8-year-old Avery Zaug, who helped raise $1,332.

“I was kind of nervous to jump but not really,” said Zaug. “It was really cold but I’m going to do it next year, too.”

Soon after all 150 plungers made their way in and out of the water, the weather turned for the worse with rain starting to fall and winds picking up.

By that time though, it didn’t matter as another year of the Polar Plunge was in the books helping to raise money for some very special athletes for the upcoming year.

“It’s always a lot of fun,” said Engels. “If you’re not having fun, it’s not worth it.”

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Kristi Noem Polar Plunge

2017/02/12

The Polar Plunge has come to South Dakota. The annual fundraiser supports Special Olympics South Dakota and encourages participants to raise money by jumping into frigid water

Saturday, U.S. Rep. Kristi Noem took the plunge, jumping beside her daughter in Watertown. It was a brave act according to a spokesperson from Noem's office, because the lawmaker apparently does not know how to swim.

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Weekly Column: An Eternal Tribute

2017/02/10

Through the many sacrifices made, our veterans and their families have earned America’s eternal gratitude.  Since 1948, the Black Hills National Cemetery has been one way in which this appreciation has been shown, although burial space there is increasingly limited.

Tucked in the hills outside Sturgis, around 100 acres has been set aside to serve as a final resting place for some of our state’s most courageous.  Included among these heroes is Chief David Beautiful Bald Eagle.  Born in a tepee in 1919, Chief Bald Eagle served as a paratrooper during World War II.  He – alongside John Bear King and Clarence Eugene Wolf Guts, who are buried in the Black Hills National Cemetery as well – was also a Code Talker.  These men were critical to our success in numerous battles during the war, using their native languages to help protect, defend, and secure freedom.

Brigadier General Richard E. Ellsworth was also laid to rest at the Black Hills National Cemetery.   This is a man who flew 400 combat missions during World War II and earned numerous metals.  He returned to the U.S. where he eventually became wing commander of what was then called the Rapid City Air Force Base.  While co-piloting a bomber during a simulated combat mission in 1953, his plane encountered bad weather.  With limited visibility, the plane struck a hill, killing everyone on board.  Later that year, Rapid City Air Force Base would be named in General Ellsworth’s honor.

These legacies continue to earn our country’s respect.  This is a lesson in patriotism that Sturgis and other nearby communities have never forgotten.  On a brisk day this past December, for instance, Pennington County 4-H, the Sturgis Boy Scouts, the Veterans of Foreign Wars Auxiliary, and members of the surrounding community came together to place 1,000 wreaths on the graves of those laid to rest in the Black Hills National Cemetery – a community coming together around those who sacrificed much to protect it.

The cemetery, however, does not have the room required to continue serving veterans and their families unless it is expanded.  After working with a number of area veterans and related federal agencies, I again introduced the Black Hills National Cemetery Boundary Expansion Act this year, which would nearly triple the cemetery’s size by transferring federal lands that are currently under the Bureau of Land Management’s jurisdiction to the Department of Veterans Affairs.  I was humbled to see the House unanimously pass my legislation earlier this month and I’m hopeful the expansion can soon earn the support of the Senate, where Senators Round and Thune have introduced a companion bill.  Enacting this legislation would be an incredible way to show our nation’s eternal gratitude for all our service members and their families have done.

One final thing: to all those who have served and to the families who stand beside you, thank you. You are what makes this nation great.

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House passes Black Hills National Cemetery Boundary Expansion Act

2017/02/08

The U.S. House of Representatives unanimously passed U.S. Rep. Kristi Noem’s Black Hills National Cemetery Boundary Expansion Act.

If the act is enacted, the legislation would facilitate a permanent land transfer of approximately 200 acres of Bureau of Land Management land to the jurisdiction of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs - expanding the cemetery just outside Sturgis.

