Kristi Noem

Kristi Noem


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


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 National 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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Noem talks IHS legislation at Pine Ridge Hospital


South Dakota Representative Kristi Noem has toured several Indian Health Service hospitals, educating herself on the problems with IHS to draft her new legislation. Her latest journey brings her to Pine Ridge.

Representative Kristi Noem says, "It shouldn't be any different in Pine Ridge or Rosebud as it would be in Sioux Falls or Rapid City."

Reporter Heather Janssen says, "There's been concern for months on how Indian Health Services treats their patients. But here at Pine Ridge hospital, officials are saying it's ranked among some of the worst."

John Yellow Bird Steele, OST President says, "IHS is saying give us time, we will communicate with you."

But tribes on the Pine Ridge Reservation have spoken out saying time isn't on their side.

Incorrect diagnoses leading to possible death. Long travel times to get the care they need from other hospitals.

Overcrowded wait rooms and under-staffing at their nearest IHS hospital.
Representative Kristi Noem says, "I think they're short 86 different positions within this hospital."

All problems that many say just can't wait.

But Kristi Noem is working on legislation to help -- Yellow Bird Steele says, "It's making IHS pay attention." The 'Helping Ensure Accountability, Leadership, and Transparency in Tribal Healthcare Act.'

Noem says, "It would make hiring individuals easier and incentivize bringing them to Indian country to provide care."

John Yellow Bird Steele says, "It's going to allow people to be demoted and fired. Account for monies that they hoard away on the side for their bonuses, and not give it to healthcare for an individual."

The Oglala Sioux Tribal President believes Noem's legislation will help IHS catch up to the rest of America.

Yellow Bird Steele says, "They're going to make them change the way they act and what they do. Their primary goal is health care to that one Indian."

Operating to serve and not just for themselves. The end goal for Noem, tribes, and Indian Health Services.

Noem's House opponent, Paula Hawks, believes Medicaid expansion is the best way to improve Indian health.

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Noem talking business in Rapid City


South Dakota Representative Kristi Noem was talking business Monday in Rapid City, touring the Strider Bikes headquarters Monday afternoon.

Kristi Noem

After the tour, Noem met with Strider employees in the company's warehouse, talking about subjects ranging from the VA hospital in Hot Springs to the death tax.
Noem says as a member of the House Ways and Means Committee, it's important to do what they can to help local businesses grow...

Rep. Noem says, "What we need to do is get better tax policy and better trade policy so this product becomes more affordable around the world. We break down the barriers of getting it into other countries. And then also there is the opportunity to be treated fairly on a tax basis. We have the highest corporate tax rate in the developed world here in the United States.

Noem says that tax rate makes it very difficult for businesses to thrive and to invest in the United States.

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American Soybean Association supports Biodiesel Tax Credit


The American Soybean Association supprts legislation introduced last month by Reps. Kristi Noem (R-SD) and Bill Pascrell (D-NJ) to extend the biodiesel tax incentive through 2019 as a domestic production credit and to restructure it to give the fuel more value.

“The bill from Reps. Noem and Pascrell is something ASA is extremely pleased to see, as it seeks to extend the biodiesel tax credit through 2019, and restructures the credit to further promote value-added domestic production,” the ASA said in a statement after the introduction of the legislation. 

If not renewed, the dollar-per-gallon credit will expire at the end of this year, putting a damper on production and preventing the industry from maximizing the benefits provided from this domestic, renewable energy source. 

"In a farm economy that is dealing with low crop prices, that uncertainty and added stress are things that farmers don’t need," the statement said. "In the challenging political environment of an election year, it may be easier for lawmakers to pull back from working together, even on common-sense legislation like this, which is what makes the leadership shown by Reps. Noem and Pascrell so commendable. We appreciate their work on this issue and we urge Congress to support the extension and restructuring of the biodiesel tax credit.”

The bill was referred to the House Committee on Ways and Means.

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Weekly Column: Unity and Fellowship


I recently had the opportunity to visit the Gettysburg battlefield and the cemetery where President Lincoln delivered his famous address.  Today, scattered throughout the hills that made up the fighting plain are statues, markers, and memorials dedicated to those who fought.  Toward the middle of the battlefield stands the Eternal Light Peace Memorial with the inscription: “an enduring light to guide us in unity and fellowship.”

Even after I left Gettysburg that day, those words stayed with me.  The founding principles that created unity and fellowship during the American Revolution were being put to the ultimate test during the Civil War, and it was uncertain whether a nation founded on the idea of liberty could long endure.  At the time, we were not only divided as countrymen, we were divided as families and communities – brothers fighting brothers, neighbors fighting neighbors. 

Of course, we know now that this nation conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal did endure – and not only did we endure, but we have prospered.  That prosperity is a testament to the American people and the principles we share – principles first written in the Declaration of Independence: “that we are endowed by our Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”  It is these values we celebrate each Fourth of July.

