US Senator Mike Rounds’ Weekly Column: Staying Safe Online

RoundsPressHeader MikeRounds official SenateStaying Safe Online
By Senator Mike Rounds
Oct. 2, 2015

The internet has become such an integral part of our daily lives that most of us take it for granted. It is where we go to read the news, pay our bills, socialize with others, do our shopping and conduct important business. Over the last 15 years, the number of internet users has risen across the world from about 360 million to more than 3 billion.

While the World Wide Web has helped us stay connected with loved ones and become more efficient in our daily lives, we must be mindful of hackers and cyber threats that wish to do us harm. To highlight the risks that can occur if we are not safe with our online information, the Department of Homeland Security has dubbed October Cyber Security Awareness Month.

With all of the information we put on the internet – credit card information, bank account numbers, passwords and social security numbers – it is more important than ever to protect ourselves from attacks. Failing to do so can result in stolen identities, drained checking accounts, fraudulent credit card charges, unwanted solicitation and worse. As we have seen from the recent Office of Personnel Management data breach, which compromised 22 million federal employees’ private information, not even the federal government is safe from a cyber-attack.

While nothing is foolproof, there are things you can do to safeguard your online identity. First, make sure to always set strong passwords and change them frequently on all of your online accounts. Make certain you have antivirus software installed on your computer and install security updates every time your computer prompts you to do so. You should also be cautious when opening e-mails and e-mail attachments from unknown sources. If the address and subject line look suspicious, it could very well be a legitimate threat.

In Washington, D.C., cyber security policy has become a major topic of conversation in recent months because of the wide-ranging effects an attack could have on our nation. Some of our country’s top cyber security leaders, including Admiral Michael S. Rogers, Commander of the U.S. Cyber Command and Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper, recently spoke to the Senate Armed Services Committee to discuss our military strategy in cyberspace and ongoing cyber threats to U.S. national and economic security. They reinforced the importance of being prepared for any kind of attack on our cyber networks. The Senate is expected to consider the Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act (CISA) sometime this fall. I welcome this debate and look forward to discussing ways to enhance our nation’s cyber security.

In South Dakota, we are doing our part to keep Americans safe from online threats by training students in cyber security. Dakota State University in Madison, which offers a doctoral degree in cyber security, is one of the National Security Agency’s National Centers of Academic Excellence in Information Assurance Education. The demand for highly-trained cyber security experts continues to grow, and Dakota State University is making sure South Dakota students are equipped and trained to fill those jobs. I’m proud that Dakota State University has become a nationally recognized leader in this important field and I look forward to watching their progress.

Cyber Security Awareness Month is an opportunity for all individuals, businesses and organizations to reflect on their efforts to protect themselves from cyber threats. During the month of October, I encourage all South Dakotans to make sure they are taking the steps necessary to keep themselves safe online.


US Senator Mike Rounds’ Weekly Column: Back to School

RoundsPressHeader MikeRounds official SenateBack to School
By Senator Mike Rounds
September 18, 2015

With September in full swing, students across the state are back in the classroom to begin a new school year. Making sure our kids receive a top-notch education is important to me as a former governor and state legislator, current U.S. Senator and most importantly, a grandfather to eight. The young people learning, growing and thriving in our schools today will be our next generation of engineers, economists, lawyers, doctors, business owners and community leaders. A strong education system will help secure a prosperous future for our children, our communities, our country and our world.

For the first time in years, Congress came together to strengthen education in America. For too long, our education system has been burdened by sweeping federal mandates and a failure by previous congresses and the administration to implement any new, comprehensive education reforms.  This year, however, the Senate passed the bipartisan Every Child Achieves Act, or ECAA. The ECAA is a complete overhaul of our education system that will bring decision-making abilities back to the state and local level. Parents, teachers and school boards will have the flexibility to implement strategies based on the individual needs of their students, not be burdened with one-size-fits-all federal mandates. The House of Representatives also passed an education reform bill this summer, and the two bills will now go to conference committee to reconcile the two bills before heading to the President’s desk.

While the ECAA is an immense improvement to our education system as a whole, we must do more to make certain all groups and demographics of children are properly cared for under our education system. That is why I am working to improve education among Native American students. High school graduation rates in South Dakota remains steady at approximately 83 percent, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. Unfortunately, for tribal schools in our state and across the country, the graduation rate is as low as 40 percent – half the national average. This is unacceptable.