“Our veterans and their families have made tremendous sacrifices so our people could remain safe and our freedoms secure,” said Noem. “Securing a restful piece of hallowed ground for these patriotic men and women is a small token of gratitude we can offer as a nation.”

Noem stressed the importance of the expansion in order to honor veterans now and in the future.

“We honor the legacy of these veterans and many others at the Black Hills National Cemetery, but the facility is not going to have the room it needs to continue serving future veterans without expansion,” explained Noem.

Under current law, the Federal Land Policy and Management Act limits transfers to a lifespan of 20 years. The Black Hills National Cemetery Boundary Expansion Act would make this transfer permanent.

The Act was first introduced by members of the regional congressional delegation in 2015. The legislation was passed by the House in 2016 and was nearing passage in the Senate at the end of that year.  U.S. Sens. John Thune, Mike Rounds and Mike Enzi joined Noem in re-introducing this legislation in 2017.

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With Leadership from Noem, House Backs Black Hills Cemetery Expansion

2017/02/06

The U.S. House of Representatives today unanimously passed Rep. Kristi Noem’s H.R.337, the Black Hills National Cemetery Boundary Expansion Act.  If enacted, this legislation would facilitate a permanent land transfer of approximately 200 acres of Bureau of Land Management land to expand the Black Hills National Cemetery outside Sturgis.

“Our veterans and their families have made tremendous sacrifices so our people could remain safe and our freedoms secure,” said Noem.  “Securing a restful piece of hallowed ground for these patriotic men and women is a small token of gratitude we can offer as a nation.”

Under current law, the Federal Land Policy and Management Act limits transfers like this one to a lifespan of 20 years. The Black Hills National Cemetery Boundary Expansion Act would make this particular transfer permanent.

First introduced by members of the regional congressional delegation in 2015, the legislation was passed by the House in 2016 and was nearing passage in the Senate at the end of that year.  Sens. Thune, Rounds and Enzi again joined Noem in re-introducing this legislation in 2017.

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Weekly Column: Try Out a Heart-Healthy Habit

2017/02/03

Heart attacks and heart disease carry with them a lot of misperceptions.  We’ve seen characters in our favorite TV shows clutch their chests and collapse.  We’ve watched as doctors warned older men and folks who struggle with their weight about the risks their hearts face.  But these images only paint a partial picture.  The reality is that anyone can be affected – anyone.

February marks American Heart Month, so I wanted to use this space to clear up some misperceptions and share a few tips from the experts.

Heart disease is the number one cause of death in the United States.  Even for women, it’s more deadly than all forms of cancer combined.  People of all ages can be affected.

When it comes to heart attacks, while about two-thirds of people will experience chest pain, shortness of breath, or fatigue in the days leading up to an attack, not all do.  Women often times will not experience these types of symptoms.  Some people experience nausea or vomiting, which can be easily mistaken as food poisoning or the flu. Lightheadedness, feelings of sweatiness, heavy pounding of the heart, or loss of consciousness may also be signs.  If you experience symptoms, call 911 immediately.

While it’s not always possible to entirely prevent heart disease, most of us can take steps to reduce our risk. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have a few recommendations.

First, schedule a trip to your doctor’s office where you can ask them about heart health.  Use your doctor as a resource to help set goals.  Then, listen to their advice.  If you need medication – for high blood pressure, cholesterol, or something else – take it as prescribed.  If you’re having trouble doing so, you can talk to your doctor about that too.

Second, get out and get moving.  Even 15 minutes of walking a few times a week can make a difference.  Try it for February and see if you can make it a habit.  While you’re at it, they recommend kicking some other unhealthy habits too, like smoking.

Third, take a look at your plate.  Simple changes can have a big impact.  The American Heart Association posts great heart-healthy recipes at recipes.heart.org.  One of my favorites for this time of year is their homemade Tomato Basil Soup – only seven ingredients and less than 20 minutes to make.

