Kristi Noem

Kristi Noem

SOUTH DAKOTA

Noem Praises Federal Court's WOTUS Ruling

2015/08/28

Rep. Kristi Noem today applauded a U.S. District Court’s action that temporarily blocks the Obama administration’s controversial “Waters of the U.S.” rule.

“The Obama administration’s proposed WOTUS rule could amount to one of the largest federal land grabs in U.S. history.  It is a vast federal overreach and the District Court was right to put the brakes on it,” said Noem.  “The District Court’s hold is temporary at this time, so our efforts to reverse this rule must continue.   If the EPA’s proposal would ever be allowed to move forward, the expanded authority would empower federal agencies to fine homeowners, farmers, ranchers and others tens of thousands of dollars per violation – per day.  We can’t afford it.”

In May 2015, Rep. Noem helped the U.S. House of Representatives pass the bipartisan H.R. 1732, the Regulatory Integrity Protection Act of 2015, which would send the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Army Corps of Engineers back to the drawing board on the WOTUS rule. 

Noem has also called on the EPA to define regulated navigable waters on a map after an alarming graphic was released that has raised questions about how extensive the EPA’s regulatory authority could become.  Read more and view the graphic here.

Additionally, in May 2014, Rep. Noem joined 231 Members of Congress from both sides of the aisle on a letter urging the EPA and the Secretary of the Army to withdraw the proposed rule. 

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Weekly Column: Infrastructure Investments: Building blocks for a healthy economy

2015/08/28

There’s hardly anything our family consumes that isn’t somehow impacted by rail.  From the food we eat to products we use in our homes, the reliability of our nation’s railways is critical.  In South Dakota, that importance is even more prominent.  Nearly every commodity we produce is exported and shipped via rail.  Disruptions or delays have an immediate and costly impact, as we saw early last year.  If our infrastructure crumbles, so does our economy.

Earlier this month, I met with the Rapid City, Pierre, and Eastern Railroad (RCP&E), which covers 670 miles of track stretching from Minnesota to Wyoming and running straight through the middle of South Dakota.  Railroads like RCP&E along with the state government are making meaningful investments to help avoid the backlogs that occurred last year.  I’m optimistic it’s been enough to ensure our rails can run smoothly and on time this year, but as is true for our nation’s roads and bridges, continued investments are necessary.

With nearly every farmer, rancher, and consumer relying on a well-maintained rail infrastructure, investments here should be a national priority.  It’s one of the reasons why I’ve been supportive of offering tax incentives to those willing to devote financial resources to improving our railroads. 

One such incentive is the Short Line Tax Credit, which helps smaller railroads.  If you are investing in our railroads, you are creating jobs; you are increasing the speed of commerce; you are making products more affordable for hardworking families across the country.  The federal government has a responsibility to make those investments easier and offering tax credits like this helps accomplish that.

I am proud to have co-sponsored legislation in the House to extend this credit through 2016 and because it has broad bipartisan support, I’m hopeful we can see it enacted soon.

I’ve also encouraged the U.S. Department of Transportation to use existing grants to make greater investments in South Dakota, as so many of our nation’s commodities are shipped out of our state.  Moving wheat, soybeans, and corn more efficiently in South Dakota will reap countless benefits for consumers throughout the entire country.  It’s worth the investment.

For more than a century, rail has connected our coasts and enabled American commerce to thrive.  Still today, it remains one of the most efficient and cost-effective ways to ship our goods, moving 40 percent of our nation’s intercity freight traffic and bringing one-third of U.S. exports to port.

Together with investments in roads and bridges, investments in our railroads help enable commerce to happen.  They are the building blocks of a healthy economy and a requirement for sustainable economic growth.  Read More

Rapid City Family Named "Angels in Adoption" after Noem Nomination

2015/08/28

Congresswoman Kristi Noem today announced Paul and Dotty Enos of Rapid City, South Dakota, have been honored with a 2015 Angels in Adoption award for their commitment to adoption.  The Enos family has 14 children, four of which have been adopted.  Additionally, they have been a foster family since 2008.

“It is truly inspiring to see how the Enos family has opened their home and their hearts,” said Rep. Noem. “Time and again, Paul and Dotty have shown their children – whether biological, adoptive, or foster – how to give, show and receive unconditional love. It was an honor to nominate them and I congratulate the entire family on this well-deserved recognition.”

Paul and Dotty’s journey began with 10 biological children.  In 2007, they chose to extend their family by adopting twins, an infant boy and girl.  In 2008, they became certified as foster parents.  In 2009, they took in their first foster child, who they adopted into their family two years later. 

A few years later, one of Paul and Dotty’s daughters had a close friend in high school who lost her parents.  She was a girl they already loved and cared for so it was easy to invite her into the Enos family.  She was welcomed with love by all the siblings.  

After six years of being foster parents, the Enos family has fostered 15 children.  Today, Paul and Dotty have 14 children, 11 grandchildren, and one foster child.  

“It has been an amazing journey of fostering and adopting,” said Dotty Enos.  “It seems like our whole life we have been waiting for these specific children and our family would not be complete without them. God has given us the privilege to love more children than our own.  We feel blessed to have been given this opportunity.  What we have given these children does not compare to the joy they have brought to our family.”

The Enos family, along with more than 100 other recipients from across the country, will be recognized on October 7, 2015, at the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute’s (CCAI) annual Angels in Adoption gala in Washington, D.C.  The first Angels gala was held in 1999, and over the last 13 years CCAI has honored more than 1,800 ‘Angels’ from across the country who have made a lasting impact on the lives of children.

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Noem featured at HYP event

2015/08/26

A significant trade bill that has been signed into law gives the president specific directions on how to negotiate with other countries and provides a 60-day window for public access before up and down votes on proposed trade agreements in Congress.

Trade is a big deal in South Dakota.

“We sell 11 and a half times more goods to a country when we have a trade agreement with them,” Rep. Kristi Noem, R-S.D., said Monday in Huron.

The so-called Trade Promotion Authority bill basically outlines how trade agreements are done. It gives Congress access to negotiations as they’re happening.

“It’s a very substantial piece of legislation that we were able to get passed and get the president to sign,” she said.

Every president since FDR has had the authority to negotiate trade deals.

“We made it very clear in this bill that throughout the negotiation process every member of Congress gets to access those negotiations,” Noem said.

“We can go sit in the room while the negotiations are ongoing,” she added.

She was in town to address a luncheon hosted by the Huron Young Professionals at Top Floor Events.

“View From the Top” is an ongoing professional development series, and HYP members had a round-table discussion after Noem’s presentation.

She focused her remarks on major legislation pending in Congress and her recent appointment to the powerful House Ways and Means Committee.

The oldest committee in Congress, it has jurisdiction over 80 percent of what is done in the House – on issues like tax policy, trade and entitlement programs such as Medicare and Social Security.

Noem is the first South Dakota representative to serve on the committee.

The House has become much more productive, she said, citing the 190 bills it has passed this year. The average has been 120.

“So one of the things that we’ve been proud of is we’re getting Congress back to work,” she said. “We’ve got a lot more things to do, obviously.”

She said when she ran for the House in 2010 one of her biggest concerns was the federal debt and deficit. They’re still there, but they have been able to slow down spending, she said.

In the past, areas of the country have been hit hard by policies in trade agreements. They need to be good for everyone, Noem said.

A two-month period for public access will give agriculture groups, other organizations and manufacturers a chance to review the deals before they’re finalized.

That will give checks and balances to the people back home, she said.

