Kristi Noem

Kristi Noem

SOUTH DAKOTA

Weekly Column: Nothing Less than a Miracle

2017/01/13

March 4, 1797, marked one of the most important days in American history: the inauguration of our second president and the first transition of power. In the two-plus centuries since, more than three dozen men have stepped aside as George Washington did, watching as their successor placed his hand upon the Bible and promised to “preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.”  While the inauguration ritual can seem ordinary to us today, President Ronald Reagan reminded America during his 1981 inaugural address that “this every-four-year ceremony we accept as normal is nothing less than a miracle.”

January 20, 2017, will mark the first time I get to observe this “normal miracle” up close. I’ll have the opportunity to sit behind President-elect Trump on a stage built at the doorstep of the people’s legislative house, the U.S. Capitol, as Chief Justice Roberts administers the 35-word Oath of Office.  It’s a rare meeting of the federal government’s three branches and a powerful symbol of our constitutional government.

Behind us, five American flags will be hung.  At the center, our current flag with 50 stars to represent the Union the president-elect will lead today.  To the left and right, flags with as many stars as there were states when New York – President-elect Trump’s home state – joined the Union, pointing us back to our roots as a republic.  At the far left and right, flags symbolizing our small, yet united, beginning, with 13 stars shaped to form an unending circle.

From this stage to the ceremony itself, Inauguration Day is a moment of unity, joining the past with the present, the states with the federal government, the Executive Branch with the Legislative and Judicial, Republicans with Democrats. 

For many, 2016 was one of the ugliest elections of their lifetime.  But as divided as we may feel today, America is still rooted in a truth John Adams expressed during his inaugural address: we have a government where those writing and executing our laws are fellow citizens that have been selected “by their neighbors.” This is a government in which we, the people, govern ourselves.  It’s a government, not administered by those who were born into power, but by those who were chosen by their neighbors to lead.

As President-elect Trump places his hand on the Bible, the history of America will be laid out before him.  From the stage, he’ll be able to see the Lincoln Memorial, a striking symbol of the leadership required to unite a nation.  He’ll see the World War II Memorial, which represents America’s power when we work as one while also reminding us all this freedom we enjoy comes at a cost. 

Most prominently, the president-elect will see our monument to America’s first president, the man who is often credited with asking: “What is most important of this grand experiment, the United States? Not the election of the first president but the election of its second president. The peaceful transition of power is what will separate this country from every other country in the world.”

As I take in this same view on Inauguration Day, George Washington’s example of leadership will not be lost on me.  I can’t possibly express how humbled I am to take part in this historic event. After all, it really wasn’t that long ago that I would have been getting ready for calving season, never dreaming I’d be attending a presidential inauguration, sitting in awe of this American routine that is nothing less than a miracle.

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A Step Closer to Obamacare Repeal, Says Noem

2017/01/13

Rep. Kristi Noem today issued the following statement on the House’s passage of legislation that lays the groundwork to repeal Obamacare:

“Every American deserves access to quality, affordable healthcare.  Obamacare has fundamentally failed to deliver that.  Today, we took one of the first steps toward a smarter, patient-centered system that is rooted in choices, not mandates – a system that can offer South Dakotans from all walks of life a greater peace of mind regarding their healthcare.”

 

The legislation passed today, which has also been passed by the Senate and does not require the president’s signature, lays the groundwork for Obamacare’s repeal.  Noem has long favored repealing Obamacare and replacing the law with market-driven reforms, such as allowing individuals to purchase insurance across state lines, expanding risk pools, and increasing access to Health Savings Accounts.  Additionally, Noem has favored keeping protections for patients with pre-existing conditions and allowing young people to stay on their parents’ health insurance plan.

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Noem Helps Introduce New Provisions To Support Survivors Of Human Trafficking

2017/01/12

Rep. Kristi Noem today joined Rep. Ann Wagner and more than a dozen colleagues in introducing the bipartisan Trafficking Survivors Relief Act.  If enacted, the legislation would establish a process in which trafficking survivors with non-violent federal offenses could petition a court to vacate the arrests and/or convictions that were a direct result of being trafficked.