Looking at these recommendations as lifelong changes can be intimidating, so I encourage you to take it a step at a time.  Start with February.  Set goals for this month, and when March hits, reevaluate.  Maybe you’ll be ready to add another 10-minute walk to your week or maybe you’ll see that your initial goals were too ambitious.  Wherever you’re at, use the rest of February to get educated about heart health and try out a new healthy habit - or two!

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President Approves South Dakota Disaster Declaration

2017/02/02

U.S. Sens. John Thune (R-S.D.) and Mike Rounds (R-S.D.) and U.S. Rep. Kristi Noem (R-S.D.) issued the following statements after President Trump approved South Dakota Gov. Dennis Daugaard’s request for a major disaster declaration for 24 counties and two tribal governments in South Dakota. The federal disaster assistance will help communities recover from strong winter thunderstorms and a subsequent blizzard that resulted in flooding, significant snow and ice accumulations, and high-velocity straight-line winds across the state. Three people lost their lives as a result of the winter storm.

“I want to thank President Trump for taking quick action so these communities across South Dakota can continue the hard work of rebuilding their cities and towns,” said Thune. “Now that this declaration has been approved, I hope folks can have greater peace of mind knowing that more help is on the way.”

“A number of South Dakota communities suffered significant losses during recent thunderstorms and blizzards,” said Rounds. “President Trump’s disaster declaration will help these communities which suffered losses to be eligible for federal assistance as they work to rebuild.”

“South Dakotans are resilient, but disasters like this can threaten a family’s financial security,” said Noem. “President Trump’s swift actions will help make sure South Dakota communities get the help they need to rebuild from a devastating winter storm.”

The affected counties include Butte, Clark, Codington, Day, Deuel, Dewey, Edmunds, Fall River, Faulk, Grant, Haakon, Hamlin, Harding, Jackson, Jones, Marshall, McPherson, Meade, Pennington, Perkins, Roberts, Stanley, Sully, and Ziebach. The disaster declaration also covers the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe in Dewey and Ziebach Counties and the Oglala Sioux Tribe in Jackson County.

On January 25, the delegation wrote to President Trump and encouraged him to quickly approve Gov. Daugaard’s request. On January 31, the delegation sent another letter to the president with respect to a similar request from Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate Chairman David Flute. The president has not yet made a determination on that request.

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Trump taps conservative Judge Neil Gorsuch for Supreme Court

2017/02/01

President Donald Trump has nominated Neil Gorsuch, a fast-rising conservative judge with a writer's flair, to the Supreme Court, setting up a fierce fight with Democrats over a jurist who could shape America's legal landscape for decades to come.

At 49, Gorsuch is the youngest Supreme Court nominee in a quarter-century. He's known on the Denver-based 10th Circuit Court of Appeals for clear, colloquial writing, advocacy for court review of government regulations, defense of religious freedom and skepticism toward law enforcement.

"Judge Gorsuch has outstanding legal skills, a brilliant mind, tremendous discipline and has earned bipartisan support," Trump declared, announcing the nomination in his first televised prime-time address from the White House.

Gorsuch's nomination Tuesday was cheered by conservatives wary of Trump's own fluid ideology. If confirmed by the Senate, he would fill the seat left vacant by the death last year of Antonin Scalia, long the right's most powerful voice on the high court.

With Scalia's wife, Maureen, sitting in the audience, Trump took care to praise the late justice. Gorsuch followed, calling Scalia a "lion of the law."

Gorsuch thanked Trump for entrusting him with "a most solemn assignment." Outlining his legal philosophy, he said: "It is the rule of judges to apply, not alter, the work of the people's representatives. A judge who likes every outcome he reaches is very likely a bad judge."

Some Democrats, still smarting over Trump's unexpected victory in the presidential election, have vowed to mount a vigorous challenge to nearly any nominee to what they view as the court's "stolen seat." President Barack Obama nominated U.S. Circuit Court Judge Merrick Garland for the vacancy after Scalia's death, but Senate Republicans refused to consider the pick, saying the seat should be filled only after the November election.