Products from around the world are sold in the United States. While the U.S. has allowed access to its markets, other countries have not given the same access to theirs.

“That’s the goal,” Noem said.

On her trip to Japan, South Korea and China last year, Noem heard time and again how much they want U.S. goods. Otherwise, the only other option is to look to China.

“When we aren’t there filling that void economically, China is,” she said.

But there are concerns because China is not a fair partner, is not friendly and is increasingly aggressive.

“I’m very excited about the potential that we have to get more trade going through these agreements,” Noem said.

Meanwhile, she said Congress has an opportunity coming up to accomplish meaningful tax reform for the first time in more than two decades.

“We have the largest corporate income tax rate in the developed world,” Noem said. “So we certainly have put ourselves out of the business of being able to compete with other countries.”

Other countries have been reforming and lowering tax rates and are much more competitive.

It’s been frustrating that President Obama has not been willing to talk about individual or corporate tax reform, although he has opened the door on international tax reform, she said.

Eighty-five percent of small businesses pay their taxes at the individual rate, so business tax reform can’t be done without also looking at individual tax reform, Noem said.

When Congress returns to Washington, D.C., in September, Noem is hoping the House will pass a six-year transportation bill that would tie international tax reform to it to pay for it.

“It will be a permanent law that will allow all these companies that are keeping their dollars overseas to bring their money back into the United States and reinvest it,” Noem said.

A six-year highway bill would be the longest one in decades, and would give South Dakota certainty in addressing its deteriorating roads and bridges.

Noem said the most-often asked question she has gotten as she has traveled the state during the August recess deals with the controversial nuclear deal with Iran.

Like other countries in the region, she can’t support it.

It fails to eliminate Iran’s pathway to a nuclear weapon and there are no restrictions on how Iran can spend the $150 billion influx of cash as the sanctions are dropped, she said.

The United States won’t get the money back if the sanctions are imposed again.

Also, there are no guidelines on what Iran can spend the money on, and the country could well purchase arms, beef up its military and sponsor terrorism.

But she said what’s most disturbing is the 24-day notice Iran will get before inspectors go in. No longer is there an “anywhere, anytime” access on inspections.

Noem said it’s “unbelievable that our country would agree to something like that.

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OPINION: Human trafficking laws provide hope, but let's not stop

2015/08/26

Human trafficking is one of the most heinous crimes in the history of mankind. Unfortunately, the enslavement and exploitation of others exists almost everywhere—even in South Dakota.

Rep. Kristi Noem, South Dakota's lone representative in the U.S. House, said there are 100,000 to 300,000 human trafficking victims in the U.S. Many of these victims cannot find shelters to help them put their lives back together. Preyed upon then thrown away, many face life with criminal backgrounds, trauma and addictions they had no choice in creating—and receive no help in overcoming.

Noem said the average age of a trafficked child is 11 to 13 years old. The majority of victims are girls, but boys can fall prey, too—and they're usually trafficked at an even younger age.

When children's greatest concern should be what they'll get for dessert, far too many are being bought, sold and abused. It's unthinkable, and we should do all we can to stop it.

That's why Noem has worked with others in Congress to pass legislation to combat human trafficking in our state and nation.

"It's one of the areas where I feel like we've actually been able to do some good," Noem said of the package of legislation.

Noem has co-sponsored several bills relating to human trafficking while serving as the main sponsor behind the Human Trafficking Prevention, Intervention, and Recovery Act of 2015.

Noem also co-sponsored the Stop Advertising Victims of Exploitation Act, meant to close websites that advertise the exploitation of minors, and the Stop Exploitation through Sex Trafficking Act that requires minors engaged in prostitution be treated as victims, not criminals.

To pass these bills, Noem, a Republican, emphasized the importance of gathering bipartisan support. She's worked with legislators in neighboring states, such as Sen. Amy Klobuchar in Minnesota and Sen. Heidi Heitkamp in North Dakota—both Democrats.

"The idea here is not to be partisan, it's to provide a solution," Noem said.

In crafting the legislation, Noem said members of the House and Senate would try to match the bills to each other, and put together joint press releases or held joint press conferences to let people know the Senate and House were united.

We applaud Noem's efforts, as well as those who worked alongside her. And while Noem and others monitor the legislation to see how effective it is, one of the best bi-products is the statewide and national conversation these new bills started. People are talking about human trafficking. And that alone can save lives.

"We found the biggest thing we can do to protect our kids is to make families aware that it happens," Noem said. "Just knowing that other people are watching and are recognizing different activities that could potentially be trafficking makes a world of difference in protecting a lot of people."

So keep an eye out. Let's band together and protect each other from human trafficking. Because it's everyone's problem.

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Officials turn out to support railroad's grant application

2015/08/25

Railroad customers and government officials turned out Tuesday to show support for the new owners of the D,M & E Railroad in Rapid City.

Now called the Rapid City, Pierre & Eastern Railroad the railroad is working to secure a federal Department of Transportation grant for line upgrades and those that turned out Tuesday hoped their backing might help the grant money come through.

The RC,P & E took over operations in the state last year after parent company Genesee & Wyoming acquired the struggling D,M & E line. And the move has been a good one, said customer Jerry Cope From Dakota Mill and Grain.

“We're here to show a success story for a railroad that was really struggling under previous ownership,” he said. “Now we have the RC,P & E here who really wants to be here. And we're glad to have a partner in transportation that wants to be here and wants to be part of South Dakota.”

The rail line is a crucial underpinning to the state's agricultural and general economy, supporters said.

“Freight railroading is very important to South Dakota,” said Rep. Kristi Noem, R-South Dakota. “The vast majority of our commodities move out of the state and move by rail. So I've been very impressed with RC,P & E's efforts this past year. Whenever you have a transition between one railroad company to another sometimes that can be pretty rough and bumpy but this has gone very well. They've been extremely efficient.”

And now the company wants to improve service. It wants to make a $12.4 million upgrade and is seeking about half of that in federal grants. The state has agreed to put in $2 million. The railroad wants to rebuild 10 miles of track near Huron and put in a "siding" near Philip that will allow trains to pass each other on the one way track between Rapid City and Pierre.

The state's three member congressional delegation has written a letter in support of RC,P & E's federal grant application.

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Noem supports federal grant to help improve rail lines

2015/08/25

South Dakota Rep. Kristi Noem on Tuesday said a proposed $10 million economic-recovery grant would help the Rapid City, Pierre & Eastern Railroad continue to improve its rail lines in the state.

Noem, a Republican, made a stop at RCP&E headquarters in Rapid City to reiterate the support of the state’s congressional delegation for approval of the federal grant, which, if successful, would be combined with state transportation and railroad funds for two specific projects.

“I’m impressed that they are pursuing these opportunities, and it’s a priority in congress,” Noem said.

Half of the grant would add a rail siding near Philip to allow more traffic between Pierre and Rapid City, and half would help replace about 10 miles of track that dates back to the 1920s near the railroad’s switching hub in Huron, said Todd Bjornstad, RCP&E general manager.

“Everything we’re doing as far as infrastructure, whether it be putting in a siding at Huron, or anywhere on the railroad, it just helps the overall customer base,” Bjornstad said.

Noem praised the RCP&E for increasing the number of freight cars available to haul grain and other commodities since the RCP&E’s parent company, Genesee & Wyoming, acquired the former Dakota, Minnesota & Eastern lines from Canadian Pacific Railroad.

In June of 2014 the RCP&E, with their distinctive orange, black and yellow-painted locomotives, began operations on 670 miles of track between Tracy. Minn., and Rapid City, also including lines north to Colony, Wyo., and south to Dakota Junction, and Crawford, Neb.

