Senate Passes Schatz-Thune Legislation to Improve and Grow Tourism in Native Communities

thuneheadernew John_Thune,_official_portrait,_111th_CongressSenate Passes Schatz-Thune Legislation to Improve and Grow Tourism in Native Communities

The NATIVE Act Will Empower Native Communities and Expand Cultural Tourism Opportunities

WASHINGTON — U.S. Sens. John Thune (R-S.D.) and Brian Schatz (D-Hawai‘i) issued the following statements after the Senate unanimously approved the Native American Tourism and Improving Visitor Experience (NATIVE) Act, bipartisan legislation that will enhance and integrate native tourism, empower native communities, and expand unique cultural tourism opportunities in the United States.

“South Dakota is rich in the culture and traditions of the Lakota, Dakota, and Nakota nations,” said Thune. “We should do all we can to help celebrate and recognize the numerous and oftentimes invaluable contributions our tribal communities provide to our state. I want to thank Sen. Schatz for his work on this bill that will help integrate tribally driven tourism plans into the existing federal tourism effort, which will help draw more visitors to the Great Plains and continue to empower our tribal citizens and communities.”

“I authored this bill because our country’s native communities are unique and have histories and cultures that can only be shared in America,” said Schatz. “In our state, we are proud that the Native Hawaiian contribution is foundational to who we are as a place and a people. Every visitor should know that.”

The NATIVE Act will require federal agencies with tourism assets and responsibilities to include tribes and native organizations in national tourism efforts and strategic planning. It would also provide Native Hawaiian, Alaska Native, and American Indian communities with access to resources and technical assistance needed to build sustainable recreational and cultural travel and tourism infrastructure and capacity; spur economic development, and create good jobs.

U.S. Sens. Jon Tester (D-Mont.), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), Tom Udall (D-N.M.), Dean Heller (R-Nev.), Al Franken (D-Minn.), Mike Rounds (R-S.D.), Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.), John Hoeven (R-N.D.), and Gary Peters (D-Mich.) are cosponsors of the NATIVE Act.

“Travel and tourism provide massive benefit for communities in every corner of the country, and in many communities those benefits are driven by visitation to Native American lands and cultural attractions,” said Roger Dow, president and CEO of the U.S. Travel Association. “The NATIVE Act expands opportunities to promote tourism to these lands. International travelers to Indian Country often have a greater impact on the local economy than other visitors—staying longer, visiting more states and regions and spending more on travel service—and the NATIVE Act will harness that effect for these communities.”

The NATIVE Act is supported by a broad coalition of stakeholders, including the Council for Native Hawaiian Advancement, Native Hawaiian Hospitality Association, Sovereign Councils of the Hawaiian Homeland Assembly, U.S. Travel Association, American Indian and Alaska Native Tourism Association, Southeast Tourism Society, Western States Tourism Policy Council, National Congress of American Indians, Alaska Federation of Natives, Native American Contractors Association, and the Native Enterprise Initiative of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

In September 2015, U.S. Rep. Markwayne Mullin (R-Okla.) introduced companion legislation in the House of Representatives.


And now, another episode of the Svarstad Files….

Cue that 2-note sound from the NBC Show “Law and Order” here. (Bum-bum).

Alright faithful readers – It’s time for another episode of The Svarstad Files, chronicling the long criminal history of Democrat Party State House Candidate Chris Svarstad as runs for the South Dakota State Legislature, dragging a chain of broken laws the entire way behind him.

On February the 29th Yankton Democrat Candidate Chris Svarstad compared himself to Republican State Representative Mike Stevens on crime on a campaign web page that as of tonight, is no longer there: Svarstad_stevens_weakoncrimeSvarstad alleges “weekend passes and cover-ups” on the part of State Representative Mike Stevens…. but skips over the part where Mike Stevens isn’t a prosecutor. He isn’t some sort of jail administrator. He would have had practically nothing to do with any “Weekend passes.”

What was Steven’s role in the matter? Stevens was actually counsel for the defendant. His attorney.  So, as counsel for the defense, advocating for his client… well, it would actually be part of the job duties of a defense counsel, and he’d be in dutch if he didn’t do his job.

What makes the post even more bizarre is that given Svarstad’s past experiences with Attorney Stevens acting as a defense counsel prior to making that questionable statement, you would think he should have already know that.

Why would he know of Stevens’ work as a defense lawyer? Well, here’s where we have to take a look into The Svarstad Files:


In 2014, about 22 years after the case that Svarstad is using to poke at Representative Stevens, Svarstad (or someone paying Svarstad’s bills) hired Representative Stevens to represent him and act as his attorney because he was charged with use or possession of drug paraphernalia.

