Kristi Noem

Kristi Noem

SOUTH DAKOTA

Weekly Column: Classified: Careless

2016/07/15

Some degree of confidential communications has existed in America since George Washington’s time as general in the Revolutionary War.  But as the global landscape became increasingly complex and the stakes of a single information leak rose, the system used to protect that information evolved from a gentlemen’s agreement to a formal national security classification system.

The modern version we operate under today dates back to World War II when – at the urging of Albert Einstein and other scientists – it became necessary to ensure information related to the atomic bomb remained secure.  Just as during World War II, what earns a classification today must remain undisclosed for the continued safety and security of the United States. No exceptions can be made.

In January 2009, just days before assuming the role of Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton set up an unauthorized email server in an unsecured location over which both personal and official emails would be transmitted.  Few in the general public knew of the set up before a House investigation into the terrorist attack in Benghazi, Libya, uncovered it in 2015. 

In the months since, we have learned that tens of thousands of State Department emails were sent through that server, including more than 100 that contained classified information at the time they were sent.  Eight of those email chains included Top Secret information, which under federal rules means the information would cause “exceptionally grave damage to the national security.”

Despite the sensitivity of the information, the email server was left physically and virtually unprotected.  Getting a Gmail account would have been more secure, according to FBI Director James Comey. 

The consequences are real.  Comey explained hostile actors may have gained access to the information.  In fact, the FBI was able to confirm hostile actors did gain access to the private email accounts of individuals Clinton was in regular contact with.

Despite all this, no indictment of Clinton or her staff was made, a decision the FBI says was because Clinton didn’t mean to put our national security at risk with the careless behavior.  Regardless of intentions, carelessly mishandling classified information breaks the public’s trust and jeopardizes our national security and the safety of our troops and diplomats abroad.

With so many serious questions remaining, I am actively fighting to keep America’s classified information – and in turn, the American people – secure.

Following the Democratic National Convention at the end of this month, Clinton is expected to begin receiving classified intelligence briefings.  Without the public’s overt permission in November, this level of access should not be given to someone who has historically acted carelessly with our national security.

Shortly after Comey’s announcement, I joined Homeland Security Chairman Michael McCaul and others in supporting the TRUST Act, which would revoke Clinton’s security clearance as well as the security clearances of her colleagues at the State Department who were also careless in their handling of classified information.  Additionally, the legislation would express Congress’s desire to keep classified information out of Clinton’s hands until she earns the legal right to such access.

I have also reached out directly to Comey with questions about the process he used to make a recommendation against indictment as well as the precedent this decision will set.  It is imperative we have clarity and accountability on this.

I firmly believe there is a great responsibility that comes with access to classified information.  Only those who will treat it with the extreme care it merits should have access.  No one should get an exception to that rule.

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Congress asked to OK land swaps in Spearfish Canyon, near Custer State Park

2016/07/15

South Dakota’s congressional delegation has introduced bills calling for a state-federal land swap that would allow the expansion of Custer State Park and the creation of a state park in Spearfish Canyon.

Gov. Dennis Daugaard announced the Spearfish Canyon state park proposal during his State of the State speech in January. At that time, he said the state would need to acquire some federally-owned land. South Dakota’s congressional delegates introduced legislation toward that end Thursday.

Sen. John Thune introduced a bill in the Senate with co-sponsorship by Sen. Mike Rounds, and Rep. Kristi Noem introduced a companion bill in the House.

Daugaard issued a written statement Thursday thanking all three.

“There are still many steps to take before this vision can become a reality, but I’m hopeful we will get there,” Daugaard’s statement said.

If the swap is approved by Congress and the president, 1,468 acres of federally owned Black Hills National Forest land — including the Timon and Rod and Gun campgrounds — in the Spearfish Canyon area would be transferred to state ownership. Another 524 acres of federally owned land adjacent to Custer State Park, including Bismarck Lake and Camp Bob Marshall, would also be transferred to state ownership. Camp Bob Marshall is leased by the U.S. Forest Service to the Western Dakota 4-H Camp Association for youth camps.

In return, the state would transfer four state-owned parcels totaling 1,954 acres to the federal government.

Those parcels include 640 acres in Lyman County that would become part of the Fort Pierre National Grassland; two 640-acre parcels north of Badlands National Park in Pennington County that would become part of the Buffalo Gap National Grassland; and one 34-acre parcel in the Devils Bathtub area in Lawrence County that was recently donated by the Spearfish Canyon Foundation to the Department of Game, Fish & Parks and would become part of the Black Hills National Forest.

If the legislation proposing the swap becomes law, an appraisal would be ordered for all the affected parcels.

If the federal land is appraised higher than the state land, the state would have to convey additional land to the federal government, or pay additional money to the federal government, or a combination of both.

If the state land is appraised higher than the federal land, portions of the state land could be excluded from the swap to achieve an equal-value exchange.

Since the governor announced the state park proposal in January, the state used money from the Spearfish Canyon Foundation to acquire 73 acres of Spearfish Canyon land, including the site of Spearfish Falls, for $750,000 from Barrick Gold Corp. The pedestrian bridge leading to Spearfish Falls was not included in the purchase, because it was mired in litigation stemming from an easement dispute between Barrick and neighboring private landowners. The state has an option to purchase that additional small tract after the litigation is resolved.

The proposed 1,600-acre Spearfish Canyon state park would also include Roughlock Falls, which already is part of a designated state nature area. The state acquired Roughlock Falls as part of a $2.7 million deal in 2006 that included other land at the mouth of the canyon near Spearfish.

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Noem Statement on Reopening of Rosebud Emergency Department

2016/07/14

Rep. Kristi Noem today issued the following statement in the wake of a Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services announcement that the Rosebud Hospital emergency department would reopen on Friday, July 15, and resume operations 24 hours a day, seven days a week:

“The dangerous conditions within the emergency department and the resulting diversionary status put too many lives in jeopardy. Today is a day of hope, but it is not the end of our work.  So much still needs to be done.  The problems that led to the grave conditions in Rosebud remain.  Expansive reforms, such as giving tribes a role in running IHS facilities and reformulating how purchased-referred care dollars are allocated, must be made if we are going to see the lasting improvements tribal communities deserve.”