“A year and a half ago, we had quite a backlog in getting grain and other commodities moved out of the state,” Noem said.

“They took that seriously, addressed it, put some new equipment in place and have invested to get those turnaround times a lot quicker to the benefit of every single South Dakotan and those in production agriculture,” Noem said.

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Noem talks about the importance of railroads for ag industry

2015/08/25

South Dakota Republican Representative Kristi Noem was at the Rapid City, Pierre and Eastern Railroad yard office in Rapid City Tuesday afternoon.

Noem says she realizes the importance of the railroads to the agriculture industry in the state and says they're vital to getting commodities from here on to markets.

Rep. Kristi Noem says, "What we've done recently is tried to support a grant that they have been working to get. That will enable them to upgrade some track that's needed to be done so we can increase the speed on that line and also put another siding that's needed in the Philip area. I will be halfway between Rapid City and Pierre, pretty much, which will allow more trains to utilize that rail."

RCP&E general manager Todd Bjornstad says, "It's important to us because that's our job, to railroad and move grain and move clay and move cement. So obviously grain being a big part of this industry here in the state, using that, that's important for us and our customers."

He says they're in good shape to move grain now, saying they've about doubled their fleet of about 1,200 from last year to about 2,500 now.

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Courts or New President Needed To Stop WOTUS

2015/08/24

One of the major concerns for farmers and ranchers in the Northern Plains is the EPA’s Waters of the U.S. rule. That measure is set to go into effect later this week. South Dakota Representative Kristi Noem says they attempted to stop the rule with legislation earlier but now it’ll take a groundswell of citizens weighing in to push back against that rule.


Noem says it may take a new President before the rule can be done away with.
Noem says the Waters of the U.S. rule is the largest land grab ever attempted by any federal agency.

Listen Now: http://wnax.com/news/180081-courts-or-new-president-needed-to-stop-wotus/#sthash.W1q3NLFP.dpuf

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Federal delegation crisscrosses state during August break

2015/08/23

South Dakota’s federal lawmakers are still discussing Planned Parenthood and the Iran nuclear deal during their August break, but at county fairs and coffee shops rather than in the halls of Congress.

The all-Republican delegation - Rep. Kristi Noem and Sens. John Thune and Mike Rounds - have dozens of events scheduled from Buffalo to Parker over the congressional recess. Lawmakers say the break allows them to hear concerns from regular South Dakotans and to get feedback about where members’ priorities should be when they return to Washington in September.

“It’s like I’m in rehab,” Rounds said, sitting in his Pierre office after a recent meeting with state officials and tribal veterans service officers. “It feels so good to be back where things are normal and common sense is found in people around you.”

Rounds, the newest member of the delegation, said he’s hearing from residents that they’re fed up with a federal government that’s bloated and unresponsive. Thune said he hears about local issues like storms and disaster relief, but both he and Noem named the Iran deal as a major topic in discussions with residents. Noem said she’s also hearing about trade and tax policy.

At the Turner County Fair in Parker, 68-year-old Judy Harig followed a loudspeaker announcement to find Noem at the Republican booth. Speaking with the third-term congresswoman, Harig recounted her dismay about recently released undercover footage in which Planned Parenthood officials discuss fetal tissue from abortions being used for medical research. 

The Sioux Falls resident talked about her sense the Democratic Party has shifted left over the last quarter-century and asked Noem if she ever wonders why she’s in Washington and not back on her ranch.

“She said, ‘That’s why it’s important to come back and connect with the people, and … hear what they have to say,’ so she can go back and represent better, which is wonderful to hear,” Harig said.

Marlyn and Rose Waltner of Marion came to the county fair to speak with Thune and Noem. They asked Thune what concerns him most, and the three discussed Iran.

“He asked what (our concerns) were, and I felt that he had kind of hit on what was bothering me,” Rose Waltner said. “We’ve been watching the political issues quite closely, and I think our next presidential nominee is going to be very important. It’s going to be a tide-shifting moment.”

“Are you out here campaigning for Trump?” Gordon Ludens, a farmer from Viborg, joked to Thune.

The state’s senior senator, like Noem, has so far declined to wade into the presidential race. Rounds has endorsed former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee.

Noem and Thune have their own re-election campaigns to worry about, but so far only Democratic state Rep. Paula Hawks has announced a challenge to Noem. State Democratic Party Chairwoman Ann Tornberg said the party is working to run a candidate against Thune, and she said Republicans aren’t listening to South Dakotans on issues such as education.

“I think their views are representative of the class that funds their campaigns, and those huge war chests that they’ve put together with corporate backing are indicative of the voices that they’re listening to,” she said.

Aside from events with the public and businesses, the three sitting lawmakers said they’re enjoying time with family members during the recess. Eating pie at a diner in Murdo with his wife and father, Thune said by the time the August break is over “we’ll pretty much touch down most places” in South Dakota.

Rounds said he plans to travel to coffee shops to talk to “normal people.” Noem also said she plans to spend a lot of time “crisscrossing our state.”

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Members of Congress ask IRS to return money seized from dairy farmers

2015/08/21

It’s not every day that progressives like U.S. Rep. Charlie Rangel, D-N.Y., and tea party favorites like U.S. Rep. Kristi Noem, R-S.D., can find common cause.

That’s how out-of-line the Internal Revenue Service has been when it comes to civil asset forfeiture.

Rangel and Noem were two of the nine lawmakers who recently signed a letter to Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew, asking him to make things right after the IRS seized $67,000 from a pair of Maryland dairy farmers, despite not charging them with any crimes.

Randy and Karen Sowers ultimately settled their case with the federal government and ended up losing more than $29,000.

“Treasury still holds funds seized from innocent small business owners who settled their cases only because they could not afford to do otherwise,” the members of Congress wrote to Lew.

The IRS took the money from the Sowers in 2012. The couple had, according to the IRS, made a series of suspicious cash deposits and, thanks to federal laws that allow law enforcement agencies to go after such deposits, that was enough to freeze their assets and seize their cash.

The couple was accused of “structuring” their deposits. That’s the name given by law enforcement to supposedly-suspicious-but-actually-completely-legal deposits of less than $10,000 at a single time.

Since larger deposits are given more scrutiny by banks and law enforcement, criminals trying to hide large stashes of money tend to avoid depositing more than $10,000 at once, law enforcement officials claim.

The only problem is the Sowers don’t appear to be criminals by any sense of the word. They’re just farmers who do a lot of business, in cash, at local farmers markets and decided they would rather keep that money in a bank than stuffed inside a mattress.

They’re in the process of suing the IRS over the seizure.

“The statute that prohibits structuring was designed to help interdict money laundering, drug trafficking and terror financing schemes, not innocent Americans who simply make frequent cash deposits,” wrote the members of the committee.

The IRS has changed its policy regarding investigations into structuring, but those changes came too late to help some targets of those federal probes.

The lawmakers who wrote to Lew said the IRS policy change amounts to an admission the agency’s previous policy was wrong.

“We didn’t do anything wrong, but the IRS took our money anyway,” Randy Sowers said in a statement provided by attorneys at the Institute for Justice, a libertarian law firm representing the Sowers in their case against the federal government. “I appreciate the support from Congress. It’s about time somebody looked into giving us our money back.”

The IRS seized more than $240 million between 2005 and 2012, according to the Institute for Justice.  At least a third of those cases were based on nothing more substantial than a series of cash transactions of less than $10,000.