Earlier this year, I had the opportunity to travel to the Middle East.  During a meeting with the Egyptian Parliament, we received a number of questions about where America stood and what we stood for.  It was deeply concerning to me that our allies were uncertain about this.  We told them we were on the side of democracy.  We believe our rights are God-given, not government-given, and that’s why we support free elections.  The conversation underscored why it is so critical to have leaders and a general public who understand our history and the principles we’ve proclaimed for the last 240 years.

The Battle of Gettysburg drew to a close just hours before Independence Day 1863. Four months later, President Lincoln delivered his Gettysburg Address on the battlefield, dedicating a national cemetery to those who “gave their lives that [this] nation might live.”  I would note that not only did these men give their lives so that our nation might live; they, and many since, gave their lives so that the promise of freedom, democracy, and liberty may endure as well.

As we celebrate our independence, I hope you take a moment to thank those who have fought to defend our values and reflect on the fact that these principles still serve as an enduring light to guide America in unity and fellowship.  Have a happy and safe Independence Day.

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Hearing looks at shortcomings of Great Plains IHS facilities, comprehensive IHS reform legislation


A hearing was held on Friday in Rapid City, South Dakota, at the request of U.S. Sen. John Thune (R-SD) to gain input from stakeholders about Indian Health Services (IHS) facilities on the Great Plains.

The hearing also looked at legislation introduced by Thune and U.S. Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY), the chairman of the Indian Affairs Committee, to reform IHS.

“The laundry list of issues plaguing the IHS has been well-litigated over the last six years,” Thune said. “No one knows those problems better than the tribal members who’ve been directly affected by them. While that conversation is far from over, (Friday’s) hearing was an important turning point toward examining the concrete areas in which we can make improvements and reforms to an agency tasked with the critical role of providing quality health care to tribal citizens in South Dakota and around the country.”

U.S. Sens. Mike Rounds (R-SD) and U.S. Rep. Kristi Noem (R-SD) provided input about needed reforms to improve IHS services on the Great Plains during the hearing.

“(Friday’s) hearing helped us better understand the problems at IHS,” Rounds said. “It is clear that IHS is dealing with serious administrative, financial and quality-of-care issues that still need to be addressed. In order to fulfill its trust responsibility to tribal members, IHS must undergo major reform, under close collaboration with the tribes. Consultation with the tribes is critical. Further, today’s hearing reaffirmed the importance of an external audit of IHS so we can work to fix their systemic problems.”

Noem said that IHS should “get out of the hospital business” all together.

“The medical and administrative malpractice in the Great Plains is killing our tribal communities,” Noem said. “Expansive reforms are necessary to end the corruption, mismanagement and life-threatening care. I am encouraged that we already have broad agreement between the House and Senate on some of the legislative changes, but cooperation from federal agencies will be paramount to our success. I thank Chairman Barrasso, Sens. Thune and Rounds, the witnesses, and the many tribal members who attended (Friday’s) hearing. In the end, we are all partners in fixing this problem.”

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Noem bill to expand BHNC advances in the House


Rep. Kristi Noem’s Black Hills National Cemetery Boundary Expansion Act (H.R.3839) was passed unanimously by the House Natural Resources Committee last week.

If enacted, the legislation would transfer nearly 200 acres of land outside Sturgis from the Bureau of Land Management’s jurisdiction to the Department of Veterans Affairs in order to accommodate an expansion of the Black Hills National Cemetery.

“The Black Hills National Cemetery is but one way our nation shows its deep gratitude to those who have served,” said Noem. “With this legislation, I want to assure today’s veterans and service members, as well as their families, that we will be able to uphold our commitment and offer this nation’s eternal gratitude for all they have done.”

Opened in 1948, the Black Hills National Cemetery near Sturgis rests on around 100 acres of land. The facility requires more room to continue serving future veterans. The Bureau of Land Management currently holds land adjacent to the Cemetery. Without legislation to make the transfer permanent, federal law limits transfers like this one to a lifespan of 20 years.

Noem introduced H.R.3839 in October 2015. In May 2016, she presented the Committee with testimony in favor of moving this legislation forward. With passage by the Committee today, the bill is expected to be considered by the full House of Representatives in the coming weeks.

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What the Tribal and Medical Communities are Saying about Noem's HEALTTH Act


Members of the tribal and medical communities weighed in today on Rep. Noem’s Helping Ensure Accountability, Leadership, and Transparency in Tribal Healthcare Act (HEALTTH Act), which offers comprehensive reforms to the crisis-stricken Indian Health Service (IHS).  

Emphasis has been added throughout.  You can click each link to access the organization’s complete letter of support.

In a resolution recognizing Rep. Noem’s HEALTTH Act and her fight for additional IHS funding, among other things, the Tribal Council stated: “The Rosebud Sioux Tribal Council wishes to extend its gratitude, thanks, and support for South Dakota Representative Kristi Noem’s continued commitment in improving the Social, Economic, and Health issues for the Rosebud Sioux Tribe and its members.”   