According to a recent survey by the National Survivor Network, around 80 percent of trafficking survivors surveyed had lost or not received employment because of their criminal convictions.  Around half had suffered from barriers to accessing housing.

“Traffickers often use drugs and alcohol as a means of control, deepening a victim’s dependence on the trafficker,” said Noem.  “Many survivors escape to face a stack of legal paperwork for violations committed while under a trafficker’s control.  That makes it extremely difficult for a person to get their feet back under them and move forward.  I’m hopeful this legislation will help relieve survivors of the past, open doors for them, and offer a path forward where healing can begin.”

Introduced on January 11, National Human Trafficking Awareness Day, the Trafficking Survivors Relief Act has been supported by the Alliance to End Slavery and Trafficking, the National Survivor Network, the District Attorneys Association, and others.

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Noem helps introduce trafficking survivors relief act

2017/01/11

Rep. Kristi Noem on Wednesday helped introduce legislation that could help clear criminal records of victims of human trafficking.

The Trafficking Survivors Relief Act would allow victims of sex and labor trafficking to petition courts to swipe clean their records of non-violent crimes committed because of their trafficking situation. Noem and Rep. Ann Wagner, R-MO, along with more than a dozen other legislators introduced the bill Wednesday, Human Trafficking Awareness Day.

More than 80 percent of trafficking survivors have trouble landing jobs because of a criminal background, often caused by their time being trafficked, according to a survey from the National Survivor Network.

“Traffickers often use drugs and alcohol as a means of control, deepening a victim’s dependence on the trafficker,” Noem in a statement. “Many survivors escape to face a stack of legal paperwork for violations committed while under a trafficker’s control. That makes it extremely difficult for a person to get their feet back under them and move forward."

If enacted, the act would allow the victim to petition the court to vacate their non-violent federal criminal convictions and expunge non-violent arrests committed "as a direct result of being trafficked," the act states. It would cover victims of sex and labor trafficking.

For example, a victim could be holding onto his or her pimp's drugs and get caught with them, plastering their record with a drug conviction.

Local awareness and education advocates say the legislation would be a huge help in their fight to get and keep victims out of the trafficking world.

If a victim has a criminal record, it can keep them from getting a good job, getting into safe housing and more, said co-founder of The New Colossus Polly Dean. The New Colossus is a human trafficking prevention and education non-profit in Sioux Falls.

"(That record) affects everything," Dean said.

Lack of safe housing and a means to support themselves could also put victims at risk for being re-trafficked, said co-founder of The New Colossus Ashley Statema

"Their criminal background often has nothing to do with their character, but their circumstance (of being trafficked)," Statema said.

"I’m hopeful this legislation will help relieve survivors of the past, open doors for them, and offer a path forward where healing can begin,” Noem said.

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On Human Trafficking Awareness Day, Noem Helps Introduce New Provisions to Support Survivors

2017/01/11

Rep. Kristi Noem today joined Rep. Ann Wagner and more than a dozen colleagues in introducing the bipartisan Trafficking Survivors Relief Act.  If enacted, the legislation would establish a process in which trafficking survivors with non-violent federal offenses could petition a court to vacate the arrests and/or convictions that were a direct result of being trafficked.

According to a recent survey by the National Survivor Network, around 80 percent of trafficking survivors surveyed had lost or not received employment because of their criminal convictions.  Around half had suffered from barriers to accessing housing.

“Traffickers often use drugs and alcohol as a means of control, deepening a victim’s dependence on the trafficker,” said Noem.  “Many survivors escape to face a stack of legal paperwork for violations committed while under a trafficker’s control.  That makes it extremely difficult for a person to get their feet back under them and move forward.  I’m hopeful this legislation will help relieve survivors of the past, open doors for them, and offer a path forward where healing can begin.”