Again, it’s worth noting those deposits are entirely legal under federal law.

The IRS’ practice of going after people like the Sowers was the subject of a congressional hearing in February. At the hearing, IRS Commissioner John Koskinen apologized to people who had been treated unfairly before the October 2014 policy change, but those apologies did not come with a promise to reimburse the seized assets.

States have been battlegrounds over forfeiture laws in recent years, but the issue has only bubbled up at the federal level in the past few months.

Before stepping down last year, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder announced some, mostly cosmetic, changes to how the Department of Justice would be allowed to use forfeiture. President Barack Obama’s pick to replace Holder, Loretta Lynch, faced tough questions during her confirmation hearing about the aggressive use of forfeiture by attorneys working under her in New York.

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Noem seeks re-election in 2016

2015/08/21

It's official: she's running.

U.S. Rep. Kristi Noem confirmed she will seek her fourth consecutive term as South Dakota's only member of the U.S. House of Representatives.

Noem, 43, will campaign in 2016 against at least one other candidate, Democratic State Rep. Paula Hawks.

In an interview with The Daily Republic on Thursday, Noem said she hasn't spent a lot of time preparing for a re-election campaign because her legislative duties give her a busy schedule.

Noem, a Republican Congresswoman who has three children and frequently travels back and forth from South Dakota to Washington, D.C., said it was a family decision to attempt a re-election effort in 2016.

Although she's met Hawks several times in the past, Noem said she has not yet spent much time researching her challenger.

"We haven't really been focused on campaigning yet, just because we have so much to do," Noem said.

Noem's Democratic challenger has spent three years in the S.D. House of Representatives, currently serving as whip in the Democratic caucus. Prior to her election to the U.S. House in 2010, Noem also served three years in the S.D. House.

"We always expect to have an opponent, and we seem to always get one," Noem said.

Although Noem acknowledged her competitor, she touted her own accomplishments as a Congresswoman since taking office in January 2011.

The Hamlin County native currently serves on the House Ways and Means Committee, overseeing tax, trade and economic policies, which absorbs a lot of her attention. But she was most satisfied with her work helping pass human trafficking legislation.

"Those are one of the packages of bills that we're most proud of, because it got all the way through the process and we actually have those tools working out here now," said Noem.

Noem has co-sponsored several bills relating to human trafficking while serving as the main sponsor behind the Human Trafficking Prevention, Intervention, and Recovery Act of 2015.

The act, initially introduced in January, requires the Interagency Task Force to Monitor and Combat Trafficking to conduct surveys to deter trafficking offenses and identify best practices and strategies to eliminate such actions.

The Human Trafficking Prevention, Intervention, and Recovery Act of 2015 also amends the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 to make grants accessible to those who provide housing assistance to victims of trafficking.

"To know it was happening in South Dakota was probably the most shocking to me," Noem said of human trafficking. "So I have gone to many, many different meetings and schools to talk about it every chance we get because we found the biggest thing we can do to protect our kids is to make families aware that it happens."

Noem said there are 100,000 to 300,000 human trafficking victims in the U.S. alone. According to Noem, many of these victims cannot find shelters to help them put their lives back together.

Noem has also co-sponsored the Stop Advertising Victims of Exploitation Act, meant to close websites that advertise the exploitation of minors, and the Stop Exploitation through Sex Trafficking Act that requires minors engaged in prostitution be treated as victims rather than criminals.

To help pass these bills, Noem emphasized the importance of gathering bipartisan support.

"I try to do that on most of the bills—to get a Democratic co-sponsor—so that people recognize that the idea here is not to be partisan, it's to provide a solution," Noem said. "And if I can't find a Democrat to agree with me on it, then I need to think twice on whether it's a good bill or not."

Noem sets sights on international agreements

But for Noem, it's not all about human trafficking legislation. After the House's August recess, Noem looks forward to voting against the Iran nuclear agreement.

"I've been shocked by how much everybody in the state is aware of the details of that agreement and how concerned they are about it," Noem said.

The Iran nuclear deal is part of a lengthy agreement that would constrain the nation's nuclear programs by decreasing Iran's ability to enrich uranium, forcing the country to comply with international demands at the threat of U.S.-imposed sanctions and establishing access for inspections.

Many critics think the deal isn't strict enough.

Noem said the more she reads classified documents involved with the agreement, the more she is concerned by the agreement.

"It's alarming to me that we would be a part of an agreement like this," Noem said.

Noem was also anxious to complete the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a free trade agreement that Noem said would open up 95 percent of the world's customers to U.S. exporters. Because of South Dakota's large agricultural economy, Noem said the deal would have huge benefits for her home state.

"I think one out of every three acres in the state is exported outside the country," Noem said. "And so when we get these new trade agreements, we have a lot of potential to grow our own economy and businesses that are here."

Noem will not endorse GOP presidential candidate

In 2012, Noem did not officially endorse any of the Republican candidates for president. She will continue that approach for 2016.

Among the crowded field, Noem does have her eye on a few candidates she shares principles and values with, but declined to make an endorsement. She said she's been keeping a close eye on Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina.

Noem did share one candidate she will not support.

"I'm not a fan of Donald Trump," Noem said. "He's sucking a lot of air our of the room that I think is preventing good candidates from being heard, and that does have me concerned."

Noem said she's looking for a candidate who can keep the country safe and will reduce the nation's debt. She's not convinced Trump fits the job description.

"I look at all of these candidates as—what do presidents have to do for a country?" Noem said. "One of them is to go into a room and negotiate with Iran, and I would not want Donald Trump in a room negotiating keeping the peace."

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Weekly Column: Boosting Opportunity

2015/08/21

South Dakota is a small business state.  Drive through nearly every town and the main street will be lined with family-owned businesses – the café, the grocery store, the seed dealer, the hair salon, you name it.  It’s part of what makes South Dakota so great to live in.  We can do business with people we know, and that’s a rare thing in today’s world.

My own family has run small businesses throughout our lives.  We’ve built up a family farm, managed a restaurant, even opened a hunting lodge at one point. Those experiences have given me an understanding of the challenges small businesses face in getting the word out about what they have to offer.  And doing so efficiently when margins are tight is imperative. 

That’s why I was proud to work with the Sioux Falls Chamber of Commerce and Facebook for a “Boost Your Business” event earlier this month.  I wanted it to be another tool to help level the playing field so growing South Dakota businesses can better compete in their communities and across the globe.  All in all, more than 300 South Dakotans turned out for the event, learning from social media experts and their peers in South Dakota about how to use technology to grow their customer base.

I’m proud to be able to help facilitate opportunities like this.  To me, unlocking the potential of others is one of my primary responsibilities and something I work to do not only at events like this, but also through the policies I help advance as South Dakota’s lone representative in the U.S. House.  

This year, I’ve helped push an opportunity-driven agenda that works to pave the way for South Dakota businesses to thrive.  For instance, I helped the House pass the America’s Small Business Tax Relief Act. Provisions in this bill make Section 179 expensing levels permanent, so small businesses and millions of Americans who depend on them can better plan for the future.  This has been a critical provision for many South Dakota farmers and small businesses.  If it’s made permanent, I’m hopeful we can give these job creators more incentive to invest and greater certainty.

Additionally, we took up and passed the Small Business Regulatory Flexibility Improvements Act.  According to the National Federation of Independent Businesses, “government requirements and red tape” ranked as one of the biggest issues facing small business. This bill helps cut through that red tape by requiring federal agencies to consider the impact on small business when writing new regulations.  It also provides greater opportunity for these growing businesses to offer input on the rules and regulations that will hit them hardest.