In June 2016, Noem introduced the Helping Ensuring Accountability, Leadership, and Trust in Tribal Healthcare (HEALTTH) Act, which among other things:

+ Gives tribes a seat at the table to encourage better, longer-term contracts by allowing for a partnership among IHS, tribal communities and healthcare stakeholders to collaborate throughout the contract negotiating process, rather than leaving those decisions solely to IHS.

+ Addresses the current recruitment problem – for both medical staff and hospital leadership – by putting provisions in place to:

  • Allow for faster hiring.
  • Make the existing student loan repayment program tax free, as an added incentive for high-quality employees.
  • Provide incentives to attract competent and well-trained hospital administrators as well as medical staff.

+ Reforms the Purchased/Referred Care (PRC) Program by, among other things:

  • Requiring IHS to develop a new formula for allocating PRC dollars.  Under Noem’s bill, IHS would be required to develop a formula based on need, population size, and health status to ensure those areas that have the greatest need receive a greater portion of the funding.
  • Requiring IHS to negotiate Medicare-like rates for services it pays for with private providers.  IHS currently pays a premium for PRC services.  Noem’s proposal would bring payments in line with what Medicare pays to stretch every dollar further.
  • Requiring IHS to address the backlog of PRC payments to private providers.  Private hospitals in the Great Plains Area have long expressed concern because IHS has failed to pay their bills.  Noem would require IHS to put a strategy in place to get these hospitals paid what they are due.

+ Restores accountability through strategies, such as:

  • Require IHS to be accountable for providing timely care.
  • Require the Government Accountability Office to report on the financial stability of IHS hospitals that are threatened with sanction from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

The legislation has been endorsed by the Rosebud Sioux Tribe, the National Indian Health Board, Avera, Rapid City Regional Health, Sanford Health, the South Dakota Association of Healthcare Organizations, the South Dakota State Medical Association, the South Dakota Dental Association and others.

For more information, visit www.noem.house.gov/IHS.

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Rosebud IHS emergency room to reopen Friday after 7 months

2016/07/14

A shuttered emergency room at a government-run hospital on South Dakota's Rosebud Indian Reservation is reopening.

The Argus Leader reports Chris Buchanan with the Indian Health Service told tribal officials the facility will reopen Friday. It's been closed since December, in part because IHS struggled to maintain appropriate staffing levels.

Since then, nine people have died and five babies have been delivered in ambulances on their way to other facilities.

Re-opening the department with the help of contracted group AB Staffing Solutions is one of the requirements the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services set for the hospital to maintain its ability to bill to that agency, a key source of funding.

U.S. Rep. Kristi Noem says more work needs to be done to ensure quality tribal health care.

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Federal delegation boosts Spearfish Canyon state park plan

2016/07/14

South Dakota’s congressional delegation is helping with Gov. Dennis Daugaard’s plan for a new state park at Spearfish Canyon.

U.S. Sen. John Thune introduced legislation Thursday that would authorize an exchange of nearly 2,000 acres of federal land in the areas of Spearfish Canyon and Bismarck Lake for almost 2,000 acres of state-owned land in separate parcels.

Sen. Mike Rounds co-sponsored the bill, and Rep. Kristi Noem introduced its companion in the U.S. House.

Game, Fish and Parks would improve facilities and roads under the plan and open a new part of Spearfish Canyon to the public.

Daugaard says there are still many steps to making the park a reality, but he’s hopeful it can be achieved.

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Rosebud emergency department to reopen Friday

2016/07/14

The emergency department at the Rosebud Indian Health Service Hospital will reopen Friday, seven months after it was closed due to reports of poor conditions.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services announced the Rosebud emergency department could resume operations at the hospital that U.S. Rep. Kristi Noem recently called "by far the worst" within the Great Plains Region of the IHS.
Noem, who spoke earlier this week at a legislative hearing to promote the Helping Ensure Accountability, Leadership, and Trust in Tribal Healthcare (HEALTTH) Act, issued a statement Thursday in response to the reopening of the hospital's emergency department.

"The dangerous conditions within the emergency department and the resulting diversionary status put too many lives in jeopardy," Noem said. "Today is a day of hope, but it is not the end our work."

At Tuesday's hearing, Noem said five babies were born in ambulances and nine people died in transit while being diverted away from the Rosebud Hospital due to the closure of the emergency room.

Both Noem and U.S. Sen. John Thune have visited the Rosebud facility since the emergency room closure in December, and both have proposed legislation to address the lack of accountability and quality health care within the IHS' Great Plains region.

Noem's legislation would encourage tribal leaders to administer hospitals and promote worker retention by making the existing student loan repayment program for employees tax free.

U.S. Sen. Mike Rounds, who requested an audit of the financial mismanagement within the IHS earlier this month, said the reopening of the Rosebud emergency services department is a step in a positive direction, but maintained the need to audit the agency.

"The problems within the bureaucracy of IHS, along with the lack of adequate consultation with tribes, are ongoing," Rounds said in a statement released Thursday. "I still believe that an outside audit is the best first step toward making significant, systemic changes at IHS."

And Noem agreed that more work needs to be done to improve health care conditions in Rosebud.

"The problems that led to the grave conditions in Rosebud remain," Noem said. "Expansive reforms, such as giving tribes a role in running IHS facilities and reformulating how purchased-referred care dollars are allocated, must be made if we are going to see the lasting improvements tribal communities deserve."

While Noem has recently promoted more accountability to provide quality health services within the IHS, her Democratic opponent for the state's at-large seat in the House of Representatives questioned Noem's commitment to improving the IHS during her tenure in office.

State Rep. Paula Hawks, who will appear beside Noem on the ballot in November, applauded Noem's efforts earlier this week, but noted that the issues within the Great Plains region of the IHS "didn't begin overnight" and will not be solved with a single piece of legislation.

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Delegation Introduces Legislation to Enhance State's Outdoor Opportunities

2016/07/14

U.S. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) today introduced legislation cosponsored by Sen. Mike Rounds (R-S.D.) that would facilitate a federal-state land exchange that includes nearly 2,000 acres of federally owned land in the Spearfish Canyon and Bismarck Lake areas and nearly 2,000 acres of land in four separate state-owned parcels. U.S. Rep. Kristi Noem (R-S.D.) introduced a companion bill in the House of Representatives. The delegation introduced its respective bills in response to a request from Gov. Dennis Daugaard (R-S.D.).