Introduced on January 11, National Human Trafficking Awareness Day, the Trafficking Survivors Relief Act has been supported by the Alliance to End Slavery and Trafficking, the National Survivor Network, the District Attorneys Association, and others. 

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Weekly Column: Ending the Reign of Regulators

2017/01/06

Expectations are high for the 115th Congress, which was sworn in the first week of January, but I’m optimistic that we’ve matched those expectations with an aggressive, commonsense agenda.  More importantly, there has been no hesitation in getting to work on that agenda. 

Less than 100 hours from the time I took the Oath of Office for the fourth time, the House of Representatives passed the REINS Act, a bill I cosponsored to stop the overreach of federal regulators.

Under the Obama administration, regulatory agencies have grown at a considerable rate.  Their budgets alone have spiked 16 percent since 2008 while their staffs have increased in size by 13 percent.  The impact of this expansion has rippled throughout our economy, crashing into each of our wallets like a tidal wave.

Almost 25 percent of a new home’s cost is due to regulatory bureaucracy, and by 2025, Obama-era vehicle standards are expected to raise the cost of a new car by almost $3,000.  The prices of microwaves, light bulbs, air conditioners, and dishwashers have also gone up significantly because of federal regulators.

From a broader perspective, all these regulations drain much-needed resources from our economy. In 2015, regulations cost the American economy nearly $2 trillion in lost productivity and growth.  To put it another way: if our regulatory system were a country, it would have the world’s ninth largest economy – right behind India.

For years, we have battled the Obama administration on the issue of red tape.  After putting pressure on the Department of Labor, we were able to get them to back down from regulating small family farms. I also introduced legislation to prohibit the EPA from proposing or finalizing new farm dust standards, which helped prompt the agency to abandon efforts to further regulate the type of dust farmers and ranchers kicked up.  And when OSHA proposed to ban kids from doing certain farm activities when they were hired to work on relatives’ farms, we pushed back and they backed down. 

With proposals like the controversial “Waters of the U.S.” – or WOTUS – rule coming down, it is clear we need a stricter way to hold regulators accountable.  That’s where the REINS Act comes into play. 

If enacted, any regulation with an economic impact of over $100 million would have to be approved by Congress through an up-or-down vote.  If this law would have been in effect under Obama, more than 500 regulations would have been subject to a vote in Congress.

More than two-thirds of the House, including me, has never had the opportunity to serve under a Republican president.  I understand the expectations are high, but so are mine.  While it’s just one checkmark on a long list of reforms I’d like to see made, passing the REINS Act in the opening hours of this new Congress gives me optimism for what we can accomplish.

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With Noem Support, House Passes New Restraints on Federal Regulators

2017/01/06

Rep. Kristi Noem today helped lead the House in passing H.R.26, the Regulations from the Executive in Need of Scrutiny Act (REINS Act).  Cosponsored by Noem, the legislation requires federal agencies to submit major regulations, those costing more than $100 million in economic impact, to Congress for approval.  It also guarantees timely up-or-down votes on these rules, as Congress must act within 70 legislative days.

“Many people are feeling financial pressure from all sides – costs are going up but job opportunities and wages are in decline,” said Noem.  “Much of that is due to the overzealous regulatory environment that’s come out of the Obama administration.  Things need to change and the REINS Act does just that.  With new safeguards that empower the American people to hold regulators accountable, I’m optimistic we can begin to lessen the regulation-induced pinch so many families feel today.”

With House approval, the legislation now heads to the Senate.

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Noem Earns Seat on Key Tax Policy and Trade Panels

2017/01/06

Rep. Kristi Noem today earned seats on the Tax Policy and Trade subcommittees of the House Ways and Means Committee. As one of the only members of the committee with experience in agriculture, Noem will bring her background to bear, helping ensure tax and trade policies are fair and workable for rural America.