In South Dakota, 82,705 small businesses employ nearly 200,000 workers.  In fact, more than 96 percent of employers in our state are small businesses.  We need to make sure we do all we can to unlock the potential of each of these businesses.  So whether it means plugging family businesses into social media networks or giving them a bigger voice in the federal rule-making process, I’m committed to doing all I can to support them.

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Using Facebook For Business

2015/08/19

Social media has taken over many people's free time, and now it's taking over the business world.

A conference, called Facebook's Small Business Boost, was held in Sioux Falls today to teach business owners how to make the most of Facebook.

U.S. Representative Kristi Noem was on hand to support the event, and take part in a Q & A panel.

Noem's family has owned businesses for many years, and says it can be hard to get your information out there for customers. She believes social media can help change that.

"I just think it's a wonderful opportunity for people that are thinking about starting their own business. Maybe running small businesses. To really utilize social media and find some of the new tools that are out there to really capture people's attention. When it's a market that is so dominated by dollars," said Noem.

There are more than 40 million small businesses using facebook to connect to customers.

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Crude Awakening: The Sex Trafficking Crisis That's Right in Our Backyard

2015/08/18

Highway 85 cuts 112 miles north through fields filled with wheat, corn, and alfalfa, skating along the eastern edge of Theodore Roosevelt National Park in North Dakota. The rocky buttes and mixed-grass prairie that once enchanted the former president are punctuated with oil derricks, their Tyrannosaurus-shaped heads bobbing slowly up and down across the horizon. Semitrucks lumber along, rattling compact cars as they pass through the Bakken, an oil patch that spans some 25,000 square miles and covers much of western North Dakota, eastern Montana, and the southern parts of two Canadian provinces. (Bakken was the surname of the farmer who once owned part of the land.) At the edge of town, a billboard reads: "Welcome to Williston, ND. Boomtown, USA."

Here, in this previously quaint farming community, signs of the state's oil boom are everywhere. The once-cozy Main Street has been ripped open by road construction. Banners pinned to the sides of hotels, apartment complexes, big-box stores, and chain restaurants announce grand openings. A new strip club stands two doors down from the remnants of a Christian bookstore. On the eastern side of town, a $70 million, 234,000-square-foot indoor recreation center, partially funded by the oil industry, contains a golf simulator and pseudo-surfing pool.

Oil isn't new to North Dakota, but the development of horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking," opened the rich Bakken shale deposit to thousands of additional wells, creating more than 100,000 new, high-paying jobs since April 2009. Tens of thousands of people from all over the country—the vast majority of them men—have flocked to Williston and the neighboring oil-patch towns of Watford City, Minot, and Dickinson, among others, seeking work as foremen, engineers, welders, electricians, mechanics, drillers, and derrick hands. Williston alone has seen its population more than double, from fewer than 15,000 people in 2010 to at least 30,000 today. The actual number of residents may be even higher, as the Census doesn't count transient workers—locals say they think the population was closer to 60,000 at the end of last year.

North Dakota now has the biggest concentration of men in any state except Alaska. Many maintain a six-weeks-on, two-weeks-off schedule that sees them living in temporary housing developments known around here (and popularized in the media) as "man camps"—seemingly endless rows of identical squat, white trailers and privately owned RVs, some so large they've been dubbed "Taj Mahals." The camps range from a few dozen men parking their RVs with permission on a farmer's land to strictly regulated compounds that house and feed more than 1,000 workers—no guns, drugs, or women allowed. A rough-and-tumble vibe pervades, with as many as four men sharing 240-square-foot trailers, and property managers struggling to rein in raucous parties, fights, gunplay, and drug use (both meth and heroin use have spiked in the area—drug-related arrests increased by 66 percent between 2009 and 2013). The few women living among the men share stories of life outnumbered. "You feel like a piece of meat," says Kaitlin Baxter, 24, who moved from Missouri to Prairie View Park, a sprawling 1,000-person camp in Watford City, with her husband and three sons. Texas native Morgan Greer, 20, says she's had men follow her around a grocery store—one went as far as to enter the women's restroom, but she called for help. "I feel safe," she insists, "but I'm packing [heat] the majority of the time."

Many women around here carry guns—maybe for good reason. This modern-day gold rush has brought the problems of the old Wild West: crime, drugs, and sexual violence. Overall, violent crime, including murder, aggravated assault, forcible rape, and robbery, increased by 125 percent between 2005 and 2013, according to the state's Uniform Crime Reports. In Williston, calls to the police went from 4,163 in 2006 to 15,954 in 2011; in nearby Watford City, from 41 to 3,938 in that same time frame. It's gotten so bad that earlier this year, the FBI announced it would open a new permanent office in Williston.

It was against this backdrop that officials in the Bakken started to worry about a different kind of crime. In the spring of 2012, the U.S. attorneys for both North Dakota and Montana gathered law enforcement—everyone from local police to the FBI, the Border Patrol, and the Department of Homeland Security—at a meeting in Glasgow, Montana, where they learned conditions were ripe for catastrophe. The small-town police departments were overwhelmed by day-to-day calls, forcing detectives off larger investigations and back on the streets to respond to bar fights and patrol for drunk drivers. Social services, too, were overrun. Williston's battered-women shelter reported a 300 percent increase in victims between 2009 and 2011. Workers there were in triage mode, with no time to define what they were seeing or identify trends among victims. Those factors, combined with the large male population newly flush with cash, meant it was open season for opportunists. "The threat was organized crime: drug trafficking, human trafficking, fraudsters, scam artists," says Tim Purdon, North Dakota's U.S. attorney from 2010 to 2015, now a partner at Robins Kaplan LLP in Bismarck. "We knew the threat of sex trafficking was there, but did we have any evidence that it was actually going on?" They would soon.

In November 2013, Jordan (whose last name is withheld to protect her privacy) moved to Williston with a boyfriend who had taken a job in the oil fields. At 18, she wanted a "new start," she says, away from New York, where she had been abused as a child and lived in and out of the foster care system. "I was so in love with this boy," Jordan says. "Ready to do anything." But after a few months, their relationship crumbled: He lost his job, they started doing meth, and he started mentally and physically abusing her. Eventually, he became her first pimp, selling her to his boss when he took a new job as a mechanic. High at the time, Jordan doesn't know how much money her ex made from selling her.

After she left him, she sold herself on Backpage.com, a classified website notorious for prostitution, earning money to keep a roof over her head. "I felt like that was my only option at the time," she says. "What else was I going to do, lie on the side of the road until I die?" She also spent a month under a pimp's control, circling around oil towns with two other women, one from Milwaukee, the other from Atlanta. "[The pimp] had 10 or 11 junky flip phones and 10 or 11 ads up for the three of us," Jordan says. The going rate was $300 an hour. "It was almost fun," she says. They went to the mall, got their nails done, stayed in nice hotels, ate good food. "I guess that had to do with the fact that we were making [him] so much money."

Around that same time, law enforcement began conducting sting operations known as Operation Vigilant Guardian. Detectives posed as someone selling a 14-year-old girl on classified websites and arrested interested buyers. One weekend in Williston, police arrested three men; two weeks later, they arrested 11 in Dickinson, a town of roughly 25,000 located about two hours away. A 34-year-old named Clayton Lakey was arrested when he showed up at a hotel after making arrangements to have sex with a 13-year-old girl, for which he agreed to pay $250 for one hour. He also offered to pay $5,000 for a 10-year-old. (Lakey is now serving five years in federal prison.) Police had to shut down the sting ahead of schedule because Dickinson ran out of jail space. "When you identify that level of demand for commercial sex with underage girls, you're a fool if you don't think there's a supply out there," Purdon says.