“The state of South Dakota has proven time and again that it can preserve and protect South Dakota’s natural resources while providing unparalleled outdoor experiences that attract people from across the state and nation,” said Thune. “I’m confident this track record will lend itself to creating similar opportunities in the Spearfish Canyon and Bismarck Lake areas once this land exchange is completed.”

“Tourists come from all over the world to catch a glimpse of our unique landscape and natural resources,” said Rounds. “This exchange will allow the state to manage more land near two popular tourist sites in the Black Hills—Custer State Park and Roughlock Falls, located near the Spearfish Canyon Lodge. I thank Sen. Thune and Rep. Noem for their work on this legislation, and I look forward to continuing to work with them and the state of South Dakota to see this transfer through.”

“Like so many families in South Dakota and across the nation, ours is enamored with Spearfish Canyon,” said Noem. “In the busy chaos of life, you can find peace and serenity there that is unmatched. South Dakota has shown over and over again that we can provide access to sites like this while preserving them for our children and grandchildren to enjoy as well. I’m proud to work with Senators Thune and Rounds to bring this state treasure under local control.”

The land exchange would include 1,468 federally owned acres in the Spearfish Canyon area and 524 federally owned acres in the Bismarck Lake area, which includes Camp Bob Marshall, land leased by the U.S. Forest Service to the Western Dakota 4-H Camp Association for youth camps. The state-owned portion of the exchange includes approximately 1,954 acres of land in separate parcels.

Click here for text of the Senate version and here for text of the House version.

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Noem, Colleagues Support Investments in IHS, Wildfire Prevention; Stop WOTUS, DC Booth Closure

2016/07/14

Rep. Kristi Noem today joined the U.S. House of Representatives in passing new investments into the Indian Health Service (IHS) and wildfire prevention efforts, while also preventing the DC Booth Fish Hatchery from closing and stopping the EPA from completing its controversial Waters of the U.S. (WOTUS) rule.  Despite increased support for many South Dakota priorities, the legislation reduced overall spending $64 million below FY2016 levels and $1 billion below the President’s budget request.

“While not perfect, this legislation moves us closer to a model that does more good with fewer dollars,” said Noem.  “The EPA’s bloated budget and overreaching regulatory policies have made it more difficult for many in South Dakota.  I’m proud to have made significant cuts to EPA funding and reduced spending overall, while also offering needed support for IHS, wildfire prevention, the PILT program and other critical South Dakota priorities.”

The FY2017 Interior and Environment appropriations bill includes:

  • 5% increase in support for the IHS, bringing funding to $5.1 billion for FY2017 of which $6 million has been specifically targeted to IHS facilities facing accreditation emergencies, like those in Rosebud and Pine Ridge
  • Fully funds wildland firefighting and prevention programs, dedicating more than half of the U.S. Forest Service budget to fire prevention and suppression
  • Prevents the DC Booth Fish Hatchery from closure in FY2017
  • Fully funds Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILT), which helps states like South Dakota that have large areas of federal lands fix roads, hire teachers, pay police officers and provide other vital services
  • Prohibits the EPA from completing the WOTUS rule, which could expand the agency’s regulatory jurisdiction over small ditches, prairie potholes, and even seasonally wet areas
  • Reduces funding for the EPA’s regulatory programs by 6% and brings EPA staffing to lowest point since 1989
  • Directs agencies to collaborate to finish needed upgrades to the Mni Wiconi Rural Water Project
  • Prevents the Fish and Wildlife Service from placing the sage grouse on the Endangered Species List
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IHS leader testifies again before Congress

2016/07/12

Members of Congress on Tuesday questioned the longstanding staffing and management shortcomings that have led to poor health care services at government-run facilities caring for Native Americans across the country.

The hearing in Washington of the House subcommittee on Indian, Insular and Alaska Native Affairs focused on proposed legislation that would expand the authority of the Indian Health Service to remove or demote employees and would also allow it to offer incentives to recruit well-trained administrators and health care providers. This was the second time in less than a month that the IHS’ top leader, principal deputy director Mary Smith, tribal leaders and health care advocates testified before members of Congress regarding proposed measures to overhaul the embattled agency.

"We are here because of a crisis," said U.S. Rep. Kristi Noem, a Republican from South Dakota who is sponsoring the legislation. "The Indian Health Service is beyond broken, and fixing it is literally a matter of life and death."

Noem’s bill and another proposal introduced in the U.S. Senate come after health inspectors over the past 14 months have uncovered serious quality-of-care deficiencies at hospitals run by the IHS in South Dakota and Nebraska. Smith said the agency faces "severe operational and staffing challenges."

"We welcome this attention and momentum that it creates for lasting quality improvements for these facilities because we are on the front lines of medical care in some of the most remote parts of our country," Smith said.

The agency’s longstanding inability to hire and retain well-qualified administrators and management is due in part to the remote location of many of its hospitals, housing shortages in those areas and lack of competitive pay. At the same time, tribal leaders for years have complained about the agency’s decision to keep in its staff mediocre providers and ineffective managers.

At the clinician level, for example, the hospital in South Dakota’s Rosebud Indian Reservation had to stop offering surgical and obstetrics services last month after a staff member died. Its emergency room closed seven months ago in part because the agency struggled to maintain appropriate staffing levels. Since then, nine people have died and five babies have been delivered in ambulances on their way to other facilities.

Meanwhile, the management challenges were exemplified during the hearing using the case of a physician whose recent appointment as acting chief medical officer for the Great Plains region came weeks after she publicly apologized for comments made regarding the birth of two babies in the bathroom of that hospital.

"That official clearly has disdain for our people and should work elsewhere," said William Bear Shield, chairman of the Rosebud Sioux Tribal Health Board.

Noem’s bill specifically provides guidelines to remove or demote employees for poor performance or misconduct; forces the agency to implement mandatory cultural competency training for health providers; and offers relocation reimbursements for certain employees who move to work at facilities that are "located in a rural area or medically underserved area."

The dire problems at IHS-run facilities began to surface in May 2015 with a report from inspectors from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services who toured a facility on Nebraska’s Winnebago Reservation. Following inspections of facilities in South Dakota’s Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, Rapid City and Rosebud uncovered similar quality-of-care deficiencies.