Native American students—just like all students—deserve a strong education system that prepares them to have a strong and prosperous future. A deficit-neutral amendment I offered was included to the ECAA to address these low graduation rates. The amendment seeks to identify federal barriers restricting tribes from implementing common-sense regional policies and seeks to find ways to recruit and retain teachers and administrators in Indian Country.

With the 2015-2016 school year underway, I would like to thank all the teachers and school administrators who work tirelessly to educate and shape the young minds of tomorrow. South Dakota is fortunate to have top-notch teachers committed to delivering a strong, quality education to our youth. I will continue to find ways to support and strengthen our education system for South Dakota students and eliminate burdensome federal mandates. Future generations will have their own set of challenges and opportunities; a strong education system makes certain they are prepared to meet them.


Senator Mike Rounds’ Weekly Column: Angels in Adoption

RoundsPressHeader MikeRounds official SenateAngels in Adoption
By Senator Mike Rounds
August 21, 2015

Providing children with a loving home is one of the greatest gifts anyone can give. Strong families are an important pillar of society that help bring stability to communities and teach core values to future generations. Every child deserves the love and support that a family provides. I applaud those who are committed to strong and healthy families, especially those involved in adoption and foster care. That is why it is an honor to nominate Bethany Christian Services of Eastern and Western South Dakota as 2015 Angels in Adoption.

For more than 25 years, Bethany Christian Services has been helping children find loving, permanent homes in which to thrive and grow in South Dakota. Bethany accomplishes this by offering support for both international and domestic adoptions, which includes foster care adoption. I have always been pro-life, so participating in the Angels in Adoption program is important to me. Life is a wonderful gift, and families who adopt or foster children in need are giving back the gift of love. I admire organizations like Bethany Christian Services, who facilitate adoptions, help women through pregnancies and find foster parents for abused and neglected youth. Through their dedication and commitment to foster care and adoption, Bethany Christian Services has touched the lives of thousands of children and helped them overcome tough challenges at a young age. Nominating them as Angels in Adoption is the least I can do to say thanks.

Angels in Adoption is a non-profit program sponsored by Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute (CCAI) that seeks to raise awareness about the unique needs of children without families and advocate on behalf of orphans and foster children. Each year, Members of Congress have the opportunity to nominate an “Angel” – an individual, family or organization that has made extraordinary contributions on behalf of children in need of families.

According to CCAI, more than 100,000 kids in the U.S. are eligible for adoption, but nearly 32 percent will wait more than three years before being placed in a permanent home. Worldwide, the numbers are even more staggering. The Angels in Adoption program sheds light on the need for loving families to open their homes to these children. It also seeks to raise awareness about the rewarding and positive difference adoption makes in the lives of children, parents and their communities.

The adoption process can often be cumbersome and difficult, but organizations like Bethany Christian Services work to streamline the process and make certain both the children and adoptive families have a positive experience.  I’m proud to partner with CCAI to nominate Bethany Christian Services of Eastern and Western South Dakota as 2015 Angels in Adoption. May the organization – and others like it who offer adoption and foster care services – continue to do great work to help children find forever homes. I am inspired by all families who chose to open their homes and hearts to kids in need, as well as the organizations that support them. The impact adoption can have on families, children and societies is truly life-changing.

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US Senator Mike Rounds’ Weekly Column: Obama’s Clean Power Plan is Fundamentally Flawed

RoundsPressHeader MikeRounds official SenateObama’s Clean Power Plan is Fundamentally Flawed
By Senator Mike Rounds
Aug. 14, 2015

Earlier this summer, President Obama announced his so-called “Clean Power Plan” final rule, which requires states to cut greenhouse gas emissions nearly a third within 15 years. This sweeping new mandate requires states to completely rework their electric grid and dramatically reduce the amount of electricity they get from coal-fired plants. The result of which will be higher electricity rates for every single household and business in the country. Additionally, energy production will be reduced, bringing further uncertainty to the electric grid. All of this comes with very little benefit to the environment.

In South Dakota, we have scorching hot summers and freezing cold winters. We rely on dependable energy to protect us from our extreme weather conditions. Yet the clean power rule could jeopardize our current system. All of this is being done with no input from Congress. It is another example in which American families are being forced to suffer the consequences of the President’s overreaching, over-burdensome environmental agenda without any input or recourse for policies with which they disagree.