“South Dakota occupies just one of 435 seats in the House of Representatives, so making our perspective known requires a deliberate effort,” said Noem.  “A seat on the Tax Policy and Trade subcommittees of Ways and Means amplifies our voice and enables me to advance South Dakota priorities during the earliest stages of policy development.  I’m honored to give our small state a big voice. Let’s get to work.”

The House Ways and Means Committee is largely regarded as the most powerful committee in Congress, with jurisdiction over tax and trade policy, Social Security and Medicare, and various other economic growth policies.

During the 114th Congress, Noem served on the committee’s Tax Policy, Human Resources, and Oversight subcommittees.

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Delegation Statement on VA Decision to Close Hot Springs Facility

2017/01/06

U.S. Sens. John Thune (R-S.D.) and Mike Rounds (R-S.D.), a member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, and U.S. Rep. Kristi Noem (R-S.D.) today issued the following joint statement after U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Secretary Robert McDonald announced that the VA would close a large portion of the Hot Springs facility:

“We are deeply concerned by the Obama VA’s decision, which is the direct result of a flawed process and continued data discrepancies,” said Thune, Rounds, and Noem. “The Hot Springs campus, supported by a dedicated medical staff and compassionate community, is critical to the veterans it serves. We are committed, as we have always been, to finding a solution that puts our veterans in the best possible position to receive the high-quality health care and support they deserve. The delegation will continue to work together and with veterans and community stakeholders to determine next steps.”

On November 10, 2016, the VA issued its final environmental impact statement on the Black Hills Health Care system, which was the last formal procedural step prior to VA Secretary McDonald’s decision to shutter the facility.

In a November 23, 2016, letter to Secretary McDonald, Thune, Rounds, and Noem expressed their disappointment after McDonald declined their request to meet in person at the Hot Springs VA to discuss the future of the facility. On December 6, 2016, during a meeting in Washington, D.C., the delegation encouraged McDonald to thoroughly consider the input he received from veterans, staff, and other community stakeholders.

Existing law prohibits the VA from reducing services in South Dakota in fiscal year 2017 unless the VA meets a series of requirements, including a national realignment strategy, which have yet to be initiated.

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Black Hills National Cemetery expansion bill reintroduced

2017/01/06

Members of the South Dakota congressional delegation reintroduced companion versions of the Black Hills National Cemetery Boundary Act on Thursday.

Sens. John Thune and Mike Rounds and Rep. Kristi Noem were joined by Sen. Mike Enzi, R-Wyo., to support legislation that would facilitate a permanent land transfer of about 200 acres of Bureau of Land Management land to expand the Black Hills National Cemetery outside of Sturgis.

The location has been a place for military families to remember and honor loved ones.

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

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S.D. delegates aim to play active role in Obamacare repeal

2017/01/05

South Dakota's three congressional delegates said Thursday that they plan to play an active role in the repeal and replacement of the Affordable Care Act.

Sens. Mike Rounds and John Thune helped Senate Republicans fast-track the process of repealing the federal health insurance law and Rep. Kristi Noem, R-S.D., wasted no time in introducing a bipartisan bill that would eliminate the Health Insurance Tax, an annual fee on the health insurance industry that can ratchet up the price of individual premiums.

All three have been vocal opponents of the law and jumped at a chance to criticize it and outlined their hopes for a replacement plan, which Rounds nicknamed "Real Care."

"This ship is sinking. And what we're going to do is provide people with life rafts that they can stay on until the new boats come," Rounds said on a media call referring to what he hopes will be a gradual transition away from the ACA and toward a replacement.

The three agreed that a replacement plan should eliminate health insurance mandates, expand health savings accounts and increase competition among insurance providers. They also said they'd work to ensure that a replacement plan allows children to stay on their parents plans until they're 26 and continues to provide options for those with pre-existing conditions.

"I want to make sure the plans operate like families want them to, which means safeguards for those with pre-existing conditions and provisions allowing kids to stay on their parents’ plans are important elements to protect," Noem said in a statement.