He calls the stings the "seminal events" in galvanizing support in the area for the fight against trafficking. Fourteen arrests may not sound like an emergency to city dwellers, but to many in this rural area, it was devastating. "Dickinson is a sweet little town … not some crime-ridden place," Purdon says. "That these dudes decided the best way to spend their weekend was to go on Backpage and try and arrange commercial sex with a pimp for a 14-year-old girl—that was incredibly sobering to me. … I took a step back and said, 'Oh, my God, what am I, what is the U.S. attorney's office, going to do about this?'"

His alarm was well-founded—not only did all signs point to a burgeoning crisis, but the state was uniquely ill prepared to deal with it as well. Victims here were at a huge deficit: There were no social-service organizations or advocacy groups specifically focusing on the issue in the state and no safe houses or shelters dedicated to trafficking victims. (Nationally, there are only 529 beds in shelters designated for trafficking victims; North Dakota doesn't have any.) Even the federal government was concerned. In September 2013, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services identified two towns in the Bakken, along with four other locations—Boston, Houston, Atlanta, and Oakland, California—as places in need of support to combat trafficking. And then, the final blow: In September 2014, Polaris, a Washington, D.C.–based anti-trafficking nonprofit that rates states based on the quality of their legal framework for prosecuting trafficking and helping victims, ranked North Dakota as one of the two worst states. (The other is South Dakota.) "If you're working in the oil industry, you see what's happening here in terms of a boom," says Christina Sambor, a lawyer turned anti-trafficking activist who lives in Bismarck. "But if you work in human services, you view it in terms of a natural disaster."

As anyone who's lived through one knows, there's nothing like a natural disaster to bring a community together. Key stakeholders in North Dakota—including five nonprofits, law enforcement, prosecutors, social workers, and tribal representatives—decided to combine forces. Together, they formed a new anti-trafficking coalition called FUSE (a Force to end hUman Sexual Exploitation) and named Sambor coordinator. At the kickoff event, a statewide summit on human trafficking in Bismarck in November 2014, some 200 attendees heard from major players on the front lines—cops, shelter workers, and a trafficking survivor. They walked away fired up, their mission clear: Quantify the scope and scale of trafficking in the area, raise public awareness, increase victims services, and institute forward-thinking legislative and law enforcement practices to fight the problem head on. "You could feel the energy in the air," Sambor says. "We were sitting around the table, just like, 'This has the potential to be huge.' " But in a state like North Dakota, where, as Sambor says, "The word pimp is so far outside residents' frame of reference," it would be an uphill climb. "There had to be a fundamental paradigm shift in how people view the commercial sex industry," she says. "It was going to be a challenge."

Sambor, 32, was born and raised in Bismarck. Her mother, who worked in corrections, taught her that she could be whatever she wanted to be. So she went to law school outside of Los Angeles, worked in Washington, D.C., with Polaris, and looked forward to an exciting career taking on big issues in big cities. But Sambor graduated in the middle of the recession and found her options limited, so she moved back to Bismarck to work in a private practice. To her surprise, those big-city issues she dreamed of tackling were right before her eyes.

On a warm day this June, Sambor and Erin Ceynar, 41, a North Dakota native and fundraiser for the Women's Foundation of Minnesota, are touring the Bakken, trading stories of junkyards stacked with abandoned RVs and truck drivers who toss bottles of urine out the window. Ceynar's throat clenches up. "The land is just disposable," she says. "If you don't really care for the land, you don't really care for women."

Ceynar grew up in the wide-open spaces between Watford City and Williston, working oil jobs on summers off from the University of North Dakota. Unlike her previous jobs at Walmart and KFC, "I had autonomy, I had discretion, I had my own truck." One day, in 1994, while Ceynar was recording data at a site, an employee threatened to assault her in a nearby field. Holy shit, she thought. I'm gonna get raped right now. Instead, another coworker intervened. But when Ceynar told her boss about it, the employee wasn't punished. She was, relegated to counting pipes alone in a warehouse for her own protection.

After graduation, she fled to politically progressive Minneapolis. Working on an anti-trafficking campaign called MN Girls Are Not For Sale, she interviewed several survivors at Breaking Free, an anti-trafficking nonprofit. "Every victim I talked to had been trafficked to my hometown of Williston," she recalls. One girl described being sold for sex at a hotel where Ceynar had done 4-H exhibits as a child. "It dawned on me at that point that I needed to pay attention to this," she says.

Ceynar e-mailed Purdon, with whom she'd discussed women's issues in the state over the years, to see how she could help. He connected her with Sambor, who had been talking with him about combating trafficking, too. The two women started exchanging e-mails and eventually met face-to-face in Minneapolis in the fall of 2013 at a conference on trends in victims services hosted by Ceynar's employer. "She was a kindred spirit," Sambor says. "I was looking to do something new, and then I met Erin and just thought, Oh, this is what makes her tick, too." They decided they had to develop some sort of coordinated effort, where all the major players could work on anti-trafficking initiatives. "North Dakota was just so in need of funding, of programs—everything," Sambor says. The first step was to increase public understanding of what it means to be trafficked.

Victims of trafficking need not be transported anywhere—they must only have been induced by force, fraud, or coercion (including tactics like withholding drugs) to participate in commercial sex. (Minors must only be induced, as those under age 18 cannot legally consent to sex.) By that definition, anyone being sold by a pimp who controls their comings and goings and cash supply is being trafficked. Victims are more often women who were sexually abused at a young age and sold for the first time by someone they trust, like a parent or boyfriend. "Very many of them are not Laura Ingalls Wilder bounding through the prairies waiting to be snatched up by some dark force," says U.S. Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-ND, who has long championed anti-trafficking measures. "They're on the street, they've already been marginalized, and they've probably already been victimized."

Women who fit the victim profile—no jobs, money, connections, or any reason to be there—started showing up in the Bakken. "Kids might get attracted to going to New York or L.A., but you're not going to be like, 'North Dakota: That's the place for me,'" Sambor says. "So we started to [ask], How do these women arrive in rural North Dakota from metropolitan areas? Could it be entrepreneurs coming to access the market? Sure. But is it more likely something more sinister and something involving exploitation? Yes."

Employees at women's shelters in the area started reporting victims unlike any they'd ever seen: a 16-year-old sold by her mother for drug money, a young woman with "property of" and a man's name tattooed across her chest. Women posing as victims even started using the shelters to recruit others to work for their pimps. A police sergeant monitored local Backpage.com ads for four months and found 70 percent of the women had been for sale in a different state the previous week. "They were coming from Milwaukee, from the Twin Cities, from Chicago, from Mexico and south of there, and elsewhere in the country," says North Dakota Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem. "Traffickers bring these women in, and they will be there for a little while—and then they move them out and bring in a new group."

A few big arrests brought national attention to the cause. In June 2014, Levell Durr of Wisconsin was arrested on charges of transportation for illegal sexual activity in Bismarck. In court, an FBI special agent testified that Durr had trafficked three women to North Dakota, used drugs and physical violence to keep them compliant, and forced them to have sex for money and then turn it over to him, kissing his hand when they did. At one point, the FBI agent said, Durr kept a girl in a dog kennel for days for breaking one of his rules. Three months later, California natives Trina Nguyen and Loc Tran were accused of luring women from their home state by promising large amounts of money for work in massage parlors in Dickinson and Minot. The parlors were actually brothels, and an FBI affidavit alleges Nguyen and Tran used their earnings to pay for Backpage ads. Then, in December, a Williston resident named Keith Graves, who came from California, was charged in federal court with sex trafficking by force or coercion.