“The spirit and intent of this legislation is clearly aimed at responding to the call of Tribal leaders, patients and the families of those who have had adverse experiences within the IHS system.” 

“This bill would be instrumental in improving the quality of health care available to American Indians…” 

“The solutions proposed in the HEALTTH Act will help address the fundamental, systemic failures in the Great Plains Area Service Area.” 

“Sanford Health shares your hope that the HEALTTH Act of 2016 offers meaningful pathways toward enhanced American Indian health care and more efficient utilization of precious health care resources.” 

“We support your innovative and forward thinking in introducing the HEALTTH Act.” 

“[W]e believe the changes proposed by you via the [HEALTTH Act] will help address the funding and administrative/structural issues currently crippling Native American health care delivery system.” 

“The South Dakota Dental Association greatly appreciates your efforts to improve the health of Native Americans….  Your proposals are a step in the right direction.” 

“This important bill will ensure access to timely, quality care and expand hiring authority for the Indian Health Service.” 

“[The] loan repayment program has proven to be one of the IHS's best recruitment and retention tools to ensure an adequate health workforce to serve in the many remote IHS locations…. Changing the tax status of the IHS loans to make them tax free [as Noem’s bill does] would enable the Service to fill two-thirds or more of the loan repayment requests.”

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Noem calls for IHS to 'get out of the hospital business'


At an Indian Affairs Committee Hearing on tribal health care on Friday, Rep. Kristi Noem, R-S.D, called for the Indian Health Service to make an exit from the health care crisis that has been years in the making.

"Frankly, I'm just going to put this very simply: I believe that IHS should get out of the hospital business. I think they're terrible at it. I don't think they know what they're doing," Noem said to applause from the audience.

"First, as everyone in this room is aware, the medical care that we receive at IHS facilities in the Great Plains region is like getting health care in a Third World country," Noem said.

Noem's remarks pose the latest challenge for IHS after a report last year from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services led to the closure of an emergency room in Rosebud.

Noem said she supports the Senate's proposed IHS Accountability Act and believes that although the IHS is underfunded, new fiscal allocations alone will not be enough to fix the problem.

A bipartisan Helping Ensure Accountability, Leadership, and Transparency in Tribal Healthcare (HEALTTH) Act will receive a hearing in the House in the coming weeks, the Congresswoman said during her remarks.

Meanwhile Noem's challenger, Democratic State Rep. Paula Hawks, said Noem is part of a South Dakota Congressional delegation that has allowed IHS to become "a system perpetually one step away from disaster."

Hawks said that because Congress has yet to pass a budget, a case can still be made for expanding IHS funding, even if that case hasn't been made in the past.

"Real reform starts with fully funding IHS, but there doesn't seem to be a sense of urgency for that solution and that's troubling," Hawks said.

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Weekly Column: Keep Fighting


You have to do a double take when you get a letter like this: “My name is Maggie Einrem.  I am a 36 year old breast cancer survivor.”  Wow, a survivor – at 36.

Maggie, a mother of two from Watertown, was only 34 when she received the diagnosis.  She wrote: “I had no warning signs, never even thought that breast cancer could affect me.  Naïve, I know, however, it was not something that I had worried about…. At the ripe old age of 34, I found a lump.  Not thinking it was anything serious, I just let it go for a couple of months.” 

She was a busy mom and the to-do list was already busting at the seams.  But by June of that year, the lump had grown.  She received an ultrasound and a mammogram.  Less than a month later, Maggie was in surgery and so her battle began. 

“I made it through eight rounds of chemo and 36 radiation treatments,” Maggie wrote, “worked eight hours a day, raised two kids (ages 3 and 9), put supper on the table every night…. I knew if I stopped to think about everything, I would lose it and go into a very dark place.  So I put on a smile, lost all my hair, had burned skin, numerous surgeries, and felt like junk every day, but I kept going.”

Not only did Maggie keep going in her own fight, she began to reach out to help others with theirs. She’s become an activist even within her own family to make sure that all the women receive annual mammograms and that the men do self-checks.  She made a blanket for a co-worker that was diagnosed recently, as the transfusion room can be so cold.  And through her workplace, Sparton, she’s raised awareness about breast cancer by helping with a cancer walk, a soup cook-off, and a raffle.

After hearing her story, I chose Maggie to be my guest of honor at this year’s Congressional Women’s Softball Game.  Every year, female members of Congress team up to take on the female members of the press corps.  We play to benefit the Young Survival Coalition, an organization set up to help young women who have been diagnosed with breast cancer.

Sadly, too many of these diagnoses are happening in our state.  The number of incidents has risen steadily since 2010, putting South Dakota at the top of the list when it comes to breast cancer diagnoses per capita. 