While South Dakota's delegates have made their priorities clear, Republicans in Congress have yet to agree on a set of policies they can sell as an effective replacement to the Affordable Care Act.

Critics of the repeal have argued that breaking down the federal health insurance law will spark panic among providers, causing more to pull out of state exchanges and pushing premium rates through the ceiling. They also fear that the more than 20 million Americans who've gained health insurance coverage through the federal exchange will be left with nothing once the law is repealed.

Both the Senate and the House of Representatives will have a chance to debate and vote on the resolution as part of the fiscal year 2017 budget.

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SD Farm Bureau supports Noem health insurance legislation

2017/01/05

South Dakota Rep. Kristi Noem (R-SD) is taking the lead in curbing rising health insurance costs thanks to introducing legislation to repeal the Health Insurance Tax (HIT).

The multi-billion dollar tax impacts close to 200,000 workers in South Dakota alone. HIT is imposed on health insurance premiums for small businesses that purchase health coverage for their employees. It’s estimated that working families will pay an additional $5,000 in higher premiums over the next decade because of the tax.

“South Dakota Farm Bureau appreciates the leadership of Representative Noem for acknowledging the impact the Health Insurance Tax has for many of our members,” said Scott VanderWal, SDFB President. “We are very hopeful this legislation will put a stop to this and we appreciate her efforts in taking this important step.”

Noem was joined by Rep. Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) in introducing the legislation.

–South Dakota Farm Bureau

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Bicameral Legislation to Authorize Permanent Land Transfer for Expansion of Black Hills National Cemetery Reintroduced in First Week of 115th Congress

2017/01/05

Members of the South Dakota congressional delegation, which includes U.S. Sens. John Thune (R-S.D.) and Mike Rounds (R-S.D.) and U.S. Rep. Kristi Noem (R-S.D.), were joined today by U.S. Sen. Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.) in reintroducing companion versions of the Black Hills National Cemetery Boundary Expansion Act, legislation that would facilitate a permanent land transfer of approximately 200 acres of Bureau of Land Management land to expand the Black Hills National Cemetery outside of Sturgis, South Dakota.

“For decades, the Black Hills National Cemetery has been a place for military families to remember and honor loved ones who have served,” said Thune. “The land on which the cemetery sits is as majestic as it is hallowed, and by expanding the cemetery’s boundary, we can ensure that our military heroes will have a place to rest in peace for generations to come.”

“It is important that South Dakota’s veterans know that the Black Hills National Cemetery will be able to accommodate them for generations to come,” said Rounds. “I hope this noncontroversial proposal to expand the cemetery’s boundary moves quickly through Congress.”

“Our nation owes deep and eternal gratitude to those who have served and the families that have stood beside them,” said Noem. “By allowing for the permanent expansion of the Black Hills National Cemetery, veterans and military families for generations to come can be assured that our country will forever honor their courageous service and tremendous sacrifices.”

“Our veterans have made great sacrifices for their country and it is important that we can provide them with an honorable resting place,” said Enzi. “Wyoming is one of the few remaining states without a VA National Cemetery, and it is therefore critical to ensure that those in neighboring states have adequate capacity. This legislation would provide the needed land to ensure that the Black Hills National Cemetery can continue to serve the region for decades as a place for military families to honor their loved ones. I hope Congress will work quickly to pass this noncontroversial legislation.”

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.  

Thune, Rounds, Noem, and Enzi first introduced companion versions of the Black Hills National Cemetery Boundary Expansion Act in 2015, and the House version passed its chamber in September 2016. The bill was nearing passage in the Senate at the end of 114th Congress, which is why the members quickly reintroduced the bill during the first week of the 115th Congress.

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Noem, Sinema Introduce Bipartisan Health Insurance Tax Repeal

2017/01/04

U.S. Representatives Kristi Noem (R-SD) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) today introduced H.R.246, the Jobs and Premium Protection Act, a bipartisan bill that would repeal the Affordable Care Act’s costly Health Insurance Tax (HIT).  If enacted, the provision could save families as much as $400 per year in healthcare premium costs, according to the Joint Committee on Taxation. 