So, when he made the questionable statement about Rep. Stevens in the 1992 case earlier this month, Svarstad was already well acquainted with the role that Stevens serves within the system of American Jurisprudence in acting as a defense counsel. He’d already used Steven’s services himself.

Except, unlike the 1992 case, apparently there was not enough reasonable doubt for Stevens to get Svarstad off the hook on this drug crime for which he pled guilty about a year and a half ago.

Stay tuned for more to come on The Svarstad Files.

Coming up for air & the noble South Dakota campaign postcard.

Sorry about the light posting lately. I’ve had my nose held hard on the grindstone without a free moment in-between work and more work over the past few weeks.

If I’m not plunking away on claims & other activity at the insurance office, I’m making a fleeting appearance at the Real Estate office while I work on a few things.  And it’s just otherwise nuts around these parts.  We had a first communion this weekend for my youngest, as he gets older day by day… It’s also the end of the school year, which my wife described at Lunch today as work, concert, work, concert, work, concert…

delivery_crewThere’s also that whole campaign printing & supply business of mine which is going like gangbusters.

As you can see here pictured to the left, my sign delivery team is hard at work, as we wait for a candidate to meet us this past weekend. We spent most of Saturday on the road after I had open houses for Real Estate in the morning.

I’d love to spend more time getting in-depth with what’s happening in South Dakota politics, but I find myself devoting my energies to “making hay while the sun is shining,”  and working with the candidates who are out there doing political campaign signs, and campaign postcards for the primary campaign season.

And that provides the basis for a post – that Political postcards are nothing new for South Dakota, as you might tell by one of my favorite political items in my personal collection:

coe crawford postcard

This is a South Dakota political postcard from 1908 – over 108 years old – regarding outgoing Governor, and US Senate Candidate Coe Crawford going to the US Senate after raising money for the State Treasury by taxing South Dakota Railroads.

It’s one of, if not the earliest example I’ve found for South Dakota. It’s a simple black & white 4×6 postcard. Obviously, they didn’t do full color 6 x 11 postcards with UV coating (as you can buy through *shameless plug*), but they didn’t have to punch a message through the amount of junk mail we all receive in these modern days.

Postcards had somewhat been in and out of vogue in South Dakota state politics, until State Democrat party Executive Director Rick Hauffe brought them back in the late 80’s/early 90’s, and (admittedly) he used them to effect against his opponents, in this case, select candidates for the SDGOP, as they received these giant postcards that not many people had seen before. If they weren’t effective in moving votes away from their opponents, it at least left some candidates trying to respond to the zingers that were thrown against them on a mass basis.

That coincided with when the pendulum last swung back for Democrats, allowing them to capture a slim majority in the State Senate for a single term.  And it was postcards that made it possible. Although, don’t look for a repeat anytime soon. Nowadays, Democrats are a pale reflection of what they once were, and the GOP is far more vigilant.

Since that time, postcards have become more and more a staple in many campaigns, as broadcast and newspaper advertising has increased in price, and electronic mediums for advertising have yet to catch fire for State, Legislative, and County level candidates. And, postcards are not such a scatter-shot approach as radio or newspaper advertising tends to be.

It’s like the difference between training a shotgun at a deer, or using a high power rifle on a target.

We read mainly about the negative postcards that are bandied about, and sometimes go for the jugular, but in reality, most candidates use them simply for name identification. With the ability to target the exact voters who have the highest likelihood to participate in an election, they arguably surpass all other methods of contacting the electorate on a targeted basis.

The lowly postcard. Since (at least) 1908 in South Dakota.

US Senator John Thune’s Weekly Column: Bipartisan Aviation Bill Reaches New Heights

thuneheadernew John_Thune,_official_portrait,_111th_CongressBipartisan Aviation Bill Reaches New Heights
By Sen. John Thune

Passing bills through the U.S. Senate is not an easy task, especially bills that include sweeping reforms that would impact a large portion of the American people. That’s why I was particularly pleased that 95 of my colleagues – nearly every U.S. senator – recently voted to approve my bipartisan Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Reauthorization Act and send it to the House of Representatives, which gets it one step closer to the president’s desk. While passing bills might be difficult, making the case for getting this bill across the finish line and signed into law is pretty straightforward.