Senate Democratic leader Charles Schumer said he has "serious doubts" that Gorsuch is within what Democrats consider the legal mainstream, saying he "hewed to an ideological approach to jurisprudence that makes me skeptical that he can be a strong, independent justice on the court."

“Replacing Justice Scalia, one of the Supreme Court’s strongest defenders of our Constitution, is no easy task,” said Sen. Mike Rounds, R-S.D. “Justice Scalia set the gold standard for judges through his strict interpretation of the Constitution and deference to states’ rights. We believe Judge Neil Gorsuch espouses the same approach as Justice Scalia and has a strong understanding of federalism upon which our country is built.

“The American people made their voices heard in the recent elections, and President Trump has made an excellent choice in nominating Judge Neil Gorsuch. I look forward to getting to know him better in the coming weeks. Having previously been confirmed to the United States Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously - with not a single Republican or Democrat member of the Senate dissenting – we expect the Senate will continue its tradition of approving highly competent, qualified individuals to the Supreme Court in an up or down vote following a thorough vetting process.”

““I am very encouraged by the nomination of Judge Gorsuch, who not only has exceptional qualifications but has shown a commitment to the Constitution and the liberties contained within it,” said Rep. Kristi Noem, R-S.D. “While the House does not vote on Supreme Court nominations, I look forward to watching the upcoming Senate hearings, which will further clarify the perspective he'll bring to the bench.”  

Trump's choice of Gorsuch marks perhaps the most significant decision of his young presidency, one with ramifications that could last long after he leaves office. After a reality television buildup to Tuesday's announcement — including a senior Trump adviser saying more than one court candidate was heading to Washington ahead of the event— the actual reveal was traditional and drama-free.

For some Republicans, the prospect of filling one or more Supreme Court seats over the next four years has helped ease their concerns about Trump's experience and temperament. Three justices are in their late 70s and early 80s, and a retirement would offer Trump the opportunity to cement conservative dominance of the court for many years.

Gorsuch would restore the court to the conservative tilt it held with Scalia on the bench. But he is not expected to call into question high-profile rulings on abortion, gay marriage and other issues in which the court has been divided 5-4 in recent years.

If confirmed, Gorsuch would join the court that is often the final arbiter for presidential policy. Justices upheld Obama's signature health care law in 2012 and could eventually hear arguments over Trump's controversial refugee and immigration executive order.

Gorsuch's writings outside the court offer insight into his conservative leanings. He lashed out at liberals in a 2005 opinion piece for National Review, written before he became a federal judge.

"American liberals have become addicted to the courtroom, relying on judges and lawyers rather than elected leaders and the ballot box, as the primary means for effecting their social agenda on everything from gay marriage to assisted suicide to the use of vouchers for private-school education," he wrote.

Gorsuch has won praise from conservatives for his defense of religious freedom, including in a case involving the Hobby Lobby craft stores. He voted in favor of privately held for-profit secular corporations, and individuals who owned or controlled them, who raised religious objections to paying for contraception for women covered under their health plans.

The judge also has written opinions that question 30 years of Supreme Court rulings that allow federal agencies to interpret laws and regulations. Gorsuch has said that federal bureaucrats have been allowed to accumulate too much power at the expense of Congress and the courts.

Like Scalia, Gorsuch identifies himself as a judge who tries to decide cases by interpreting the Constitution and laws as they were understood when written. He also has raised questions about criminal laws in a way that resembles Scalia's approach to criminal law.

University of Michigan law professor Richard Primus said Gorsuch "may be the closest thing the new generation of conservative judges has to Antonin Scalia."

Gorsuch, like the other eight justices on the court, has an Ivy League law degree. The Colorado native earned his bachelor's degree from Columbia University in three years, then a law degree from Harvard. He clerked for Supreme Court Justices Byron White, a fellow Coloradan, and Anthony Kennedy before earning a philosophy degree at Oxford University and working for a prominent Washington law firm.