“Many small businesses in South Dakota have faced a stunning reality since the passage of Obamacare: They can’t really afford to pay for the expensive mandated insurance, but they also can’t afford the HIT if they don’t provide insurance.  Essentially, they’re taxed if they do and taxed if they don’t,” said Noem.  “As a result, many employers have been forced to either cut workers’ hours or limit the small business’s growth.  The Jobs and Premium Protection Act would open new economic opportunities from South Dakota to Arizona while giving thousands of families the peace of mind that their financial independence won’t be jeopardized because of this regressive tax.”

“Arizonans continue to struggle with increasing health care costs,” said Sinema. “Eliminating the tax is a bipartisan, commonsense fix that lowers out of pocket costs for hardworking Arizonans.  I’m committed to working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to provide relief for individuals, families, and employers and increase access to quality, affordable health care.” 

The HIT is a direct tax on health insurance providers for the services they provide to individuals, families, and other beneficiaries.  According to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, this tax is passed on to consumers in the form of higher premiums and out-of-pocket costs.  Additionally, the National Federation of Independent Business Research Foundation found the HIT will cost between 152,000 and 286,000 jobs by 2023, with 57 percent of those lost jobs represented in small businesses.

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Thune, Rounds And Noem All Sworn In For 115th Congress

2017/01/04

The 115th Congress is now in session. Yesterday at noon, Vice President Joe Biden gaveled the Senate into session.

The first order of business was swearing in the newly elected and re-elected members. John Thune was sworn in to his 3rd term in the U.S. Senate, Thune is third ranking Republican in the Senate. South Dakota’s junior Senator Mike Rounds took the oath for his 2nd term. There are 53 Republican and 48 Democratic Senators in the 115th Congress.

South Dakota’s lone Representative also took the oath of office, Representative Kristi Noem was sworn in for her 4th two year term in Congress. All members of the House raised their hands today newly re-elected speaker Paul Ryan administered the oath.

Noem has already announced she will not seek a 5th term but will run for Governor of South Dakota in 2018.

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Noem Takes Oath of Office

2017/01/03

Rep. Kristi Noem issued the following statement today after taking the Oath of Office to serve her fourth term in the U.S. House of Representatives:

“South Dakota has but one voice in the 435-member House of Representatives. Still, that voice must represent a considerable portion of our nation’s ag production, speak for rural families, reflect tribal priorities, and defend the goals of job creators and families.  Perhaps most importantly, that voice must fight for the values we aspire to in South Dakota and the principles enshrined in our Constitution.  I am deeply grateful to South Dakota for allowing me to serve in this role and incredibly humbled to take on the ambitious agenda we have ahead.”

Rep. Noem will continue to serve on the powerful House Ways and Means Committee, which has jurisdiction over tax, trade, and economic growth policies.

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Thune, Rounds, Noem: back to work in new world

2017/01/03

South Dakota's three-person, all Republican, Congressional delegation got back to work on Tuesday for the opening of the 115th session.

"I look forward to hitting the ground running in 2017," said U.S. Senator John Thune, who took the oath of office for his third term.

Thune is in the top Republican leadership, which now controls both sides of Capital Hill, with Donald Trump coming just around the corner. Repealing Obamacare. Tax reform. Cutting regulations. Etc. Etc. The Republicans are licking their chops.

U.S. Senator Mike Rounds announced that he will be serving on five committees this session, instead of four. He'll serve on the Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship, as well as Armed Services and his other assignments.

“While I am proud of the work we’ve accomplished in each of these committees, I am eager to build on our successes and continue working for South Dakotans in the 115th Congress.” said Rounds.

South Dakota's lone U.S. House Representative, Kristi Noem tweeted "let's get to work."  Noem is back for her final two years. She's running for Governor in 2018.