It’s unclear what has caused the influx, and while not everything is in your control, there are steps you can take to reduce your risk.  According to the American Cancer Society, excessive drinking, being overweight or obese (particularly after menopause), and a lack of physical activity can increase a woman’s risk of developing breast cancer.  These are things you can take action on today.  Additionally, getting an annual mammogram can help make early detection possible.  This means treatment can start earlier, possibly even before the cancer has spread. 

We have made tremendous strides when it comes to detecting and treating breast cancer.  Still, 680 South Dakotans are expected to learn they have breast cancer this year alone.  I pray they are able to approach this diagnosis as Maggie did in her letter when she wrote: “I have too much to live for and so much love to give to others that I will never stop fighting!” 

Keep on fighting, Maggie.  You’re an inspiration to your children, your community, and women fighting this disease everywhere.

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House Foreign Affairs Committee OKs Noem's Women, Peace, and Security Act


The House Foreign Affairs Committee today approved Rep. Kristi Noem’s Women, Peace, and Security Act (H.R.5332). This bipartisan legislation would require the U.S. to develop a comprehensive strategy to increase and strengthen women’s participation in peace negotiations and conflict prevention globally as well as ensure accountability to Congress.  With the committee’s approval, H.R.5332 is expected to be considered by the full House later this year.

“Particularly in areas where increased stability creates greater security for the United States, we must make sure the work we are doing produces lasting results,” said Rep. Noem. “This legislation is but one instrument in a toolbox our military and diplomatic leaders can use when looking to produce long-term peace.  Critically, it includes detailed accountability mechanisms that I’m hopeful will help yield more sustainable outcomes during future conflict resolution and peace negotiation processes.”

Research shows peace agreement is 35 percent more likely to last at least 15 years when women are involved.  While some work has been done to include women at the negotiating table, this legislation would require a focused strategy with greater congressional oversight. 

Rep. Noem introduced H.R.5332 in May 2016 alongside cosponsors Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce (R-CA), and House Foreign Affairs Committee Ranking Member Eliot Engel (D-NY).  Sens. Mark Kirk (R-IL) and Barbara Boxer (D-CA) have introduced similar legislation in the Senate.

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Noem-Sponsored Bill Shielding Tribes from Costly Employer Mandate Earns Committee Approval


Rep. Kristi Noem’s bipartisan Tribal Employment and Jobs Protection Act (H.R.3080) was approved today by the House Ways and Means Committee, of which Noem is a member.  The legislation, which is now set to be considered by the full House of Representatives, exempts tribes and tribal employers from Obamacare’s costly employer mandate.  As a result, it would prevent massive fines that tribal employers would incur under the healthcare law’s employer mandate.

“We know one of the best ways to fight poverty is by creating opportunity within the job market,” said Noem.  “The Affordable Care Act’s employer mandate compromises healthy economic growth.  This is especially true in Indian Country where the federal government already assumes responsibility for healthcare access, making this job-killing mandate duplicative and even more damaging. I’m hopeful we can see this bipartisan legislation signed into law, eliminating a costly mandate and saving jobs.”

Because the federal government is already responsible for providing healthcare to tribes, tribal members were exempt from Obamacare’s individual mandate, but similar considerations were missed when it came to the employer mandate, likely due to the haste with which this law was written and passed.  Without relief, tribal governments could be required to cut important services while tribally-owned businesses could be forced to cut jobs.

Exempting tribes from the employer mandate has been endorsed by the Great Plains Tribal Chairmen’s Health Board, which represents tribes in South Dakota, North Dakota, Nebraska and Iowa. Additionally, the Tribal Employment and Jobs Protection Act has been endorsed by the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI), the National Indian Health Board (NIHB) and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

The legislation, which Noem sponsored alongside Rep. Ryan Zinke (R-MT) in the House, has also been introduced by Sens. John Thune (R-SD) and Steve Daines (R-MT) in the Senate.

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


Rep. Kristi Noem’s Black Hills National Cemetery Boundary Expansion Act (H.R.3839) was passed unanimously by the House Natural Resources Committee today.  If enacted, the legislation would transfer nearly 200 acres of land outside Sturgis from the Bureau of Land Management’s jurisdiction to the Department of Veterans Affairs in order to accommodate an expansion of the Black Hills National Cemetery.

“The Black Hills National Cemetery is but one way our nation shows its deep gratitude to those who have served,” said Noem.  “With this legislation, I want to assure today’s veterans and service members, as well as their families, that we will be able to uphold our commitment and offer this nation’s eternal gratitude for all they have done.”

Opened in 1948, the Black Hills National Cemetery near Sturgis rests on around 100 acres of land. The facility requires more room to continue serving future veterans.  The Bureau of Land Management currently holds land adjacent to the Cemetery.  Without legislation to make the transfer permanent, federal law limits transfers like this one to a lifespan of 20 years. 