Since the President announced the final rule, South Dakota joined 14 other states in a petition to the D.C. Court of Appeals to block the egregious plan. In the appeal, the states ask the court to issue a ruling in the matter before September 8, 2015, one year before they are required to submit plans to EPA for how they will reduce emissions as required by the Clean Power Plan. Additionally, South Dakota Attorney General Marty Jackley has joined a lawsuit challenging the rule. It is one of a number of suits that challenge whether the EPA exceeded its powers when issuing the final rule to cut power-plant carbon emissions.

In the Senate, the Environment and Public Works Committee (EPW), of which I am a member, recently passed the bipartisan Affordable Reliable Energy Now Act (ARENA), which is the principal legislative vehicle to roll back the Clean Power Plan rule. Our legislation is a common sense solution that gives states additional time and flexibility to comply with these new rules. It also protects hard-working American families from bearing the brunt of the Clean Power Plan through higher electricity rates.

ARENA requires the EPA to submit a report to Congress describing the quantity of greenhouse gas emissions the Clean Power Plan is actually expected to reduce, and to conduct modeling to show the impacts of the rule on the climate indicators used to develop the final rule. As an original cosponsor of ARENA, I’m committed to working with my colleagues to put a stop to this costly carbon emissions rule.

The Obama administration, through the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), has been solely focused on cementing the President’s legacy as a champion of the environment. I, too, believe that we have an obligation to protect our natural resources for future generations. But it must not be at the expense of our economy, jobs and the current electric grid. It is another example of an Administration stretching the limits of the law to issue costly new regulations at the expense of American growth and innovation. It underscores the need for a bipartisan approach to address executive overreach – such as my RESTORE resolution to reinforce Congressional oversight as part of the rulemaking process. I will continue to work to protect taxpayers from this and other costly rules.


US Senator John Thune’s weekly column: The Obama EPA Strikes Again

thuneheadernew John_Thune,_official_portrait,_111th_CongressThe Obama EPA Strikes Again
By Senator John Thune

If there is one thing for which the Obama Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) can be counted on, it is the repeated issuance of rules and regulations that stifle growth and make life harder and more costly for American families and businesses. The agency, stocked with a seemingly endless amount of red tape, lived up to its reputation earlier this month when it approved the final rule of the so-called “Clean Power Plan,” which could be more accurately described as a backdoor national energy tax.

This national energy tax is unwelcome news for South Dakota consumers because it will hurt jobs, cause costs to skyrocket, and threaten our grid reliability. South Dakota is an energy-intense state – we have cold winters and hot summers. As a result, South Dakota families spend a high share of their income on energy costs. While consumers across the state are likely to feel the pain from this burdensome new regulation, it is low-income families and seniors living on fixed incomes who will be hit the hardest. Many families are already finding it difficult to make ends meet. Higher energy costs – and the resulting costs that will be added to existing products and services – will only make that struggle more problematic.

The EPA’s rule will require a 32 percent across-the-board reduction in carbon emissions from 2005 levels by 2030. Such a dramatic rate reduction will target the heart of America’s affordable and reliable coal generation. South Dakota’s state reduction target is 47 percent, which is one of the highest in the country and far exceeds the national average.

For the Big Stone Plant, which is South Dakota’s only major coal-fired electric generating unit and nearing completion of a $384 million environmental upgrade, the dust has yet to settle on existing regulations that the EPA has piled on it, including Regional Haze and Utility MACT. Despite the Big Stone Plant soon becoming one of the cleanest plants in the country, the EPA’s latest set of rules will threaten the plant’s multi-million dollar investment. In order to recoup this investment, it may be forced to pass its costs onto ratepayers.

In January, I wrote to EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy calling on the agency to think twice about the impact their D.C.-based rule-making process would have on South Dakotans halfway across the country. I urged Administrator McCarthy to abandon these rules, or at the very least, reconsider South Dakota’s emission reduction target to more accurately reflect our existing energy portfolio and the investments utility companies and ratepayers have already made in efficiency upgrades. Not only did the EPA move forward with these rules anyway, but South Dakota’s emission reduction target actually increased in the final rule.

I have said it before: Rule-makers in Washington’s concrete jungle, whether intentionally or unintentionally, force one-size-fits-all rules that oftentimes have a devastating impact on agriculture producers, homeowners, and small businesses across the country. With its national energy tax, the Obama EPA has struck again. I will continue to do all I can to see that this ill-conceived rule is reversed.