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Weekly Column: Small State, Big Impact

2016/12/30

The swearing-in ceremony on January 3 marks the official start of the 115th Congress, but our work to prepare for these next two years has been ongoing for months.

Last summer, House Republicans introduced a once-in-a-generation blueprint for the reforms we feel are necessary to move this country forward.  In late December after most of Congress had gone home for the holidays, I – along with just 23 other members of the House Ways and Means Committee – came back to Washington to hammer out two critical sections of this blueprint: tax reform and healthcare reform.

On tax reform, we worked on a framework for a simpler, flatter and fairer tax code. Coming from a state that has zero income tax, I wanted to share a real-world example of the economic benefits of a lower tax rate.  As a busy mom, I wanted to speak to the importance of a simpler tax return – one that may even be simple enough to fit on a postcard. As an experienced small business owner, farmer and rancher, I wanted the tax code to incentivize growth in the American economy.  And as a taxpayer, I wanted the loopholes to be closed and the IRS to be held accountable.  Our work continues, but I’m glad we were able to communicate this vision from the onset.

On healthcare reform, we plan to take immediate steps to repeal Obamacare.  While we’re still navigating the best legislative path from that point, we are committed to protecting the healthcare needs of all Americans. At our meeting in December, we worked through a number of ideas for creating a system that no longer relies on mandates, but instead ensures affordable access so families can choose what works best for them.  This plan would deliver unprecedented freedom, empowering Americans to purchase the healthcare plan of their choice, manage how they spend their healthcare dollars, and access their electronic health records.  Moreover, it would include tools that drive down the actual cost for delivering healthcare, an expense that is higher per person in the U.S. than almost any nation in the world. The only way health insurance is going to be affordable is if the delivery of healthcare becomes less expensive too.

With so much at stake, it was important to get a seat at the table for South Dakota during these debates.  After all, there are challenges that come with having just one representative in the House.  Places like Texas, for instance, have dozens of congressmen who can represent the state’s interests on any given issue.  A state like South Dakota, however, occupies just one of 435 seats, so making our perspective known requires a deliberate effort.  Getting in on these types of conversations is one of the reasons I fought for a seat on the House Ways and Means Committee last Congress.

Our state might be small, but we’ve already had a major impact on what’s expected to be an aggressive 2017 agenda.  What’s more, those contributions have helped establish the tone for the 115th Congress and set the legislative branch up to hit the ground running on Day 1.

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Weekly Column: A New Season

2016/12/23

One of my favorite times of the year farming was the day we started to put the seed in the ground, because on that day, the seed had every opportunity to produce a high-yielding harvest. The next few months would require hard work to help that seed mature – and we’d need to pray that factors outside our control would cooperate as well – but that was all yet to come; planting was a day of hope and opportunity.

Each new year, we find that same sense of optimism about what’s to come, and perhaps nowhere is that truer for 2017 than in Washington, D.C., where the new year will bring a new Congress, a new administration, and a new hope for the future. 

The repeal of Obamacare will likely be one of the first seeds planted in 2017.  For years, our efforts have been shut down by Senate Democrats or vetoed by the president, but we now have a path to repeal.  At the same time, we have been working openly and collaboratively to assemble a replacement for Obamacare that fundamentally decreases the cost of healthcare, increases access and affordability, protects coverage for those with pre-existing conditions and our young people, and gives you the peace of mind that your most intimate financial and health decisions can be made by you with the consult of your doctor.

While the next Farm Bill isn’t expected to be finalized until 2018, the hearing process is expected to begin in 2017. We have already begun writing some of the new policies that ought to be included, but we’ll continue collecting feedback and ideas throughout the next year.

Comprehensive tax reform is another 2017 priority for both Congress and the president-elect. In 2015, I became the first South Dakotan in history to earn a seat on the House Ways and Means Committee, which is the committee that specializes in tax-related reforms.  We’ve been focused on writing a new tax code that is simpler, fairer, and more accountable than the one that exists today. 