Armed with these stories and more, FUSE finally had the ammo it needed to make the case to the legislature. Working at a feverish pace required both by the high stakes of the problem and the fact that North Dakota's legislature meets only once every two years, the coalition drafted and, in April of this year, successfully lobbied the state's conservative government to pass a suite of trafficking bills. Among the wins was a Safe Harbor law, which grants immunity to minors who engage in commercial sex (21 other states have adopted similar policies; without such laws, kids could be charged as criminals), and a vacatur remedy—a legal tool that permits victims of any age to expunge prostitution convictions if they were under pimp control, allowing them to more easily apply for jobs and housing. The state also appropriated $1.25 million to strengthen social services for trafficking victims. The package was lauded as model legislation—among the nation's most progressive—a surprising move from a state that, as Sambor says, is not typically a trailblazer. "When you're target number one for this problem, you need to have the most aggressive package that you can come up with," Heitkamp says. "It speaks to the culture of North Dakota, which is: You are not going to be selling boys and girls in our backyard without us all pulling together to stop it."

While the frenzied work was underway in North Dakota, Congress was working on a legislative package of its own. Introduced in the U.S. Senate in January and signed into law by President Barack Obama in May, the Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act was designed to crack down on traffickers while improving services for victims. It requires the Department of Justice to better train law enforcement and prosecutors who handle trafficking cases, allows for johns to be prosecuted just as harshly as traffickers, punishes those (including website operators) who knowingly advertise for and profit from commercial sex with minors, and creates a mandatory $5,000 fine for offenders (to establish a victims' fund).

The package provided a rare moment of bipartisanship in Congress, sailing through the Senate by a vote of 99–0 and the House 420–3. "There's not much controversial about what we want to do," says U.S. Rep. Kristi Noem, R-SD, who cosponsored the House's version of the package. "When I say to another member, 'So you don't believe children shouldn't be victimized?' … Those are things that Republicans and Democrats can all agree on." That accord came, at least in part, thanks to growing consensus that women in the sex trade—whether there by choice or by force—are people in need of social services, not prison time.

Rob Fontenot, who describes himself as "a big, scary-looking dude with a beard," is not what you'd expect a cop to look like. As an undercover agent for North Dakota's Bureau of Criminal Investigation, his appearance has helped him during trafficking stings. One day, in the spring of 2014, he posed as a client and answered Jordan's Backpage.com ad. By then, Jordan had left her pimp and was selling herself online. When Fontenot knocked on her hotel room door, she screened him through the peephole and thought, Easy. She opened the door wearing a crop top and thong, and tried to give Fontenot a hug. "He walks in and he's like, 'I need you to put clothes on,'" Jordan says. "I was so embarrassed—I didn't peg him as a cop."

Fontenot, who serves on FUSE's advisory committee and spoke at the launch event, answered the ad as part of a "knock and talk" operation. Unlike in prostitution stings that aim to arrest sex workers, Fontenot's goal during these encounters is to make sure the women are over 18, doing all right, and have access to help if they need it. "I try to put them at ease right away," he says. The hard part, he adds, is that women have been taught—by traffickers, but also by negative experiences with police—that law enforcement is the enemy. "Every time they've encountered cops, they've gone to jail," he says. "So it's kind of ingrained in them to be distrustful."

Just a couple years ago, Fontenot says he would have seen women like Jordan as criminals rather than victims. But in the past two years, through conversations with FUSE members and trainings that encourage cops to view people in prostitution as individuals who might need help, his perspective has changed. "My personal opinion is that I won't arrest girls for that," Fontenot says. "I just won't do it."

Because Jordan wasn't arrested when Fontenot knocked on her door, she had a chance at another new start. At a client's house a month or so later, she decided she'd had enough. She called a survivor advocate named Windie Lazenko, whose business card she'd kept on hand just in case, telling her: "I'm over it! I need to leave!" Lazenko helped Jordan get out of "the life." Today, back in New York, she's working to put her own life back together. "I know my worth now," Jordan says with a sideways grin. "I am not worth no $300 an hour—I am priceless." This spring, at age 20, she earned her high school diploma.

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Letter: Noem hard at work to save hatchery

2015/08/15

I’m writing in response to a recent Argus Leadernews story about the D.C. Booth Historic National Fish Hatchery in Spearfish and possible efforts by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to close the Booth Hatchery, or to move its archives to West Virginia.

I was glad to read in the article that Rep. Kristi Noem said, “As one of the oldest fisheries in the country, the D.C. Booth Fish Hatchery is a critical piece of living history ... it’s disappointing to think we may lose it because of irresponsible bureaucratic decisions.” It’s good to know that Noem is fighting to save the hatchery from closure by Washington bureaucrats. The Argus Leader article mentions that 150,000 plus people visit the hatchery yearly and that D.C. Booth produces 30,000 trout for waters in our state.

This Argus Leader reader wants to thank Noem for her efforts to save the Booth Hatchery and its archives. D.C. Booth is a major part of our state’s tourist economy and a major part of sport fishing in South Dakota. I’m glad that Congresswoman Noem is working hard in Washington to save the hatchery for South Dakota families of today and in the future.

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Weekly Column: Navigating the Federal Government

2015/08/14

Every day, South Dakotans need to interact directly with dozens of federal agencies.  Maybe you receive health care through the Veterans Administration or Medicare.  Perhaps your family is looking to grow through an international adoption, which requires coordination with the U.S. State Department. Maybe you receive benefits from the Social Security Administration or operate your family business with a loan from the Small Business Administration or have a CRP contract with the U.S. Department of Agriculture. At some point or another, most of us will have to deal with a government agency.  While we hope it goes smoothly and that they serve you with the respect you deserve, we know it unfortunately doesn’t always turn out that way. 

The federal government can be a very difficult, complicated, and confusing organization to navigate.  But that’s where my office can help.  We call it “casework” and I believe it’s one of the most important functions of a congressional office.

Many times, we can help you with a single phone call.  Perhaps you’re simply not sure which agency or division you should contact.  We can help you figure that out quickly. We can also help you find exactly who to talk to within an agency to save you time and frustration. 

Sometimes, the cases can be more complicated than that, however, and we are here to help you in those scenarios as well.  If you can’t get an answer from a federal agency or if you feel you’ve been treated unfairly, we can make a formal inquiry or request information on your behalf.  While we cannot guarantee a favorable outcome, we will do our best to help ensure you receive a fair and timely response.  This is our way of ensuring the federal government remembers who it is accountable to – and that’s you.

Last year alone, we helped more than 500 constituents navigate federal agencies through our casework.  Please know our door is always open to help.  If you need immediate assistance, please visit my website at noem.house.gov or call my office at 605-878-2868.

I’m incredibly grateful to be able to serve you in this way, so please don’t hesitate to contact my office if you need help.

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Noem Urges Administration to Prioritize Sanford Lab Research

2015/08/11

In a letter to Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz, Office of Management and Budget Director Shaun Donovan, and Office of Science and Technology Policy Director John Holdren, Rep. Noem urged the administration to prioritize the Department of Energy’s Long Baseline Neutrino Facility (LBNF) – a research project planned at the Sanford Underground Research Facility in Lead, South Dakota, along with other facilities across the country.