Victoria Kitcheyan, tribal treasurer of the Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska, pleaded to Congress on Tuesday to continue to work on the issue even if the legislation becomes law.

"It’s going to take a team effort, additional resources, consistent congressional oversight. And furthermore we have 10,000 people back at home who need their hope restored. ... Until those systematic changes are made within the IHS system, Winnebago hospital will continue to be the only place where you can legally kill an Indian."

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Noem’s IHS Bill Working Way Through Congress

2016/07/12

Congressional testimony on Representative Kristi Noem’s Indian Health Service bill wrapped up Tuesday.

Noem’s bill aims to create tribal led boards that control IHS hospitals. Noem says the boards will improve retention, reduce wait times and update the service’s funding formula.

Congresswoman Kristi Noem says her bill seeks to change the culture within the Indian Health Service. Noem says the IHS must retain quality employees, but she says agency personnel also need to be held accountable.

However, the head of IHS, Mary Smith, testified before the House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Indian, Insular, and Alaska Native Affairs that it’s hard to fill positions.

“We have very serious recruitment and retention problems,” Smith says. “We have lots of vacancies. And, I can tell you that personally, I am committed to quality healthcare in the Great Plains. I spend a lot of time working on that. I know we don’t move as fast as people would like.”

Smith has been the head of IHS for three months.  

Representative Noem says her bill opens the door for tribal self-governance of healthcare.  But, she says Great Plains tribes aren’t quite able to pull that off yet.

The tribal members who testified at the hearing say they support Noem’s legislation.  But some critics say the IHS needs more funding overall.

Noem says Congress is in recess in August and says there’s an urgent need to pass the legislation.

“Truly, this is a crisis situation," Noem says. "So, I’m in conversations with the chairman of the committee and also the majority leader to see about the possibility of getting it across the house floor before this congress concludes at the end of December. So, we’re pushing hard because these reforms are needed, certainly, and this bill is a comprehensive pilot program that would completely reform the way that IHS does business and delivers healthcare in the Great Plains region.”
 
Noem says tribal testimony piqued the interest of the house subcommittee chairman to move her bill quickly.

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Noem pushes forward on IHS accountability bill

2016/07/12

Rep. Kristi Noem hopes a piece of proposed legislation will serve as the first step to getting the federally operated Indian Health Service out of the hospital industry.

"As I've said before, I believe IHS should get out of the hospital business," Noem said at a legislative hearing in Washington, D.C. on Tuesday. "And my bill takes us in a step in that direction under this pilot program."

Noem spoke before the Subcommittee on Indian, Insular and Alaska Native Affairs along with representatives of the IHS, tribal boards and other organizations in reference to the Helping Ensure Accountability, Leadership, and Trust in Tribal Healthcare (HEALTTH) Act, which would address funding, accountability and employee recruitment and retention within the Great Plains region of the IHS.

During the hearing, Noem spoke of deficient care in South Dakota's IHS hospitals where providers were offering care with expired licenses, surgical implements were being washed by hand and opioids were being stolen. Noem also highlighted the conditions at the Rosebud IHS Hospital, where she said the "situation is by far the worst."

In December, the Rosebud hospital was forced to divert patients away from its emergency room due to poor reports from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), causing emergency patients to be transported approximately 50 miles away to receive care.

"In the seven months that the ER has been closed, five babies have been born in ambulances and nine people have died in transit to these other hospitals," Noem said. "So literally we're talking life and death."

Under Noem's proposal, tribal leaders would administer hospitals rather than the IHS, the agency which has failed to make effective change since deficiencies were pointed out in 2010. The proposal, which has support from tribal members including Rosebud Sioux Tribal Health board member William Bear Shield, would be the first step in guiding the tribes toward self-governance in health care.

For now, the Rosebud emergency room remains closed and Noem said she and the Rosebud Sioux Tribe have received no indication to when it will be opened again. But Noem said CMS was conducting an on-site survey on Tuesday.

Noem said she's been told for weeks that Rosebud's emergency department could open soon, and she spoke of the need to get the facility open as soon as possible.

"Every day that emergency department is closed down and services are diverted, their people are dying," Noem said. "And IHS doesn't recognize the emergency situation we have on our hands."

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Tribal Members Weigh in on Noem's IHS Reforms during Critical Committee Hearing

2016/07/12

Rep. Kristi Noem’s Helping Ensuring Accountability, Leadership, and Trust in Tribal Healthcare (HEALTTH) Act was debated today before the House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Indian, Insular, and Alaska Native Affairs.  The hearing brought tribal members and organizations as well as IHS leadership before the Subcommittee to discuss Noem’s proposed Indian Health Service (IHS) reforms.

“The Indian Health Service is beyond broken and fixing it is literally a matter of life and death,” said Noem.  “The HEALTTH Act reforms an agency in desperate need of change by giving tribes a seat at the table, addressing recruitment and retention problems, and ensuring we can get more services out of every dollar, among many other things. All in all, it takes a step toward getting IHS out of the hospital business, which is ultimately what tribal communities want and deserve.”

WATCH NOEM’S OPENING STATEMENT

“Adequate healthcare is one of the most important issues to American Indian and Alaska Natives; however the system is deficient, inadequate, and is simply failing areas of the country that need help the most,” said Chairman of the House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Indian, Insular, and Alaska Native Affairs Don Young.  “H.R. 5406, the HEALTTH Act, is intended to make reforms to the Indian Health Service to help their broken direct care system. It is a step in the right direction for Indian Country.”

Today’s hearing served as a necessary next step in moving the HEALTTH Act forward.  Leaders from the Rosebud Sioux Tribal Health Board, Great Plains Tribal Chairmen’s Health Board, and National Indian Health Board, among others, were able to weigh in on the legislation. IHS Principal Deputy Director Mary Smith was also questioned by the Members of Congress.  A video of the hearing in full and copies of the written testimonies are available here.

Introduced in June 2016, Noem’s legislation:

+ Gives tribes a seat at the table to encourage better, longer-term contracts by allowing for a partnership among IHS, tribal communities and healthcare stakeholders to collaborate throughout the contract negotiating process, rather than leaving those decisions solely to IHS.