First, it’s good government. Congress should get back in the business of reauthorizing federal programs and agencies, and that’s exactly what we’re doing here. Our oversight role is an important one, and it can’t be overlooked. The Republican-led Senate has made it a priority to get back to the basics and do the work the American people expect us to do. Until Republicans took the majority in January 2015, the committee process had essentially ground to a halt. Today, we’re moving bills through committees and onto the Senate floor where they can be debated and amended.

Take the Commerce Committee for example. I’ve chaired this key committee for just over a year, but we’ve already tackled some pretty monumental items. We helped pass the first long-term transportation bill in nearly a decade, made first-of-their-kind reforms to the Surface Transportation Board, passed legislation that will help develop the next generation of wireless broadband, and now we’ve ushered through what has been described as “one of the most passenger-friendly FAA reauthorization bills in a generation.”

Which brings me to another important reason this bill should be considered in the House without delay: the numerous provisions we included that would make the customer experience easier. As a frequent traveler – I fly to and from my home in South Dakota nearly every week – the headaches of air travel are well-known. My bill makes some pretty common-sense changes that would require airlines to return certain fees when services aren’t rendered, like when your luggage is lost or delayed. The bill also requires airlines to make seat availability clear at the time of booking, which would be a big advantage for families who travel with small children.

Not only do we try to make air travel a little easier, but we make it safer too. It’s unfortunate, but in today’s world, terrorists will try to do anything to cause harm, and we must do everything within our power to stay one step ahead. My bill tightens the vetting process for airport workers who have access to secure areas, like the gate agents who double as baggage handlers at small airports throughout the country. As I’ve said before, a vast majority of these people are hard-working, dedicated employees, but we must take every necessary precaution.

South Dakota’s general aviation community was a priority in this bill too, which is why I included a key safety provision requiring small towers, like those that line the South Dakota landscape, to be properly and safely marked so agriculture applicators and other pilots who typically operate at low altitude can clearly identify them. The Pilot’s Bill of Rights 2 was also included in my bill, which means the regulatory burden faced by many recreational pilots will be reduced without compromising safety.  My bill also directs important advances in drone safety to protect the flying public while still fostering opportunity for innovative new uses, such as in agriculture.

As I mentioned at the outset, it’s not easy to do big things in the Senate. But that is the job I signed up to do on behalf of the people of South Dakota. This bill and the process through which we operated prove that by working hard and building a consensus around an important issue, we can get the big things done.


US Senator Mike Rounds’ Weekly Column: Energy Bill Benefits South Dakotans

Rounds Logo 2016 MikeRounds official SenateEnergy Bill Benefits South Dakotans
By Senator Mike Rounds

The Senate recently passed a bipartisan, comprehensive energy bill that will increase energy security and help keep energy costs low for South Dakota families. The Energy Policy Modernization Act of 2016 is the first comprehensive energy bill to pass the Senate in nearly a decade. Included in the final package are a number of measures to improve the energy needs of South Dakotans, and other provisions that will directly benefit our state. I was pleased to vote for it on the Senate floor.

The bill includes my easement disclosure amendment that would make sure landowners are aware of all the options available to them when choosing to place their land in a conservation easement. Landowners in South Dakota deserve to know that perpetual conservation easements aren’t their only option. This legislation will increase awareness for shorter, termed easements that keep the landowner and the federal government on equal footing. I believe it will also result in greater conservation opportunities.

Specifically, this amendment contains language to establish a federal education program through the U.S. Department of the Interior to allow landowners to learn all of the federal conservation options available to them when choosing to restrict future use of their land through a federal easement. The agency will be required to make landowners aware of this program when approaching them about participating in a conservation program.

Another South Dakota provision included in the energy bill is the Black Hills National Cemetery Boundary Expansion Act, introduced by Sen. John Thune and me earlier this Congress. This will facilitate a permanent land transfer of around 200 acres of Bureau of Land Management land to expand the Black Hills National Cemetery near Sturgis. The permanent land transfer will guarantee that generations of South Dakota veterans will be able to rest peacefully in the Black Hills National Cemetery.

Reauthorization of the Brownfields program was included in the energy bill as well. I worked with a number of my colleagues on the Brownfields Utilization, Investment and Local Development Act, also referred to as the BUILD Act, which will provide funding for technical assistance grants to small communities and rural areas. This will be helpful to many South Dakota communities by expanding the scope of eligible grant recipients to include non-profit community groups. I was happy to see it included in the final energy bill.

The bill will enhance our ability to protect the electric grid from weather events and cybersecurity threats. Passing the Energy Policy Modernization Act is just one more example of the Senate’s commitment to strengthening economic security for the American people and of our dedication to an all-of-the-above approach to energy policy. We would have liked to see additional energy production measures included in the bill, but operating under a divided government requires any legislation passed to meet the approval of both Republicans and Democrats. We may not have gotten everything we wanted, but this bill is step in the right direction.