Noem introduced H.R.3839 in October 2015.  In May 2016, she presented the Committee with testimony in favor of moving this legislation forward.  With passage by the Committee today, the bill is expected to be considered by the full House of Representatives in the coming weeks.

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Kristi Noem to honor S.D. mother who had breast cancer


When Rep. Kristi Noem throws a pitch in the congressional women’s softball game Wednesday, Maggie Einrem will be among her biggest fans in attendance.

The Watertown resident was diagnosed with breast cancer two years ago and has undergone chemotherapy, radiation and seven surgeries, including a mastectomy and oophorectomy. Einrem’s cancer is in remission.

The softball game will be played to benefit the Young Survival Coalition, which helps young women diagnosed with breast cancer. Noem will be playing in honor of Einrem. South Dakota leads the nation in breast cancer rates, though officials are unsure why.

“We’re really overwhelmed right now,” said Einrem, 36. “It’s exciting that Kristi is playing for me in my honor … and that I was chosen out of how many survivors?”

Einrem, a mother of two, met Noem when the South Dakota Republican visited her company. She later contacted Noem’s office to express concern about a recommendation that women should begin getting regular mammograms at age 45 instead of 40. An aide to Noem encouraged Einrem to write a letter sharing her story. Four months later she was invited to Washington to attend the softball game.

Noem called Einrem’s story "inspirational" and said she immediately thought of her for this year’s game.

“Not only is she a young survivor, she’s a young mother that is very relatable," Noem said. "She has a passion and desire to share her story to help other people.”

Since getting cancer, Einrem has helped start a breast cancer awareness program where she works, become an advocate to make sure more women are eligible for mammograms and pushed for the suggested age for the test to be lowered.

“I think I got breast cancer for a reason,” Einrem said. “It’s so I could put my voice out there and I could help others. If that means trying to lobby for a lower age to get mammograms or just helping someone else who is going through the same thing that I’ve been through. I don't want to say, OK, well, I had this, it's over, it's done and move on in life.”

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Battle for softball supremacy pits Congresswoman Noem and others against the press


Members of Congress and the press will meet once again on the battle-diamond on Wednesday for the eighth annual Congressional Women’s Softball Game.

The game is also a fundraiser for the Young Survival Coalition, a support and awareness non-profit for young women dealing with breast cancer. The game could draw an even larger crowd this year, raising over $200,000.

The women that create our laws are preparing to take on the women that cover them. They have been practicing twice a week in the mornings for about two and a half months.

Rep. Ed Pearlmutter (D-CO) has been helping to coach this squad for eight years.

"They listen, sometimes I kid them, and sometimes I encourage them," Pearlmutter said playfully.

While politicians have a reputation for sparing at work, Pearlmutter says the game provides a backdrop for friendlier competition.

"Playing softball and being a team, regardless of political party or issue or anything like that, just makes for a better environment for all of us to work together on bigger issues," Pearlmutter explained.

Representative Kristi Noem (R-SD) keeps her softball mitt in her Capitol Hill office, practicing in her spare time.

"It's pretty competitive, the members of Congress really want to beat the press," Noem said with a laugh.

Noem has been playing on the team for years, but tomorrow she will be playing in honor of a South Dakota mother of two, diagnosed with Breast Cancer at age 34.

"What's very compelling about her story is that she doesn't have any family history of breast cancer," Noem said. "There was no warning signs, there was just a lump one day."

That mother is now a survivor and will be in the stands watching the game on Wednesday night.

"I do feel that added pressure because I certainly want to play well," Noem said. "She's going to be watching me, knowing that I'll be playing in honor of her and her family."

For three years now, Congress has dominated the field and they are hoping for a fourth victory on Wednesday.

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Bill seeks random drug tests for Indian Health Service employees


Rep. Kristi Noem (R-South Dakota) made good this week on her promise to seek reforms at the troubled Indian Health Service.

On Wednesday, Noem introduced H.R.5406, the Helping Ensure Accountability, Leadership, and Trust in Tribal Healthcare Act (HEALTTH Act). The bill encourages more partnerships with tribes, addresses recruiting of heath professionals, updates the Purchased/Referred Care Program and calls for greater accountability at the IHS.

“The government is required by treaty to provide healthcare to tribal communities. IHS has failed to uphold that duty,” Noem said in a press release. “The problems are pervasive, but my legislation is comprehensive. From care delivery to hospital administration, my legislation aims to dramatically improve the quality of healthcare while making the system more efficient, cost-effective, and accountable.”

But that wasn't all -- on Thursday, Noem introduced H.R.5437, a bill that requires the IHS to implement a random drug testing program for employees. That's currently not in place, according to the agency's manual, but just last week, Mary Smith, the acting director, announced aninterim policy that requires drug testing in certain situations.