+ Addresses the current recruitment problem – for both medical staff and hospital leadership – by putting provisions in place to:

  • Allow for faster hiring.
  • Make the existing student loan repayment program tax free, as an added incentive for high-quality employees.
  • Provide incentives to attract competent and well-trained hospital administrators as well as medical staff.

+ Reforms the Purchased/Referred Care (PRC) Program by, among other things:

  • Requiring IHS to develop a new formula for allocating PRC dollars.  Under Noem’s bill, IHS would be required to develop a formula based on need, population size, and health status to ensure those areas that have the greatest need receive a greater portion of the funding.
  • Requiring IHS to negotiate Medicare-like rates for services it pays for with private providers.  IHS currently pays a premium for PRC services.  Noem’s proposal would bring payments in line with what Medicare pays to stretch every dollar further.
  • Requiring IHS to address the backlog of PRC payments to private providers.  Private hospitals in the Great Plains Area have long expressed concern because IHS has failed to pay their bills.  Noem would require IHS to put a strategy in place to get these hospitals paid what they are due.

+ Restores accountability through strategies, such as:

  • Require IHS to be accountable for providing timely care.
  • Require the Government Accountability Office to report on the financial stability of IHS hospitals that are threatened with sanction from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

The legislation has been endorsed by the Rosebud Sioux Tribe, the National Indian Health Board, Avera, Rapid City Regional Health, Sanford Health, the South Dakota Association of Healthcare Organizations, the South Dakota State Medical Association, the South Dakota Dental Association and others.

For more information, visit www.noem.house.gov/IHS.

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Weekly Column: Breaking Barriers to Mental Healthcare

2016/07/08

You often times don’t have to look far to find a family that’s been failed by our broken mental healthcare system – and with nearly 30,000 adults and about 9,000 children living with serious mental health conditions in South Dakota, it’s a challenge I’d guess most families can, to some degree, relate to.

As many know, our healthcare system isn’t adequately prepared to help those who face mental illness – especially chronic or severe mental illnesses. As a result, many are falling through the cracks, landing in a jail cell, homeless shelter, or worse, instead of a hospital bed. 

The reasons for this are numerous. Some can’t afford the costs.  Others can’t find or easily get to a facility for help.  Others are fearful of what their friends or family may think.  In broadly bipartisan legislation passed by the House of Representatives earlier this month, we have worked to mitigate as many of these barriers as possible.

To date, the federal government’s approach to mental health has been a patchwork of outdated programs and ineffective policies that span across numerous federal agencies at the cost of about $130 billion annually.  At its core, the Helping Families with Mental Health Crisis Act, which I cosponsored, looks to streamline the system and refocus our efforts on providing efficient and effective care.

More specifically, this legislation breaks down barriers for families to work with healthcare providers, helping ensure they can be meaningful partners in caring for those with serious mental illnesses.  We also made advances in tele-psychiatry to better reach underserved and rural communities, and we offered more tools for suicide prevention.  Other provisions were included to fix the shortage of crisis mental health beds, improve the transition from one level of care to another, and even offer alternatives to institutionalization for those with serious mental illnesses.

I also worked closely with the bill’s author, psychologist and Pennsylvania Representative Tim Murphy, on several provisions aimed at helping tribal communities – even bringing him to South Dakota to meet with folks in Pine Ridge who are fighting a devastating suicide epidemic.  Because of our work, new provisions were included to help support and prioritize Native American suicide programs.

Today’s mental healthcare system is inefficient at best; at worst, it’s unable to intervene and seclude an individual who could cause harm to themselves or others.  Changes need to be made and made urgently.  This legislation offers the most significant reforms to our nation’s mental healthcare system that we’ve seen in decades.  It’s thoughtful, thorough and bipartisan, so I’m hopeful we can see it become law soon.

One more thing: if you or someone you love is facing a mental health crisis, I encourage you to call the National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).  This is a free and confidential, 24-hour-a-day, 365-day-a-year information service.  They can provide referrals to local treatment facilities, support groups, and community-based organizations.  Please don’t wait to find help.

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House Passes Sweeping Mental Health Reforms Cosponsored by Noem

2016/07/06

Tribal suicide programs prioritized after collaboration with Noem... Read More

Noem: 'Serious questions' remain regarding Clinton's email controversy

2016/07/06

Three of South Dakota's Republican lawmakers remain unsatisfied with Hillary Clinton's use of a private email address and server during her tenure as secretary of state.

On Tuesday, FBI Director James B. Comey recommended Clinton face no criminal charges for her handling of classified information while serving in the U.S. Cabinet, but Rep. Kristi Noem still questions Clinton's decision-making.

"Carelessly mishandling classified information not only breaks the public's trust, but jeopardizes our national security and the safety of our troops and diplomats abroad," said Noem, South Dakota's sole member of the House of Representatives. "With so many serious questions remaining after the FBI's announcement, the House is actively working to uncover each answer as quickly and thoroughly as possible."

While Comey did not recommend criminal charges for the use of private accounts to receive classified information, Sen. Mike Rounds highlighted Comey's classification Clinton's actions as "extremely careless." But Rounds wasn't surprised that the FBI, under the administration of President Barack Obama, did not recommend an indictment of the presumptive Democratic nominee for president.

Rounds also noted that Clinton's use of a private email server indicates she did "not tell the truth to the American people."

"We fully expect that all of the individuals responsible for these breaches of national security will have their security clearances revoked," Rounds said Wednesday.

Sen. John Thune echoed similar concerns in a post on his Twitter account Tuesday.

"Bottom line: FBI found that Hillary Clinton was not honest with the American people," reads Thune's Twitter post. "Her carelessness jeopardized our national security."

The South Dakota delegation's comments line up with those of Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wisconsin, who indicated his party will hold hearings to learn more about Comey's recommendation in a Tuesday night speech. Ryan described Clinton's actions as "grossly negligent" and said Clinton "clearly lives above the law."

Comey will testify on the matter of Clinton's email usage Thursday on Capitol Hill.

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House Members Bill to Deal with Wetland Determination Backlog

2016/07/05

Representatives Kristi Noem, Collin Peterson and Kevin Cramer have introduced the Wetland Determinations Efficiency and Transparency Act. South Dakota Soybean Association President Jerry Schmitz says the measure aims to address the backlog of wetland determinations.