US Senator Mike Rounds’ Weekly Column: The EPA’s Unfair ‘Sue and Settle’ Tactics

RoundsPressHeader MikeRounds official SenateThe EPA’s Unfair ‘Sue and Settle’ Tactics
By Senator Mike Rounds

Too often, rather than writing and implementing regulations in an open and transparent process, environmental regulations are enacted as a result of citizen suits prompted by environmental activists. This practice is commonly known as “sue-and-settle.” I recently chaired a Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Subcommittee hearing to examine the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) and Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) sue-and-settle tactics and the impact they have on our economy and local governments.

Both the Clean Air Act and the Endangered Species Act contain clauses that allow citizens to file citizen suits against a regulatory agency to reassure the agency’s compliance with federal statutes. Often, these citizen suits are being used to perpetuate this sue-and-settle process, which overwhelms regulatory agencies and results in settlement agreements and consent decrees requiring agencies to promulgate major regulations within an arbitrarily imposed timeline.

It is worrisome that these agreements are often negotiated behind closed doors, with no transparency and little input from the public before a final rule is issued. The parties responsible for implementing the rules, such as states and local governments, are nearly completely cut out of the process. They are not even consulted about the practicalities of the settlement agreement. Even more alarming, an EPW Committee report recently released found evidence of the Obama Administration colluding with environmental groups to advance these cases. This unfair process allows the administration to advance its own policy agenda while circumventing Congress and the entire legislative process.

As a result, sue-and settle techniques are creating expensive, burdensome regulations that cost taxpayers billions of dollars, stifle economic growth and limit job creation. What’s worse is that these rules are being made behind closed doors by unelected bureaucrats. The American people have no voice in the process. A recent study by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce found that the EPA reconsideration of the 2008 Ozone National Ambient Air Quality Standards could cost up to $90 billion annually, making it the most expensive regulation in history.

Since October 2014, there have been 88 sue-and-settle cases, 79 of which were launched by environmental groups. This squeezes out the voice of average Americans who deserve a say in the regulations under which we all must live.  I believe our government works best when the public is involved in the decisions that affect their daily lives and agencies work transparently and in good faith. Sue-and-settle practices undermine this concept.

As chairman of the EPW Subcommittee on Superfund, Waste Management, and Regulatory Oversight, I take seriously my job to hold the EPA and other agencies accountable to the American people. I will continue working to stop the unfair sue-and-settle tactics used by the administration to circumvent Congress and the American people in order to promote their agendas.


Rounds, King Introduce Bill to Give Small Businesses, Community Banks and Credit Unions a Say in CFPB Decision Making

RoundsPressHeader MikeRounds official SenateRounds, King Introduce Bill to Give Small Businesses, Community Banks and Credit Unions a Say in CFPB Decision Making

PIERRE—U.S. Sen. Mike Rounds (R-S.D.), a member of the Senate Banking Committee, and U.S. Sen. Angus King (I-Maine), introduced legislation to make certain small businesses, community banks and credit unions will always have a strong voice in the rulemaking process at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). S. 1963, the Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection Advisory Board Enhancement Act, would create a new small business advisory panel within the CFPB and make permanent community bank and credit union panels within the Bureau. It would also require each committee to adequately represent members from rural and underserved areas.

“As the CFPB continues to make decisions that affect every American, it is critical for rural areas, community banks, small businesses and credit unions to have a voice,” said Rounds. “This is particularly important in rural states like South Dakota. Our bill makes certain that voice will be heard.”

“Small businesses, community banks and credit unions are invaluable forces in America’s economy, and they deserve a seat at the table as the CFPB makes important and far-reaching financial decisions,” said Senator King. “Rural communities in Maine, South Dakota, and all across the nation rely on these institutions to create jobs and grow the local economy. I’m proud to stand with Senator Rounds, my fellow former governor, on behalf of rural America.”

The CFPB is an independent agency created by Dodd-Frank responsible for consumer protection of the financial sector. It currently has four advisory groups that help it set policy, though only one – the Consumer Advisory Board – is required by Dodd-Frank. This bill codifies two existing advisory boards, the Community Bank Advisory Council and the Credit Union Advisory Council, and creates an additional advisory committee for small businesses. In addition, the bill would require each committee to adequately represent members from rural or underserved areas. The bill is supported by the Independent Community Bankers of America, the American Land Title Association, and the Credit Union National Association, among other groups. Similar legislation, H.R. 1195, passed the House of Representatives in April of 2015.