He served for two years in George W. Bush's Department of Justice before Bush nominated him to the appeals court. His mother was Anne Gorsuch Burford, who was head of the Environmental Protection Agency in the Reagan administration.

Gorsuch was among the 21 possible choices for the court Trump released during the campaign. Other finalists also came from that list, including Thomas Hardiman, who serves alongside Trump's sister on the Philadelphia-based 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, and William Pryor, a federal appeals court judge and Alabama's attorney general from 1997 to 2004.

If Democrats decide to filibuster Gorsuch's nomination, his fate could rest in the hands of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. Trump has encouraged McConnell to change the rules of the Senate and make it impossible to filibuster a Supreme Court nominee — a change known in the Senate as the "nuclear option."

A conservative group already has announced plans to begin airing $2 million worth of ads in support of the nominee in Indiana, Missouri, Montana and North Dakota, four states that Trump won and in which Democrats will be defending their Senate seats in 2018.

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Death to the estate tax?

2017/02/01

The cruel shock of the death tax hit hard for Kristi Noem and her family when her dad died in a farm accident. Just a college student at the time, Noem returned home to run the farm. But then the IRS came calling – asking for cash the family did not have.

The family was able to secure a loan to eventually pay off the tax, but the sting of this double blow was what drove the U.S. Congresswoman from South Dakota to later enter politics. This month Rep. Noem (R-SD), along with U.S. Congressman Sanford Bishop (D-GA), introduced legislation to permanently repeal the death, or estate, tax. The legislation is also being introduced in the Senate by Senator John Thune (R-SD).

Rep. Noem says first and foremost she rejects the death tax on the principle that it is a double tax. “Families asked to pay the death tax have already payed taxes on their estates,” she said in a provided statement. “Moreover, this is a tax that disproportionately impacts farmers, ranchers, and small businesses who may have a large number of assets – such as livestock, land, and machinery – but would have to sell off needed equipment or take out a loan to pay the IRS bill.”

The death tax was set to sunset in 2010, but in negotiations informally known as the “Obama-GOP tax deal,” it was brought back to life. Now with President Trump and Republicans in Congress having expressed addressing the death tax as a priority, Noem and her colleagues have hopes this time they can axe the tax for good.

Currently the death tax is only implemented on estates belonging to an individual valued greater than $5.45 million, or about $14 million per couple. These exemption amounts have increased significantly from 2001, when they were $650,000 per person. The tax is only paid on the amount over the limitation, but can be up to 40 percent.

Although this change over the past 15 years has greatly limited the amount of farm and small business families adversely affected, the problem lies in the nature of appreciation of land values.

John Youngberg, executive vice president of the Montana Farm Bureau says their organization’s position matches that of the American Farm Bureau Federation and most other ag organizations.

“Because the value of our land has escalated so much; many of our folks are land rich and cash poor,” he says. “When they pass on or try to pass their inheritance to their heirs, things they didn’t pay that much for end up having a lot of value. When it comes time to pay the tax, the money is all tied up in the land. They have to liquidate part of the land.”

USDA data comparing land values of South Dakota farm real estate and cropland from 2006 to 2016 shows farm real estate has appreciated $1,570 per acre since 2006 – an increase of 231 percent, and cropland values have appreciated $2,480 per acre – an increase of 238 percent. With the 2016 exemption of $5 million (the exemption level rises each year for inflation) any South Dakota farmer with more than 1,420 acres of cropland would have been impacted.

Although land values in the more arid states west of South Dakota may not meet similar valuations, the principles are the same. Most ranches and farms are put together to work interdependently as whole units. It’s not feasible to simply sell off sections, or just liquidate inventory like other business models. Additionally, most ag operations hold their equity in assets, not cash.

Proponents of the death tax have long argued that the purpose is both for federal revenue (although opponents argue its contribution to the federal coffers is a small percentage) but more so, to break up and redistribute wealth.