He says the bill will also enact permanent reforms that make the wetland determination process more efficient, accountable and transparent. Plus, it contains an appeals process for growers.

Schmitz says the legislation will provide better protection of the soil for all interests.

The South Dakota Corn Growers and Farm Bureau also support the legislation.

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South Dakota Army National Guard Soldiers return home from Kuwait

2016/07/02

159 soldiers of the South Dakota Army National Guard's 155th Engineer Company are back home after being deployed to Kuwait in August last year. 
All the soldiers deployed made it back home to their families on Saturday.
Some even meeting their children for the very first time.

Company Commander David Dodson says, "We bring a unique skill set being vertical engineers, most folks that go into the army don't have the skill sets for carpentry, electricians, plumbers, and not only do we bring that skill set from the National Guard in the reserves, but also from the civilian skills that a lot of these soldiers have that they work everyday on it, they're experts in their field and they bring that to the army, so that we can support things that need to be done to keep the war going."

The 155th was deployed to Kuwait about 10 months ago, with a mission to improve infrastructure in the U.S. Army Central area of operations.
But Saturday was a different mission: reuniting with loved ones.
The bus arrives, the screaming, the tears, the hugs, all a part of the long awaited journey to welcome these soldiers home.
For the Sanderson's, Saturday was extra special, as Sgt. Adam Sanderson met his nine month old son for the first time.

Sgt. Adam Sanderson says, "It's pretty surreal, this is my second deployment, first one with children though, this is the first time I've met him, I didn't take leave, he was born about 11 days after I got there, so this is our first time meeting, besides FaceTime, so pretty surreal."

And speaking of FaceTime, the Sanderson's are glad that technology has come a long way.

Sanderson says, "Compared to the first deployment, you know, phones have been a lot more accessible on deployments, FaceTime, internet connection, everything like that has made life a lot easier, you know, getting to see him and him seeing me, I think makes life a little bit easier, trying to understand who people are and what not."

And for Sgt. Austin Schroder and his wife Brittany, they agree, saying although it's hard to be apart, technology makes it just a little bit easier.

Brittany & Sgt. Austin Schroeder say, "I mean we were lucky because back then you couldn't FaceTime and we could FaceTime the entire time. In the beginning it was super hard, but you get your routine and figure things out, but, yeah, I think you kind of find out where your strong parts are and I help out where I can, you know, over the phone, I mean, that was the hardest part for me was not being able to help firsthand and just trying to talk her through it and you know, sometimes you have to call and settle them down and situations aren't that serious and she handled it like a champ."

The Schroeder's were supposed to get married in September of last year but bumped it up because of the deployment so they decided to tie the knot in March of 2015 instead and have two children at home excited to see dad.
Gov. Dennis Daugaard, U.S. Senator John Thune, U.S. Representative Kristi Noem and Rapid City Mayor Steve Allender all spoke at the soldiers' welcome home ceremony Saturday afternoon.

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Weekly Column: A Blueprint for Tax Reform

2016/07/01

Before the iPhone, the near-universal ownership of a personal computer, and the fall of the Berlin Wall, the United States passed a new, 26,000-page tax code.  In the 30 years since, very few reforms have been made to modernize that tax code – only loopholes added that have nearly tripled its size.  No wonder 9 out of 10 taxpayers use either a professional tax preparer or computer software to file their taxes.

The call for comprehensive tax reform has been made for years and it’s frustrating that it seems as though little has been done.  That was one of the reasons I pushed so hard to join the House Ways and Means Committee this Congress.  Out of the House of Representatives’ 435 members, what happens to our tax code starts with the 24 majority members of the Ways and Means Committee.  That is where I needed to be, so I was grateful to be named to the committee this year – the first South Dakota Representative in history to do so.

Earlier this summer, the committee released our blueprint for pro-growth tax reform.  Simply put, it is designed to grow families’ paychecks, the workforce, and the American economy.  More specifically, the proposal centers around three ideas.  First, the tax code should be simpler, fairer, and flatter.  Second, it should make it easier to create jobs, raise wages, and expand opportunity.  Finally, it should put taxpayers first.

This blueprint is all about simplicity.  In fact, we tried to make it simple enough that most Americans could do their taxes on a postcard.  That meant reducing the amount of tax brackets from seven to three.  We then went through and eliminated many of the most damaging add-on taxes, such as the death tax. Finally, we made sure important “milestone” tax breaks remained to help give families peace of mind at critical moments in life, such as going to school, getting a job, raising a family, or planning for retirement.

To make it easier to create jobs and raise wages, the proposal offers to cut taxes on small businesses, creating a separate, low tax rate of 25 percent for many on Main Street. Because U.S. businesses currently have to pay the highest corporate tax rate in the world, it also lowers the corporate tax rate to make America a more competitive place to do business.

Ensuring taxpayers come first meant we needed to tackle some pretty serious issues within the IRS – an agency that in recent years has allowed millions of taxpayer calls to go unanswered, targeted conservative organizations, and failed to operate in an ethical manner time and again.  This blueprint outlines a restructured IRS that is held accountable to the Taxpayer Bill of Rights and set up to provide excellence in customer service.  It would also install a new, term-limited commissioner who would be required to administer the new tax code fairly while keeping politics out of the IRS.

This blueprint is just the beginning of the conversation. It isn’t perfect or set in stone, but we’ve taken the initiative to draw the outline; now, it’s time to color in the picture.  While we included the ideas that so many taxpayers have talked about and urged for years, we’ll continue looking for feedback and insight.  The goal is to turn this plan into detailed, comprehensive legislation that can be moved when a new administration takes office in 2017.

If a family or business did things like they did in the 80’s, they’d still be relying on a fax machine.  The world doesn’t work like that anymore and neither should our tax code.

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Kristi Noem Tackling ‘Third World’ Conditions at IHS Facilities

2016/06/30

Rep. Kristi Noem is South Dakota’s at-large representative in the U.S. House. In early June, she took on the Indian Health Service, introducing two major pieces of legislation, and more could be in the wings. She talked with ICTMN about her work on behalf of tribes in her state. Interview edited for clarity and length.

You introduced the HEALTHH Act on June 8, calling for major changes to the way IHS operates. Senate Committee on Indian Affairs Chairman John Barrasso, R-Wyo., introduced similar legislation, the IHS Accountability Act of 2016, in May. What are some of the differences between your bill and the Senate bill?