"The IHS is concerned with the well-being of all employees and the patients we serve, the successful accomplishment of our mission, and the need to maintain employee productivity," Smith wrote in a memo that addressed testing in instances when there is a "reasonable suspicion" of drug use by an employee.

A random drug testing program would bring the IHS in line with theBureau of Indian Affairs and other federal agencies. Tribal governments also test employees and some have subjected elected leaders to tests.

"Big adjustments urgently need to be made, but I’m committed to working together on agency-level changes and my legislative reforms to ensure tribal members finally receive the care their families need," Noem wrote in her weekly column on Friday.

Noem's HEALTTH Act has bi-partisan support -- two of the five co-sponsors are Democrats. And four of the five co-sponsors represent tribal members in the Great Plains Area, a region that includes South Dakota, Nebraska and North Dakota.

“We cannot sit idly by and watch an entire healthcare system remain, at best, inadequate—or worse harm persons and communities,” said Rep. Jeff Fortenberry (R-Nebraska), whose district includes the Omaha Tribeand the Winnebago Tribe.

The facility that serves the tribes, the Omaha Winnebago Hospital, is considered one of the worst in Indian Country. It no longer has the ability to bill for Medicaid and Medicare services because the IHS failed to correct long-standing problems.

The agency has since hired an outside company to run the emergency room, a process that H.R.5406 would address. It requires the IHS to develop a contracting program for at least three hospitals and to ensure tribes have a role in the operation of the hospital.

“Access to quality health facilities is an important factor in the growth of tribal communities in Nebraska and across the country. We have an obligation to improve care for Native Americans, and we cannot, in good conscious, stand by and do nothing. I am proud to cosponsor legislation that will support Nebraska tribal communities by investing in healthcare,” said Rep. Brad Ashford (D-Nebraska).

Notably, the HEALTTH Act amends the Indian Health Care Improvement Act, a law that was made permanent by the Affordable Care Act. In the past, Noem has supported the repeal of the Affordable Care Act, a move that would undo the Indian Health Care Improvement Act.

Noem's legislation isn't the only IHS reform initiative on Capitol Hill either. The Senate Committee on Indian Affairs is holding a town hall and field hearing in South Dakota next week to discuss S.2953, the Indian Health Service Accountability Act. Read More

Weekly Column: Treating the Crisis


Late into the evening on July 22, 2015, a young woman arrived in the Emergency Room of the Indian Health Service hospital in Rosebud.  She was having contractions – each, about two and a half minutes apart.  The baby was coming.  Still, nursing staff allowed the young woman to leave and use the restroom. Minutes later, her boyfriend started yelling from the bathroom.  He needed a doctor.  The baby had been born on the floor. 

The infant was not initially breathing.  His color was “dusky.”  Once a nurse entered the bathroom, the baby was scooped up and run into a nearby room where they were able to start his breathing.  It’s a horrifying story, as told in a recent government review of the hospital.  What’s more – it’s happened before.

I’ve heard stories like this over and over again from tribal members I’ve met with.  For years, federal reports have documented shocking cases of mismanagement and poorly delivered care.  There have been instances where medical staff saw patients while intoxicated, evidence of Indian Health Service (or IHS) employees stealing thousands of narcotics from the hospital pharmacy, and a time when a man known to have tuberculosis, which is highly contagious, was allowed to interact unsupervised with other patients.

IHS was left to make improvements on its own.  They were given funding increases almost every year and yet, the agency produced increasingly poor care to South Dakota’s tribal communities.  Enough is enough.

This month, I led a bipartisan group of lawmakers in introducing comprehensive reform legislation.  The Helping Ensure Accountability, Leadership, and Transparency in Tribal Healthcare Act (which we call the HEALTTH ACT) offers critical structural changes to how IHS operates, addressing both medical and administrative challenges.

Currently, IHS is empowered to make choices about hospital contracts without input from the tribes it serves or independent healthcare experts.  My bill would change that and allow for a partnership among these three groups to better ensure contracts are designed to serve those they’re intended to help.

I’ve also taken on the Purchased/Referred Care Program, which is the program that pays for care tribal members can’t receive directly at an IHS hospital or clinic. To protect taxpayers, this program has limited funds.  But the money is distributed according to an outdated formula that doesn’t consider things like geography or population, leaving some areas with surpluses while others are unable to pay the bills.  Through my legislation, we require IHS to make changes so the formula is based on factors that impact access to care, finally matching support with need.  Additionally, because IHS currently pays a premium for these outside services, I’ve included provisions to help drive down prices and stretch every Purchased/Referred Care dollar further.

It’s also been an incredible challenge to recruit competent medical staff and hospital leadership.  These hospitals are typically in remote areas and the incentives to move there just haven’t been offered.  My legislation tries to make hiring a bit easier, while also giving additional help to medical professionals and administrators for things like paying back their student loans.

Critical accountability requirements are also included to make sure we can better monitor what is happening at IHS facilities in crisis.

