Learning Something from Yesterday
By Rep. Kristi Noem
December 23, 2015
It has been an honor to serve you again this year. As we prepare to start 2016, I couldn’t help but reflect on what a year it has been.
I started 2015 with an appointment to the historic House Ways and Means Committee, which handles all tax, trade and economic growth policies. As the first South Dakotan to serve on this committee, it’s been a tremendous opportunity to make sure our priorities and values are reflected in the nation’s largest debates.
Just days into the new year, the House passed the Keystone XL Pipeline Act with bipartisan support. This bill would have allowed work to begin. While Republicans and Democrats in the Senate also agreed to the legislation, the President vetoed it. In doing so, he deprived South Dakota of good jobs, millions of dollars in revenue for cash-strapped counties, and congestion relief for the roads and rails.
This was one of the first of more than 300 bills the House would pass throughout 2015. We also voted on a permanent repeal of the death tax, a bill to hold sanctuary cities accountable, and measures to rein in federal regulators. Although none of these items on our conservative agenda received the President’s signature, there were a handful of areas where we found common ground with members from both parties.
Over the last few years, I’ve advocated for legislation to combat human trafficking. On May 29, we earned a major victory when the President signed our bipartisan Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act, which included provisions I wrote with the needs of South Dakota and our children in mind.
We also passed a bipartisan Trade Promotion Authority bill, which put tools in place to hold the Obama administration accountable for meeting the trade objectives set by Congress. This legislation is already making an impact. Because of it, the public has full access to the pending Trans Pacific Partnership before Congress can act on it. That gives everyone time to review it and make sure it’s a good deal for America.
After more than 13 years under No Child Left Behind, Congress also overhauled our federal education policy, finally getting us away from the federal government micromanaging local classrooms. In the bill, we gave states more flexibility, empowered parents, modernized the Impact Aid program, and stopped the federal government from pressuring schools into adopting specific academic standards, like Common Core.
Additionally, I helped drive forward the first long-term highway bill in a decade to make sure South Dakota farmers, businesses and families would continue to have access to a safe and reliable infrastructure. With 80,000 miles of roadway, 6,000 bridges, and thousands of miles of railways in South Dakota, it was critical that we give state and local governments more certainty, control and flexibility when addressing infrastructure problems. The Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act accomplished that.
Finally, we passed legislation to protect hardworking South Dakotans from pending tax hikes. In the package, we made improvements to 529 college savings plans, offered a permanent deduction for certain classroom expenses teachers take on, and permanently extended Section 179, which is important to many farmers and ranchers. The package also included an extension of the biodiesel tax credit through 2016 and stopped Obamacare’s medical device tax from taking effect until at least 2017.
Beyond legislative initiatives, I’m proud of the personal impact our office has made in the lives of many South Dakotans. We’ve assisted more than 600 constituents who faced problems when trying to adopt a child, pay their taxes, receive veterans or Medicare benefits, and more. We’ve also been able to show more than 130 South Dakota groups around the U.S. Capitol and made more than 170,000 calls to constituents to make sure you knew what I was doing.
There is much more to be done, but as John Wayne said, “Tomorrow hopes we have learned something from yesterday.”
Thank you for the opportunity to serve South Dakota. Have a happy New Year!