One of the things in my legislation that isn’t touched on in the Senate bill is requiring IHS to develop a new formula for allocating PRC (purchased/referred care) dollars. Every year about June IHS runs out of PRC money. Then they tell people they can’t treat them unless it’s a life-threatening situation. We would require IHS to develop a new formula that would take into account those areas or tribes that have the greatest need for the dollars. Getting that new formula would ensure that we get more money to those regions that really do need the help.

And my bill would also change rates at which those dollars go out the door. It would require IHS to negotiate Medicare-like rates for services from private providers. IHS currently pays a premium for those services, so those dollars spend faster. An April 2013 GAO report found that IHS could have saved an estimated $32 million out of $62 million that was spent on physician services, so reduced rates would stretch their dollars, which would get us much further into the year.

When you say a new formula would get money to the tribes that need it most, isn’t the need extreme everywhere?

No. In fact there are many tribes in the nation that provide their own healthcare. They find that they get much better healthcare or healthcare coverage if they insure their own people. Not every tribe in the country utilizes IHS dollars or utilizes them to the extent we do.  Unfortunately, because our tribes in South Dakota are in such remote areas where there’s a lack of access to care they rely heavily on IHS facilities. That’s really their only option.

When you spoke at the SCIA hearing oversight/legislative field hearingon “Improving Accountability and Quality of Care at the Indian Health Service though S. 2953” held in Rapid City, S.D. on June 17, you said IHS should get out of the hospital business. What would the alternative be?

The alternative is that we would contract with private providers to run those hospitals. That is essentially what the tribes want to do. They would prefer to have local providers like Rapid City Regional or Sanford Health or Avera Health do a long-term contract with those facilities to run them.

My legislation starts us down that path. Eventually what the tribes would like to do is stand on their own two feet. They would love to be able to [take control of their hospitals] and run them themselves [using federal dollars] when they get the ability to do that. But in the meantime what my legislation does is allow there to be longer-term contracts with local providers.

Rep. Kristi Noem was honored to receive a Star Quilt from the Oglala Sioux Tribe. On the left is Donna Salomon, Legislative Liaison to the Tribal President, and Kevin Steele, Public Relations Specialist. (Courtesy Office of Rep. Kristi Noem)
Rep. Kristi Noem was honored to receive a Star Quilt from the Oglala Sioux Tribe. On the left is Donna Salomon, Legislative Liaison to the Tribal President, and Kevin Steele, Public Relations Specialist. (Courtesy Office of Rep. Kristi Noem)

How would longer-term contracts be helpful?

Right now the biggest problem we have with IHS and how they do their contracting is that they contract with a staffing service for a year or two so we have a constant flux of doctors and nurses and there’s no consistency. And then it’s not even people invested in the community. If you’re contracting with a local provider they are people from South Dakota, they’re licensed in South Dakota and they want to be successful here.

Regarding the IHS mandatory random drug testing legislation you introduced on June 9—it seems a bold move. Can you tell me what led to that?

It was because of complaints I heard from tribal members and other people involved with these facilities. There have been repeated instances of medical staff coming to work intoxicated or stealing narcotic medicine. What this [bill] would do is make those who work with patients subject to randomized drug testing. Mary Wakefield [Health and Human Services Acting Deputy Director] has told me they are implementing something like this—where the supervisor suspects drug use they can have [personnel] tested. My bill goes a little further in saying therewillbe mandatory random drug tests of anyone who is responsible for delivering care to patients.

And this would include doctors?

Yes, definitely.

Overall, what do you think are the factors that underlie IHS’s failures in Indian country?

It has been decades of mismanagement. I think it’s a culture within the administration of IHS that needs to be changed, but whenever you push hard and start trying to hold people accountable, IHS moves them to a different position. They don’t fire folks, they just move them around and it gets even harder to get the answers you need. The culture within IHS is probably the most toxic I’ve seen in any federal agency recently.

Could you elaborate on “toxic”?

The discouragement among people who work for IHS, the discouragement and lack of communication with tribal leaders, not knowing where the money really goes once it flows into the Great Plains region. There is a lot of doubt and questions about what’s happening to those dollars.

You have facilities where people are hand-washing surgical instruments and doctors are intoxicated when they’re working with patients and you have the theft of narcotics. This would never be acceptable in a private hospital in the United States. To allow this Third World country type of delivery of health care is unacceptable.

The fact that CMS [Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services] came in and waved a red flag is how we became aware of how bad the situation really is. If it was up to IHS they would never have disclosed the real life situation. My staff has talked with a lot of people and they’re scared to be a whistleblower because they feel as though they’ll lose their jobs or be demoted if they really share what the situation is in these facilities.

You’ve been in Congress for just 5 years. Why did you take on this issue, instead of someone from, say, Oklahoma or Arizona or New Mexico?

My tribes have told me for several years that they have been getting poor care. So we’ve been working with them on separate issues. I did not realize until this came up in the last 8 to 10 months how bad it was. This is an issue of life and death. I’ll do anything to fix this situation. I just need my tribes working with me and supporting me as I go to war with IHS over this situation.

When you say “my tribes” you are referring to South Dakota tribes?

Yes, my South Dakota tribes are my number one priority. I’m concerned about the whole system, but there is agreement in Washington, D.C., that the Great Plains region is by far the worst situation. This region is in crisis right now.

Rep. Kristi Noem meets with tribal members in Rosebud to discuss the IHS crisis. (Courtesy Office of Rep. Kristi Noem)
Rep. Kristi Noem meets with tribal members in Rosebud to discuss the IHS crisis. (Courtesy Office of Rep. Kristi Noem)

What do think will be the outcome of your efforts in working with Sen. Barrasso?

It’s our hope that we can end up getting elements of both bills into a comprehensive piece of legislation that can be signed into law. We’ve had conversations and by them allowing me to be a part of their Senate Indian Affairs Committee last week it certainly gave us an opportunity to talk about both pieces of legislation and what the different elements are.

