Congresswoman Kristi Noem’s Weekly Column: Joy of Giving

Joy of Giving
By Rep. Kristi Noem
December 19, 2014

kristi noem headshot May 21 2014I am the epitome of your last-minute shopper.  Bryon and I usually know what we’re getting the kids weeks in advance.  But between going to school Christmas programs, decorating the house, addressing Christmas cards, and finishing up legislative work for the year, the purchases are typically made just in time to get the gifts wrapped.  As parents know though, the joy of watching your kids (no matter how old they are) tear open those gifts on Christmas morning makes all the stresses of shopping worth it.  It’s perhaps the best reminder we have of the age-old adage:  It is better to give than to receive.

For many in South Dakota, the joy of giving is shared not only during this season, but throughout the year.  In fact, 35 percent of South Dakotans spent time volunteering in 2013, according to a study by the Corporation for National and Community Services that was released last week.  When you add it all up, we spent 21.5 million hours serving others that year and what a powerful message that sends.

Of course, only a small portion of South Dakota’s sense of giving can even be quantified by the hours we spend volunteering.  I am still struck by the viral video of Carol Flynn purchasing diapers for the young mother ahead of her in line at Wal-Mart.  And the story of the young girl from Mitchell who donated some of her toys to the kids in Wessington Springs after a tornado swept away all they knew.  And the nine-year-old girl who heard that Rainbow Bible Camp near Sturgis had lost 90 horses in Winter Strom Atlas and sent the camp $28.39 – mostly in coins – to help them recover.  She said in her letter to them, “I thought you might need this.  I’ll try to get more.  Every bit counts.”

These actions by individuals are only enhanced by the generosity of the many, many organizations in South Dakota dedicated to serving their community.

This year, the Toy Industry Foundation donated 500 toys to three of these generous local charities – the Ronald McDonald House Charities in Sioux Falls, the Children’s Home Society in Sioux Falls, and the Northeast South Dakota Head Start Program in Aberdeen – after I was named a “Champion of Play” for my work in Congress.  The donation enables children who are victims of abuse, suffering from illnesses, or living in poverty to give and to receive.  It shows them that there is a community surrounding them that wants them to succeed – that wants them to find joy.  Truly, a special gift.

This holiday season, it is my hope that you experience the incredible joy of giving.  From my family to yours, merry Christmas.

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Congresswoman Kristi Noem’s Weekly Column: A Look Back

A Look Back
By Rep. Kristi Noem
December 12, 2014

kristi noem headshot May 21 2014I almost can’t believe how fast 2014 has gone.  My son Booker is about three inches taller while his Christmas list is about half as long (although somehow twice as expensive!)  As we look to wrap up the year, I wanted to share with you some of the successes I’ve had in Congress during the last twelve months.

The year kicked off with passage of the long-awaited Farm Bill.  I was honored to serve as the first House Member at the Farm Bill negotiating table in nearly two decades and even more thrilled to get so many provisions in place for South Dakota producers and consumers.  Among other items, we got a strong crop insurance program, revived the livestock indemnity program, and built support for pine beetle mitigation efforts.

A few months later, the House passed a provision I wrote that would allocate a total of $31 million to a rural water project fund that the Lewis & Clark Regional Water System is eligible to draw from.  Our communities have put in more than their share of the funding for Lewis and Clark, but the federal government has not kept their end of the deal.  This provision moves us in the right direction and I was glad to see it included in the final funding bill.

In July, the Black Hills Cemetery Act, a bill I wrote after many conversations with West River communities, was signed into law.  To reduce liabilities for taxpayers and honor those who have been caring for these nine historic Black Hills cemeteries for generations, this legislation returns the cemeteries’ ownership to the generous communities who maintain them.

Later that month, the U.S. House of Representatives passed another piece of legislation I wrote.  This one addressed human trafficking and would have opened an existing Department of Justice grant program to shelters that are looking to house survivors of human trafficking.  With only around 200 beds available to underage human trafficking survivors nationwide, it was a need I spoke with many South Dakota groups about.  I was disappointed the Senate did not take up the bill, but I’ll continue the fight in the years to come.

In August, I was proud to welcome the Chairman of the House Veterans Affairs (VA) Committee to Hot Springs to hold a congressional hearing.  I’ve visited the VA hospital in Hot Springs many times and have always been impressed by their commitment to our veterans, but the impassioned showing at that congressional hearing blew me away.  It earned them the support of the House VA Committee, which is critical.  Through an end-of-the-year funding agreement, we were able to restrict any FY2015 funds from being used to move forward on closing the facility.

Earlier this month, the House passed the ABLE Act, which would allow those with disabilities or their families to open tax-free savings accounts – similar to the 529 investment plans many people use to save for their kids’ college.  The funds in these tax-free accounts could be used for medical expenses, housing, transportation, and higher-education.  As a co-sponsor of this bill, I always knew how important it was to extend this benefit to families, but it really hit me when I received a Facebook message from a father in southeastern South Dakota just hours before the vote.  He wrote that the bill would help his family “save for a brighter tomorrow for our son.”  The impact of this bill is real and will open new doors for many families like this.

On these issues and many others, I relied on your voice and am so grateful for those who have called, written, or emailed me with their thoughts.  I also believe it is my responsibility to keep you informed on what I’m doing, as I am ultimately accountable to you.  As a result, my office has made more than 150,000 phone calls to South Dakotans this year and written 104,000 letters and emails.

Perhaps our most important accomplishments, however, are found in the hundreds of South Dakotans we’ve helped receive veterans benefits, navigate Social Security, adopt a child, or guide through countless other federal bureaucratic processes.  It’s truly been an honor to serve you this year and I am looking forward to tackling new challenges in the year to come.