“The neutrino research to be conducted in South Dakota could lead to faster global communications, better nuclear weapons detection technologies, and a new understanding of how the world around us works,” said Noem.  “To accomplish any of this, however, the administration must see the Long Baseline Neutrino Facility experiment as imperative to our national interests and make the research a priority, as they have done in the past.  This is the future of scientific research.”

The Long Baseline Neutrino Facility experiment focuses on the study of neutrinos – one of the least understood particles in the universe.  It seeks to uncover their structure and behavior in the hopes of developing new technological advances as well as educating and training students.  To study the properties of neutrinos, the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory in Illinois would produce an intense beam of neutrinos, which would travel 800 miles across the United States to the deep underground lab at the Sanford Underground Research Facility in South Dakota.

Earlier this year, the Particle Physics Project Prioritization Panel (P5) outlined the 10-year strategic plan for high-energy physics experiments in the U.S.  The report specifically recommends research into dark matter and neutrinos, both fields of study the Sanford Lab is recognized for.

The Sanford Underground Research Facility employs 125 individuals full-time at its facility in Lead.

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Weekly Column: 190 Bills Passed, But More Work Remains

2015/08/07

If you read the headlines, it’s difficult not to get frustrated with what’s happening in our country. Almost every day it seems we open the newspaper or turn on the news or scroll through Facebook to read about a new crisis, more gridlock, or greater dysfunction. It makes you wonder what is going on in this country? That’s how I feel sometimes, anyways.

The good news is, however, we aren’t standing idly by. Step by step, we’re getting things done.

At this point, we’re just over halfway through the year.  Already, the U.S. House of Representatives has passed 190 bills, far more than the historical average of 125 bills by this point. 

The legislative process these bills have undergone has been more open too.  Every perspective has had the opportunity to be debated.  In fact, the House of Representatives has considered more than 600 amendments, which is double the historical average.  The result has been a Congress that is more effective, with 29 bills being enacted into law this year – once again, well above the historical average of 21.

Of course, it’s not all about the numbers.  The bills that have become law have been meaningful as well.  The Clay Hunt Act aims to prevent veteran suicides, which happen at a rate of about 22 per day, by giving veterans better access to mental health resources. The USA Freedom Act strictly limits the NSA’s bulk data collection.  The Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act, which I helped author, represents one of the most expansive anti-human trafficking laws this decade.  The Medicare Access and Children’s Health Insurance Program Reauthorization Act shifts the focus toward the quality of care, not the quantity.  And new trade legislation puts strict oversight and accountability restrictions on the administration’s trade negotiations.

Additionally, the House has held dozens of oversight hearings, focusing on everything from the IRS’s targeting of conservative groups to the 2012 terrorist attack in Benghazi to executive overreach.  Together with the Senate, we also passed the first bicameral 10-year balanced budget plan since 2001. 

Despite several accomplishments, there are still major issues that must be overcome. In the coming weeks, the House will take up legislation that stops the President’s proposed nuclear deal with Iran.  While I’m cautiously optimistic we have enough votes to get the legislation through both sides of Congress, we continue to work toward achieving a veto-proof majority that can override the President.

Funding for road and bridge repairs expires in October as well, but we have been working on a real, multi-year fix that may include reforms to at least a portion of the tax code.

Other tax reforms – known as tax extenders – are also on the agenda for the last half of the year. The House has already passed a number of these so-called extenders, including a permanent fix to Section 179 – a section of the tax code that is important to many South Dakota ag producers.

While the House has also pushed forward legislation addressing sanctuary cities, the President’s health care law, and immigration, I am doubtful we can find enough common ground with the administration to make responsible changes.  Nonetheless, we’ll keep pushing our ideas forward.

I am continuously striving for a more efficient, effective, and accountable government.  As part of that, I believe it’s my responsibility to show you what has been accomplished, while admitting to the challenges that lay ahead.  There’s a lot of work to be done, but we’re making progress – one step at a time.  

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Obama's Clean Power Plan to have negative impacts on South Dakota

2015/08/05

This week, the Obama Administration unveiled a major climate change plan aimed at a large reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from the nation's coal-burning power plants. The President calls it the biggest and most important step the United States has ever taken to combat climate change but, so far, it's not sitting well with South Dakotans.

"South Dakotans will be hurt much more by this policy than people in many other places in the country. That's the part I have a problem with," Congresswoman Kristi Noem said.

Congresswoman Kristi Noem is one of many who are not happy about the proposed plan.

"We consume more energy than a lot of other places. It takes more energy for us to live our daily lives because we're so isolated. It costs us farther to drive places, to heat our homes in the winter," Noem said.

Southeastern Electric Cooperative, serving the most rural communities, might have to reconsider their member rates.

"We're really trying to get a grasp on the total costs are right now. In some instances, we've heard some costs that can push 20-30% additional cost onto our members up there. We don't believe it's fair for our members who have some of the cleanest power plants in the world. We've invested heavily in renewable energies to provide our members with quality power up there," Southeastern Electric Cooperative GM Brad Schardin said.

Not only quality, but GM Brad Schardin's other priority is keeping rates affordable.

"It'll impact everyone from the top end of the income scale to the bottom. The biggest people will be the middle to low income people as far as impact to their electric rates," Schardin said.

"I'm very disappointed in the administration's pushing of these regulations that will be so hard on families already strapped trying to make their budgets work. there has to be some common sense that comes into places that doesn't place the environment above people. There has to be a balance across the country so it's not hitting a certain demographic harder than others," Noem said.

With the Clean Power Plan, the President's three main objectives include mitigating dangerous climate change, protecting the public's health and providing international leadership. Opponents across the country plan to file a lawsuit to stop the rule's implementation.

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Rapid City Family Named "Angels in Adoption" after Noem Nomination

2015-08-31 16:30:32


Federal Judge Puts Hold on EPA's WOTUS Proposal

2015-08-31 16:30:30


Noem Discusses Railroads and Agriculture (KEVN)

2015-08-26 16:51:23


Noem Attends Facebook's Boost Your Business Event (KELOLAND)

2015-08-26 16:51:21


Noem Attends Yankton's Riverboat Days (KTIV)

2015-08-26 16:51:20


Noem Attends Facebook's Boost Your Business Event (KSFY)

2015-08-26 16:51:19


Noem Discusses Railroads and Agriculture (KOTA)

2015-08-26 16:51:18


Noem Urges Support for Sanford Lab

2015-08-18 23:45:12


Noem Discusses Obama Administration's New Power Regulations

2015-08-07 15:25:09


Noem Discusses Iran with KEVN

2015-07-30 20:11:02


Noem Questions IRS Commissioner on IRS Targeting

2015-07-23 15:40:22


Noem Drives Forward Amendment to Protect D.C. Booth Fish Hatchery (KEVN)

2015-07-09 14:31:02


Noem Plays in Honor of Hayti Woman (KELOLAND)

2015-06-25 18:59:50


Noem Plays Softball in Honor of Hayti Woman

2015-06-24 19:22:12


Noem Questions Witnesses on Health Insurance Premium Increases

2015-06-24 16:22:19


Noem Helps Introduce Legislation to Strengthen Protections for Expectant Mothers (KELOLAND)

2015-06-18 13:59:09


Noem's Anti-Human Trafficking Language Signed into Law (KNBN)

2015-06-05 14:08:48


Noem Addresses Hill City High School Graduates (KSFY)

2015-05-26 19:43:12


Rep. Noem Addresses Hill City High School Graduates (KOTA)

2015-05-26 19:42:11


Noem Speaks about Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act on House Floor (CSPAN)

2015-05-18 21:54:21


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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