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Noem, Cramer, Peterson Introduce Legislation to Address Wetland Determination Backlog

2016/06/28

Representatives Kristi Noem (R-SD), Kevin Cramer (R-ND), and Collin Peterson (D-MN) today introduced the bipartisan Wetland Determinations Efficiency and Transparency Act.  This legislation aims to address the backlog of wetland determinations and enact permanent reforms that make the determination process more efficient, accountable, and transparent. 

“Part of promoting sustainable conservation practices is ensuring programs and processes work for the producers who use them,” said Rep. Noem.  “Waiting years before knowing whether a person can improve their land without jeopardizing a wetland or their participation in farm programs is an unacceptable and costly delay.  Together with Reps. Cramer and Peterson, we are offering real reforms that can help eliminate the backlog and ensure timely and accurate determinations are made from here on out.”

"Not since the 1990s has there been serious discussion about Swampbuster, at least not with landowner and producers' best interests in mind,” said Rep. Cramer. “From streamlining wetland certifications to due process reform, this bill is a package of common-sense improvements which will benefit not only landowners and producers, but also the environment.  With the next Farm Bill on the near horizon, I look forward to working with Kristi and Collin, and engaging with our stakeholders, to help make these reforms reality." 

“This bill starts the conversation about how we can help address the wetland determination backlog facing producers in our region,” said Rep. Peterson.  “I will continue to work with my colleagues to give producers the tools they need to make improvements on their land which can increase yields, reduce the risk of flooding, and improve water quality, as well as make it easier to stay in compliance with conservation rules.”

The Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is responsible for determining whether land qualifies as a wetland, and therefore, is protected for conservation purposes according to so-called “Swampbuster” rules.  If property is determined to be a wetland, certain changes – such as laying drain tile in a field – are not allowed without a landowner losing the ability to participate in federal farm bill programs and crop insurance.  In recent years, producers have faced a significant backlog in wetland determination.  As of June 1, 2016, 3,086 requests were outstanding in the Prairie Pothole Region – 1,374 of which were made in South Dakota, 757 in North Dakota, and 325 in Minnesota.

“Many Farmers in South Dakota are experiencing challenges in receiving timely and accurate wetland determinations from the NRCS. We’ve been calling for increased transparency, timely determinations including a fair and efficient appeals process for many years,” said Jerry Schmitz, farmer from Vermillion and President of the South Dakota Soybean Association. “We want to thank Representatives Noem, Cramer, and Peterson for their leadership on this critical issue, and for their strong support of farmers across the U.S. This legislation will make a real difference in the lives of thousands of farmers within our state.”

“Several years of waiting to get optimal production out of a piece of property can have serious financial consequences for a producer,” said Scott VanderWal, President of the South Dakota Farm Bureau.  “A more timely and transparent process will help landowners better understand if the use of water management practices to enhance the soil for crop production is available to them.  We’re grateful to Representatives Noem, Cramer, and Peterson for offering a solution that makes the determinations process more efficient and accountable.”

“We are grateful to have someone like Representative Noem and her colleagues recognize how crucially important it is to make the wetland determination process easier for producers,” said Doug Sombke, President of South Dakota Farmers Union.  “While the backlog has decreased this year, it gives us a critical opportunity to move reforms forward before requests spike again.”

“The South Dakota Corn Growers have supported farmers using the best stewardship practices available,” said Keith Alverson, President South Dakota Corn Growers Association.  “It is important that farmers have answers to these wetland determinations and congresswoman Noem’s legislation helps address those issues.  We appreciate her efforts on this.”

More specifically, the Noem-Cramer-Peterson legislation would:

  • Ensure timely determinations.  The USDA would be given 60 days to make wetland determinations, after which producers would be protected from penalties during a transition period to come back into compliance.
  • Make the appeals process more efficient.  If a producer believes a determination is incorrect, they would be given the option of either going through the administrative appeals process or appealing directly to the federal district court.
  • Allow third parties to be better used as a resource to shrink backlog and ensure timely determinations.  The USDA would be able to utilize approved third-party data and technical assistance when making a final certification, leveraging outside expertise without a cost to taxpayers.
  • Improve transparency.  Clarifies in law the NRCS’s responsibility to share any and all information used for the determination with producers.  Additionally, the legislation puts the burden of proof to the federal government, rather than the producer.
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Rosebud ER Set to Reopen (KSFY)

2016-07-15 15:30:36


Delegation Introduces Legislation to Enhance State’s Outdoor Opportunities (KOTA)

2016-07-15 15:30:36


Noem's IHS Reforms Discussed at Congressional Hearing (KELOLAND)

2016-07-15 15:30:36


Noem's IHS Reforms Discussed at Congressional Hearing (KEVN)

2016-07-15 15:30:36


Noem Testifies on HEALTTH Act

2016-07-12 19:26:42


Noem Announces Hearing on IHS Reform Bill & Passage of Mental Health Provisions (KNBN)

2016-07-08 17:01:03


Noem Announces Hearing on IHS Reform Bill & Passage of Mental Health Provisions (KEVN)

2016-07-08 17:01:00


Noem Tours Strider Bikes (KEVN)

2016-06-28 15:08:30


Noem Visits Pine Ridge IHS Hospital (KEVN)

2016-06-28 15:09:17


Noem Tours Strider Bikes (KNBN)

2016-06-28 15:08:21


Noem Delivers Remarks at Indian Affairs Committee Hearing on Tribal Health Crisis

2016-06-17 21:48:00


Noem Participates in Listening Session on Regional Conservation Partnership Program (Ag Week TV)

2016-06-17 18:00:43


Noem Bill to Expand Black Hills National Cemetery Advances in the House (KNBN)

2016-06-17 17:57:33


Noem Prepares to Play in Congressional Women's Softball Game (KSFY)

2016-06-15 13:41:34


New Foster Care Protects for Native American Youth (KNBN)

2016-06-10 16:39:46


Noem Meets with IHS Officials, Tribal Members in Rosebud (KELO)

2016-06-10 16:38:15


More on Noem's Meeting with IHS Officials, Tribal Members in Rosebud (KELO)

2016-06-10 16:38:09


Noem Leads Lawmakers in Introducing Comprehensive IHS Reform Bill

2016-06-10 16:35:22


Delegation Receives Update From Senior Health Official on Great Plains IHS Crisis

2016-06-09 15:09:36


Noem Lays Out Case for Greater Access to Mental Healthcare for Seniors

2016-06-08 19:45:49


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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