President-elect Trump and Congress also have fixing the regulatory environment at the top of our New Year’s resolution lists.  Some of these regulations can be repealed by the administration acting alone.  Others will require congressional action.  Either way, it’s a must-do beginning this January.

We will also continue our efforts to reform the Indian Health Service, expand the Black Hills National Cemetery, keep the D.C. Booth Fish Hatchery open, increase support for the Lewis & Clark rural water project, maintain services at the Hot Springs VA Hospital, and ensure anti-human trafficking efforts have the support they need.  Supporting the administration on national security and border security issues will also be a priority.

There is plenty of work to be done to make sure these seeds of opportunity produce a harvest in 2017, but I am encouraged by the outlook. This New Year, I hope you too can find the hope and optimism that defines this season.  On behalf of my entire family, I wish you the best in 2017.

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Members of Tri-State Delegation Asks VA for Answers About Reduction of Hot Springs Services Despite Superior Rating

2016/12/22

U.S. Sens. Mike Rounds (R-S.D.), John Thune (R-S.D.), John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) and Reps. Kristi Noem (R-S.D.) and Adrian Smith (R-Neb.) today wrote U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Secretary Robert McDonald to ask about the VA’s preferred alternative to drastically cut services at the Hot Springs VA facility despite it being rated by the VA as one of only 14 “five star” facilities across the country.

“As you continue to overhaul the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) through the MyVA plan, we believe that it is essential to use VA’s top performing facilities as models for others to follow as opposed to targeting them for closure,” wrote the delegation. “Now more than ever, the VA needs to leverage its top medical centers for best practices and lessons learned to replicate their performance throughout VHA. This is critical as the VA continues to rebuild trust with veterans following the high profile scandals of recent years. As one of only 14 rated five-star facilities, we feel that significantly reducing services at Hot Springs would be a grave mistake and a disservice to the veterans it serves.”

Full text of the letter is below:

Dear Secretary McDonald: 

We write to you regarding the recent press publication of the Department of Veterans Affairs’ (VA) internal quality “star ranking” metrics for its medical facilities. It is with great pride that we note the Hot Springs campus of the Black Hills Health Care System (BHHCS) is one of only 14 “five-star” facilities out of a total of 146 medical centers. As you are aware, the Hot Springs campus takes great pride in the care and services it provides to veterans, a mission that it has admirably accomplished since the U.S. Civil War. It is therefore no surprise for us to learn that Hot Springs is one of the VA’s top performing facilities.

This revelation makes the VA’s proposed BHHCS realignment and corresponding reduction in services at Hot Springs all the more concerning. Since the start of the realignment process over five years ago, we have expressed concern about the VA using this process to accomplish a pre-determined outcome, as opposed to conducting an honest and fair assessment to determine the best way to serve veterans in the Black Hills and surrounding areas. The VA’s release of a preferred alternative that drastically cuts veterans services at Hot Springs at the same time that we learn it is one of the VA’s premier medical facilities casts significant doubt upon the integrity of the entire realignment process.

We therefore ask that you provide our offices with specifics as to the role that these previously unreleased quality metrics play in the VA’s realignment decisions. As you continue to overhaul the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) through the MyVA plan, we believe that it is essential to use VA’s top performing facilities as models for others to follow as opposed to targeting them for closure. Now more than ever, the VA needs to leverage its top medical centers for best practices and lessons learned to replicate their performance throughout VHA. This is critical as the VA continues to rebuild trust with veterans following the high profile scandals of recent years. As one of only 14 rated five-star facilities, we feel that significantly reducing services at Hot Springs would be a grave mistake and a disservice to the veterans it serves.

As you consider the final outcome for the Hot Springs campus and the BHHCS, we hope that you keep these considerations in mind. We look forward to working with you to serve our nation’s veterans and we thank you for your timely consideration of this urgent and important matter.

Sincerely,

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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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