Mark Cain is the founder of Cornerstone Financial based in Billings, Mont., but with a regional customer base around Southeastern Montana and neighboring states. He explains it succinctly: “The death tax was designed to break up the big family monopolies, and force them to sell some of their assets to allow someone else a chance at them.”

But that’s not to say he agrees with it. “Any tax we get rid of it’s a good thing, but when the country’s broke, you have to figure out something to replace it.”

Cain’s work involves meeting with families, many of them farmers and ranchers, to conduct estate planning, which also includes finding ways to minimize estate taxes. With the higher limits, and exemptions like portability (which means any unused tax exclusion from a deceased spouse can be transferred to the surviving spouse), which was implemented in 2010, Cain says the majority of his customers do not risk being affected.

“When I started the death tax was $600,000, and so it was a huge part of our planning,” says Cain. “Now it doesn’t affect a lot of people.” For those who may be affected, however, Cain helps with options such as creating life estate deeds, life insurance, charitable giving, foundations, and other strategies.

National health care strategist and Forbes magazine contributor, John C. Goodman, referenced a popular policy paper on the estate tax by economics historian Bruce Bartlett. Bartlett is quoted: “So effective are the methods of avoiding estate taxes that it has been argued the estate tax essentially is a voluntary tax. In the words of economist George Cooper: ‘The fact that any substantial amount of tax is now being collected can be attributed only to taxpayer indifference to avoidance opportunities or a lack of aggressiveness on the part of estate planners in exploiting the loopholes that exist.’ Economists Henry Aaron and Alicia Munnell put it even more bluntly. In their view, estate taxes aren’t even taxes at all, but ‘penalties imposed on those who neglect to plan ahead or who retain unskilled estate planners.’”

So if you can’t move it – work around it.

“Basically the bottom line is there is a lot of stuff you can do but you have to get a team of professionals together and decide what you want to do and then do it,” Cain says.

Although the implications of the estate tax aren’t as threatening as they were when Noem faced her family’s loss, farmers and ranchers aren’t wrong in feeling a bit victimized.

“Although this is probably a better situation than what we’ve had before, the death tax is still a fairly low hanging fruit,” says Youngberg. “And of course, the best tax is the tax that somebody else pays. When you start looking at the people who are hit by the death tax, for those of us in agriculture, we all know it’s a better deal [to eliminate it], but we’re such a small percentage.”

A small percentage that all agree the time is right to put the estate tax in the ground.

And this time, throw the dirt on top.

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Noem Statement on Supreme Court Nominee

2017/01/31

Rep. Kristi Noem today issued the following statement regarding President Trump’s nominee to the Supreme Court:

“I am very encouraged by the nomination of Judge Gorsuch, who not only has exceptional qualifications but has shown a commitment to the Constitution and the liberties contained within it. While the House does not vote on Supreme Court nominations, I look forward to watching the upcoming Senate hearings, which will further clarify the perspective he'll bring to the bench.”

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Noem backs pause on refugees from 'terrorist-held' areas

2017/01/30

U.S. Rep. Kristi Noem says she supports a temporary pause on refugees from "terrorist-held" areas in response to President Donald Trump's executive order on immigration.

Noem says that she shares Trump's concerns about America's ability to screen refugees. The Republican congresswoman says her first priority is the safety of the American people.

Trump signed an order Friday suspending refugee admissions for 120 days and indefinitely barring the processing of refugees from Syria.

It also temporarily bars citizens of seven majority Muslim nations from entering the U.S., but there's confusion about how it applies to certain groups, like U.S. legal permanent residents.

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Weekly Column: Repealing the Death Tax

2017/01/27

My dad woke up at the crack of dawn almost every day in pursuit of his American Dream: to build a farm large enough that his kids could grow up and farm together, if we wanted to.  It’s the same reason most parents get up and go to work every morning; they’re trying to give their kids something they didn’t have.