The government is required by treaty to provide healthcare to tribal communities, but IHS has failed to uphold that duty.  As it stands today, the Emergency Department at Rosebud is shut down until it can be made safe enough to see patients again.  IHS facilities in Pine Ridge, Rosebud, and Rapid City are in jeopardy as well. Lives have been lost because of what’s happening. Big adjustments urgently need to be made, but I’m committed to working together on agency-level changes and my legislative reforms to ensure tribal members finally receive the care their families need. 

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Noem Tells Girls Staters To Keep Trying


For the members of the 70th annual South Dakota Girls State conference being held in Vermillion this week, one great aspect of the event is being exposed to the current leaders of both our state and our government. It was no different on Thursday when South Dakota Congressional Representative Kristi Noem spoke to the attendees.

Her message: “Never give up trying. If you fail, try again.”

Noem said that many times when someone fails, they become of failure rather than embracing it as the learning and growing experience it should be.

“First of all, don’t be afraid of failing,” she said. “I think many times when we fail at something or aren’t selected for something…you will not try again. Try again. Some of our greatest leaders failed miserably.”

She used the example of Walt Disney who was fired from a job for lack of imagination and good ideas to Henry Ford and President Abraham Lincoln.

“If you look at Abraham Lincoln, he went broke in business at age 21,” Noem said. “He lost a legislative race. He went broke in business again. Then, he had a nervous breakdown at age 27. After that he ran for congress and lost, he ran for the Senate and lost, then he ran on the vice presidential ticket and lost. He ran again for the Senate and lost, again. Then at age 52, he was President of the United States. We really truly believe he was one of the most humble, servant minded leaders that we have ever had. So, even though he had tried and failed all those times, he continued to try because he wanted to contribute.”

She added, finding a path you want to take is great, but if you don’t try new things you might miss out on something fantastic.

“We all have those instances in life where if you don’t try something new you won’t find what you love,” Noem said. “Every new experience that I said, ‘OK, I will try that.’ has usually connected me with somebody that has been very important to my life. That is my advice to you today, to keep doing things and trying new things. Something you think you may do or a talent you have may not develop as you get older. You may find out I am really good at this, and it will open new doors for your future.”

Noem went on to say that the attendees of Girls State should be proud of what they have already accomplished.

“I want you to know that I believe you are leading right where you are today,” Noem said. “You have so many people that are watching you and opportunities for you to serve, that I don’t want you to think that what you are doing today is not important. Your generation is volunteering and serving your communities at double the rate of my generation. 14.5 million of you are currently involved in volunteer activities.”

However she questioned why they do not vote at the same rate.

“Maybe you don’t think your generation can make a difference when it comes to voting,” she said. “We need to change that. But it isn’t that you don’t care about your communities, you prove that by the amount of time you volunteer.”

As for what it is like in Washington, D.C. the easy answer is very busy.

“I have a pretty typical story for a lot of people in South Dakota,” Noem said. “I get up every day about 5:30 or 6 a.m. I live in my office, which most of you might be aware of. The first year I was in Washington I rented an apartment, but it was just a little room in a basement of someone’s home and it cost me nearly $2,000 a month and I was never there. I would leave by 6 a.m. or 7 a.m. and I wouldn’t get home until 11 p.m.”

She said that she knew that some of the other members of Congress were living in their offices and now there are probably 30 or 40 of them that do it.

“I have a couch that pulls out into a bed right there and there is a gym in the basement,” Noem said. “So, I get up in the morning and go down to the gym, do my work out and get ready for the day. Our meetings start by 7:30 or 8 a.m.”

She also noted that it is interesting how many people from South Dakota are in Washington each week.

“Every Wednesday, Senators Thune and Rounds and I have a coffee for South Dakotans that are in town,” she said. “We give them an update about what we are working on and they can ask us questions. We invite everyone who is in DC for that week to come for coffee. We typically have 60 and 100 people every single week. That is how many people are there either touring, on family vacations or working on issues that are important to them. My typical day is filled with at least 10-15 different meetings with South Dakotans and then we have committee hearings, as well. Usually we wrap up at about 9-10 p.m.”

Noem said that she is very proud to be the first South Dakotan to serve on the Ways and Means Committee.

“About a year and a half ago, I was appointed to the Ways and Means Committee,” she said. “Somebody told me when I was working to get on this committee that it was the committee that had the most ways to be mean because it has jurisdiction over taxes, trade, social security, Medicare, entitlement programs and all of our foster care programs go through there. About 80 percent of what we are doing in the House goes through the Ways and Means Committee and I decided that I was going to work to get on that committee because if a lot of the legislation that we signed in to law was going to be completed in that committee, I wanted to make sure that someone that came from a rural state like South Dakota was weighing in on the issues.”

She also noted that one of the things she most enjoys serving the state is voting in the House Chambers.