US Senator Mike Rounds’ Weekly Column: No Deal is Better Than a Bad Deal


 No Deal is Better Than a Bad Deal
By Senator Mike Rounds
July 31, 2015

MikeRounds official SenateSeveral weeks ago, President Obama submitted part of the nuclear agreement with Iran to Congress for review. The U.S. negotiators, including Secretary of State John Kerry, have not even seen the details of the side agreements reached between the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and Iran. I have been closely examining the proposal and asking important questions regarding specific details. Unfortunately, the more I learn about the President’s agreement, the more concerned I am about the risks it poses to our long-term national security.

Earlier this year, President Obama claimed that no deal with Iran regarding their nuclear program would be better than a bad deal, and I couldn’t agree more. Yet from what we know so far, it appears to be a very bad deal that not only fails to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon, it emboldens them through tens of billions of dollars in sanctions relief, a phased out lifting of United Nations arms and missile embargoes and allows them to test more advanced centrifuges after 10 years.

I recently had an opportunity to question administration officials about the deal during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing. During that hearing, Defense Secretary Ashton Carter confirmed to me that under this deal, he could not rule out Iran acquiring an intercontinental ballistic missile in ten years. This means that Iran would have the capability of producing a weapon that could reach U.S. soil in a decade. These troubling comments come after General Paul Selva, the President’s nominee to be Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told me during a separate hearing that Iran remains the leading state sponsor of terrorism, and sanctions relief agreed to in the nuclear deal could be used by Iran to continue sponsoring terrorism.

I’m concerned that this deal puts too much trust in Iran – a country that has violated more than 20 international agreements in the past, continues to be the largest state sponsor of terrorism and currently has imprisoned four U.S. citizens.

Congress is currently reviewing the deal and will likely vote on a resolution of disapproval in mid-September. I’ve said all along that any deal with Iran must prevent Iran from ever obtaining a nuclear weapon, and it appears the President’s proposed deal fails to accomplish that goal. In essence, this agreement not only releases tens of billions of dollars in resources to Iran for use in terror activities, it also authorizes the relaxation of the arms embargo and the limitations on Iran’s ability to get an intercontinental ballistic missile while legally allowing them access to advance nuclear capabilities at the end of a ten year period. That is the end result, even if they do not cheat in the meantime.

A nuclear Iran will increase the level of unrest in an already-unstable Middle East, threaten many of our allies and put U.S. lives at risk. The president was correct when he said that “no deal is better than a bad deal” with Iran. It’s time for him to realize what is in front of him.


Rounds Actively Working to Defund Planned Parenthood

RoundsPressHeader MikeRounds official SenateRounds Actively Working to Defund Planned Parenthood
Signs onto Legislation to Completely Defund Organization

PIERRE—U.S. Senator Mike Rounds (R-S.D.) today issued the following statement after another video surfaced of Planned Parenthood executives discussing the sale of unborn babies’ body parts. He has cosponsored several bills to defund the organization. The Senate will vote on legislation to defund Planned Parenthood on Monday.

“Four videos have now surfaced of Planned Parenthood officials talking casually and cold-heartedly about the sale of body parts of unborn children. The behavior displayed by agency officials in the videos is disgusting and morally reprehensible,” said Rounds. “Planned Parenthood should never have been receiving taxpayer dollars. I will work to stop federal funds from going to this organization immediately.”

Legislation Rounds Has Cosponsored To Defund Planned Parenthood:

  • S. 1861 would eliminate nearly $500 million of taxpayer funding each year to Planned Parenthood.
  • S. 1877 would require a special prosecutor to be appointed by the DC Circuit Court of Appeals for the purpose of investigating Planned Parenthood’s alleged violation of federal law, including changing or delaying abortion procedures for the sole purpose of harvesting fetal tissue and selling fetal tissue for profit. The legislation would also rescind federal funding to Planned Parenthood as a means to pay for this special investigation and would also authorize the investigation of any other organization that funds or conducts abortions.
  • S. 1881 would defund Planned Parenthood while preserving federal funding for women’s health services, including relevant diagnostic laboratory and radiology services, well-child care, prenatal and postpartum care, immunization, cervical and breast cancer screenings and referrals. Funds no longer available to Planned Parenthood will continue to be offered to other eligible entities to provide such women’s health care services.

In addition, Rounds joined 49 of his colleagues in a letter to Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell to draw attention to the legal, ethical and policy issues raised by the footage and urge her to cooperate with ongoing and future investigations into these questions.

Planned Parenthood receives roughly $1.4 million tax payer dollars every day, according to their 2013-2014 annual report. The Senate is scheduled to vote on S. 1881 on Monday, August 3, 2015 at 5:30 p.m. ET.