For the better part of my 20s, however, I didn’t know if my dad’s dream would be seen through.  As many reading this now know, we lost my dad unexpectedly in a farm accident.  I was pretty young – recently married, working on my college degree, getting ready to have our first baby.  It changed our whole life.

While we were still trying to pick up the pieces after my dad died, our family received a letter from the IRS.  Because of this tragedy that had undermined our sense of security, the Death Tax was now about to undermine our financial security.

Although we had cattle, machinery and land, we didn’t have the money to pay what the IRS was asking for.  Selling land didn’t seem to be a good option.  After all, it was my dad who had warned me, “Don’t get rid of land. God isn’t making any more of it.”  Selling the cattle and machinery would basically shut the farm down, so that wasn’t an option either. 

Eventually, we were able to secure a loan.  While this kept the farm up and running, it impacted operations for about a decade and forced us to make some pretty difficult executive decisions so we could make ends meet.

Because no family should have to go through what ours did, I introduced legislation earlier this Congress to fully and permanently repeal the Death Tax. 

Of course my own family’s story is wrapped around this issue, but at the core of it all, I reject the Death Tax on the principle that it is a double tax.  Families asked to pay the Death Tax have already paid taxes when they bought the land, machinery, or inventory (in the case of a small business). They shouldn’t be taxed on it again simply because a loved one has passed away.

Additionally, this tax disproportionately impacts farmers, ranchers and small businesses, who may have a large number of assets, but not necessarily cash in the bank.  Some may be forced to close the doors altogether just to pay this tax.  It’s not right.

With broad support for repeal within the Trump administration and Congress, I’m hopeful we’ll finally be able to repeal this unfair and immoral double tax.  Simply put, a lifetime of hard work shouldn’t be undermined because of a greedy federal Death Tax policy.

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Estate Tax Repeal Bills Would Help Family Farmers

2017/01/26

A pair of estate tax repeal bills introduced in Congress would help farm and ranch families overcome the challenges of passing their family businesses to the next generation, American Farm Bureau Federation President Zippy Duvall said in a letter sent Jan. 25 to members of the House and Senate.

Current law provides for an estate tax exemption of $5 million indexed for inflation, allows portability between spouses and includes stepped-up basis.

“Instead of spending money on life insurance and estate planning, many farmers today can expand their businesses, upgrade buildings and purchase needed equipment and livestock. More importantly, when a family member dies the family can continue farming without having to sell land, livestock or equipment to pay the tax,” Duvall wrote, explaining how the current law helps people involved in agriculture.

Despite this much-appreciated relief, estate taxes are still a big problem.

“Family-owned farm and ranch assets usually are tied to illiquid assets such as land, buildings and equipment. When estate taxes on an agricultural business exceed cash and other liquid assets, surviving family partners have few options other than to sell off farm and ranch assets, jeopardizing the viability of their business,” Duvall explained.

The bipartisan Death Tax Repeal Act of 2017 (H.R. 631, S. 205), introduced in the House by Reps. Kristi Noem (R-S.D.) and Sanford Bishop (D-Ga.) and in the Senate by Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), would help protect the family farms that grow America’s food and fiber, often for rates of return that are already minuscule compared to almost any other investment they could make, according to Duvall.

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Noem Accepting Applications for Summer Interns

2017/01/26

Rep. Kristi Noem is accepting applications for summer internships in her Washington, D.C.; Sioux Falls; Rapid City; and Watertown offices.

Student interns will work with staff on various constituent service and communications projects, as well as assist with legislative research. Both South Dakota and Washington, D.C. internships provide students with first-hand knowledge of the legislative process and the countless other functions of a congressional office.

College students who are interested in interning in any of Representative Noem’s offices should submit a cover letter and resume to Michael.Maloof@mail.house.gov by Friday, March 31.

For more information, contact Michael Maloof at 202-225-2801.

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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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