Congresswoman Kristi Noem’s Weekly Column: Commonsense Accountability

noem press header kristi noem headshot May 21 2014Commonsense Accountability
By Rep. Kristi Noem

With Tax Day only a week or so behind us, the amount of personal information we send in with our tax return is still fresh in our minds: Social Security numbers; our annual salary; in some cases, the routing number for our bank account!  That’s the kind of information we wouldn’t share with just anyone, so it begs the question: whose hands does this information fall into once it arrives at the IRS?

Before we get too far in, I want to say that I’ve met with some incredible folks in South Dakota who do some of this work and do it with integrity.  But the IRS is a nationwide agency.  Not everyone lives up to South Dakota’s standards, including many decision-makers within the IRS.

In the past few years alone, the agency has targeted groups based on their political beliefs.  They’ve let criminal acts pass by the wayside, sending out billions of dollars in improper payments.  They’ve let calls from taxpayers go unanswered, picking up just 15.6 percent of calls during the height of tax-filing season this year.  Thousands of employees have neglected to pay their own taxes.  And all the while, the agency has handed out about $6 million worth of bonuses.

With all of this as background, it may come as no surprise that the IRS also knowingly hired hundreds of former employees who had previously been fired for misconduct. Some of these people had been fired from the IRS for filing false documents.  Some accessed sensitive taxpayer information without permission.  Some just didn’t show up to work for what totaled about 8 weeks’ worth of work, leading to a stamp on their personnel file saying: “Do Not Rehire.”  Incredibly, all of these people were rehired.

Nearly one in five of the rehired employees had new performance issues when they returned to the IRS, according to a federal report.  This defies commonsense.

What’s more, the IRS has shown a complete disregard for changing the practice and insists that prior conduct or performance issues do not play a significant role in deciding the candidates they choose to hire.  I couldn’t let this policy stand.

I introduced legislation to prohibit the IRS from hiring employees they had already fired once for misconduct.  It earned bipartisan support, and on April 21, the House of Representatives gave the legislation its stamp of approval.  The Senate has already started its work on this legislation.  I’m hopeful they can sign off on this bill soon and put this commonsense reform on the President’s desk.

In addition to the bill I introduced, the House passed legislation that ended bonuses to IRS employees until the agency starts to fix its terrible customer service record.  We also passed a bill to get rid of an unaccountable IRS slush fund, giving taxpayers a greater say over how fees the IRS collects are used.  Finally, we passed legislation to stop the IRS from hiring any new employees until they can certify that no employees are delinquent on their own taxes.  These are commonsense, if you are out there to protect hardworking taxpayers.

These bills are only a snippet of what must be done to correct a broken system.  Nonetheless, as we work toward a fairer, flatter and simpler tax code, I’ll be looking for more opportunities to make the IRS more accountable to you.


Governor Daugaard’s Weekly Column: Celebrating Agriculture’s Leadership in Conservation

daugaardheader DaugaardCelebrating Agriculture’s Leadership in Conservation
A column by Gov. Dennis Daugaard:

Our dedicated farming and ranching families, many of whom have been on the land for generations, know how important it is to take care of the land because their livelihoods depend on it. As we celebrate our natural resources on Earth Day, we should applaud stewards of working lands for protecting our land and water.

Each year, the South Dakota Cattlemen’s Association, the South Dakota Grassland Coalition and the Sand County Foundation bestow the Leopold Conservation Award® on a farming or ranching family who demonstrates outstanding conservation leadership, and is dedicated to land and wildlife conservation. The award is named for renowned conservationist Aldo Leopold.

This year’s Leopold Conservation Award recipients, Cronin Farms, have been committed to keeping land health and livestock welfare at the forefront of their management technique. They attribute their continued success on the land to efforts which mimic the natural environment as much as possible.

Monty and Mike Cronin, with their long-time farm manager Dan Forgey, manage a mixed livestock and crop farm that shares a sizable border with the Oahe Reservoir on the Missouri River. This location draws a significant amount of wildlife to their land. Their diverse enterprise provides an excellent example of how outstanding land stewardship and economic resilience go hand in hand.

Congratulations to Cronin Farms and all landowners across South Dakota who care for the natural resources we all depend on. Their commitment to a healthy environment ensures that our natural resources will be here for our future generations.

For information on Cronin Farms, Inc. and the many conservation practices farmers and ranchers use, visit