“Because there are 100 senators in the Senate, they vote by voice,” Noem explained. “They call their name and they vote yes or no audibly, because there are 435 members of the House we can’t do that. We vote by electronic machine. If you look at the House floor the décor is all beautiful woodwork and historic wallpaper. When it comes time to vote they turn on the voting machine and all of a sudden above the speakers head it shows all of our names, all 435 of us.”

She said the system tallies and keeps track how the vote is going: if it is passing or failing.

“All of it lights up like a huge billboard and we start to vote,” Noem said. “It is a really neat process for me to be able to vote on something that is important to South Dakota. What is even cooler is that that whole system was installed and built by a South Dakota Company – Daktronics. For me it is pretty special to vote in Washington DC and I get to do it on something that South Dakota enabled us to do.”

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


Rep. Kristi Noem (R-S.D.) today testified before the House Ways and Means Health Subcommittee on her Medicare Mental Health Access Act, which she introduced earlier this year alongside Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) If enacted, this bipartisan legislation would give Medicare recipients better access to mental healthcare by removing barriers that force seniors to be referred by a primary care doctor before seeing a clinical psychologist. 

VIDEO: Noem Testifies on Medicare Mental Health Access Act
Link to YouTube

“Millions of Americans lack adequate access to mental health services. That is especially true for seniors on Medicare, particularly if they live in rural or underserved places,” said Noem.  “My bill will make it easier for seniors to get the mental healthcare services they need and deserve by putting clinical psychologists on equal footing with other non-physician providers, like chiropractors and optometrists, who are already easily accessible to Medicare beneficiaries.”

The Medicare Mental Health Access Act (H.R.4277) would define clinical psychologists as “physicians” for the purposes of Medicare, thereby allowing patients to see them directly, rather than relying on a referral from their primary care doctor.  Under the bill, clinical psychologists would be treated neutrally under the Medicare Electronic Health Records program. In 2019, they will enter the new Merit-Based Incentive Payment System like other providers considered physicians under Medicare.

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Noem Leads Lawmakers in Introducing Comprehensive IHS Reform Bill


Rep. Kristi Noem (R-SD) – along with Reps. Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE), Brad Ashford (D-NE), Adrian Smith (R-NE), and Kevin Cramer (R-ND) – today introduced the Helping Ensure Accountability, Leadership, and Transparency in Tribal Healthcare Act (HEALTTH Act), which offers comprehensive reforms to the crisis-stricken Indian Health Service (IHS). 

“The government is required by treaty to provide healthcare to tribal communities. IHS has failed to uphold that duty,” said Rep. Kristi Noem.  “The problems are pervasive, but my legislation is comprehensive.  From care delivery to hospital administration, my legislation aims to dramatically improve the quality of healthcare while making the system more efficient, cost-effective, and accountable.”

“We cannot sit idly by and watch an entire healthcare system remain, at best, inadequate—or worse harm persons and communities,” said Rep. Jeff Fortenberry. “This bill is another important step in addressing the health care needs of tribal members in Nebraska and throughout the nation.”

“Access to quality health facilities is an important factor in the growth of tribal communities in Nebraska and across the country. We have an obligation to improve care for Native Americans, and we cannot, in good conscious, stand by and do nothing. I am proud to cosponsor legislation that will support Nebraska tribal communities by investing in healthcare,” said Rep. Brad Ashford.

“While neighboring practitioners and hospitals are happy to assist when IHS facilities are unable to provide care, it also places serious strains on small, rural providers,” said Rep. Adrian Smith. “This legislation is an important first step in ensuring tribal communities can access the care they deserve while providing predictability for nearby rural communities.”

“No matter where you live, everyone deserves access to quality healthcare,” said Rep. Kevin Cramer. “The HEALTTH Act will make meaningful reforms at the Indian Health Service in order to support a better quality of life on our Indian reservations.”

The HEALTTH Act offers critical structural changes to how IHS operates, addressing both medical and administrative challenges.  More specifically, Noem’s legislation:

+ Improves IHS’s ability to secure long-term contracts for hospitals in emergency conditions 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.
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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

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

2016-06-03 14:29:28

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

2016-06-03 14:29:38

Noem Votes to Keep Services at Hot Springs and Other Rural VA Facilities (KNBN)

2016-05-20 16:29:42

Noem Testifies on Legislation Protecting Tribes from Costly Employer Mandate

2016-05-17 15:25:03

Noem Prepares to Drop New Legislation Addressing Tribal Health Crisis (KELOLAND)

2016-05-16 14:03:02

Noem to Introduce Legislation Addressing Tribal Health Crisis (KNBN)

2016-05-13 18:02:42

Noem to Introduce Legislation Addressing Tribal Health Crisis (KSFY)

2016-05-13 18:02:27

Contact Information

1323 Longworth HOB
Washington, DC 20515
Phone 202-225-2801
Fax 202-225-5823

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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