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South Dakota Priorities Preserved in Noem-Backed End-of-Year Funding Bill

South Dakota Priorities Preserved in Noem-Backed End-of-Year Funding Bill
Legislation keeps discretionary spending at lowest level since 2005

kristi noem headshot May 21 2014Washington, D.C. – Rep. Kristi Noem today supported an end-of-year government funding agreement that prioritizes a number of programs important to South Dakota.  The agreement keeps discretionary spending at the lowest level since 2005 and puts us on track to save taxpayers $2.1 trillion over the next 10 years.  The bipartisan bill passed the U.S. House of Representatives this evening and the Senate is expected to consider it soon.

“This legislation is by no means perfect, but it does reduce discretionary spending to the lowest point in nearly a decade while making sure the programs important to South Dakota remain funded,” said Rep. Noem.  “I’ve fought for hardworking South Dakotans in this bill.  As a result, we’ve increased support for the Lewis and Clark Rural Water System, preserved the Hot Springs VA Hospital for FY2015, maintained six-day delivery service from USPS, and given our schools some flexibility on school lunch standards – to name a few areas of success.  It’s not without flaws, but it moves us in the right direction.”

The Noem-backed bill, which will fund the majority of the federal government through September 30, 2015, includes a number of elements important to South Dakota, including:

  • Lewis & Clark.  The agreement fully funds President Obama’s budget request at $2.4 million in direct funds to the Lewis & Clark Rural Water System.  Additionally, an extra $31 million was allocated to a general rural water project fund that Lewis and Clark is eligible for, per an amendment made by Noem in the initial House-passed version of the spending bill.
  • Hot Springs VA Hospital.  No FY2015 funds can be used to close hospitals, domiciliaries, or clinics; conduct an environmental assessment; or diminish healthcare services at VA facilities in VISN 23, the area in which the Hot Springs VA operates.  Noem had a similar amendment included in the initial House-passed version of the spending bill.
  • Sage Grouse. The agreement prohibits funding for the Fish and Wildlife Service to list the sage grouse on the Endangered Species List.  Noem was a co-sponsor of R.4716, the Sage Grouse Protection and Conservation Act, which would prohibit the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service from listing the bird so long as the state already had a conservation and management plan.
  • Fewer Regulations for Ranchers. The end-of-year funding bill creates exemptions for livestock producers from onerous greenhouse gas regulations.  It does so by prohibiting rules that require mandatory reporting of greenhouse gas emissions from manure management systems.  Moreover, the agreement blocks the administration’s proposal on new grazing fees on Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Forest Service land.
  • Flexibility on School Lunch Standards.  Noem has strongly pushed for more flexibility on new school lunch standards. That was partially granted through a provision in the funding bill that allows schools flexibility on whole grain standards while also ensuring future sodium standards will not take effect until they are supported by science.
  • Sanford Lab. Funding for the Sanford Lab in Lead, South Dakota, was maintained at $15 million.
  • C. Booth Fish Hatchery.  The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is barred from using funding to terminate operations or close the facility in FY2015.
  • Payment in Lieu of Taxes.  Through this bill and the National Defense Authorization Act, Payment in Lieu of Taxes (or PILT) is fully funded through FY2015.
  • Sun Grant Initiative.  This initiative, which SDSU participates in, was funded at $2.5 million.  The President’s budget had eliminated funding for the program, but with Noem and others fighting to get it reauthorized in the Farm Bill, funding for the program was maintained.

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Congresswoman Noem’s Weekly Column: Preserving the Veterans Town

Preserving the Veterans Town
By Rep. Kristi Noem
December 5, 2014

kristi noem headshot May 21 2014It’s hard to believe it’s been three years since our fight to save the Hot Springs VA Hospital began.  On December 12, 2011, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) issued a reorganization proposal that included plans to close the doors of the VA hospital in Hot Springs – a community so dedicated to those who’ve served that it has earned the title “Veterans Town.”

The Hot Springs VA Hospital is a special place.  I’ve had the privilege of visiting the community and facility numerous times. I’m always taken aback by how relaxing its surroundings are and the beauty of the Battle Mountain Sanitarium, a short-term home for veterans recovering from injuries or illness that has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places.  The hospital employs hundreds in the Hot Springs community, many of whom are veterans themselves.  And I’ve spoken to many of the nearly 31,000 veterans served by the hospitals in Hot Springs and Fort Meade – the vast majority of which have been very passionate about keeping the hospital open.  Needless to say, it would be a shame to lose this facility.

Since the proposal was initially put forward, we’ve been asking for more information on the Native Americans who are served at the hospital, the land valuation in the VA’s cost-benefit analysis, and simple estimates for key provisions.  The numbers have never added up nor have they been consistent with community stakeholder data.

In August, I held a Congressional Field Hearing with the Chairman of the House VA Committee where these same questions about data discrepancies and transparency arose.  Once again, the answers we received from the VA were far from sufficient.  The Hot Springs Hospital did, however, earn the respect and support of Chairman Miller at the hearing.  He’s an important ally to have in Congress.

Despite the data discrepancies, the VA is pushing forward with an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), one of the last items needed to finalize their proposal.  I helped the U.S. House of Representatives pass a provision earlier this year that would stop the VA from using any FY2015 funds to conduct an EIS on facilities like the Hot Springs hospital, but the provision has not yet been taken up by the Senate.

Two weeks ago, I spoke with VA Secretary Robert McDonald about next steps.  He was aware of what’s been going on in the community and I requested that he come out to Hot Springs to see it for himself – an invitation I also made in writing shortly after he was confirmed as Secretary in July and again last week.  It’s something we continue to work on.

This fight is far from over.  Hot Springs has been providing critical care to South Dakota veterans for more than a century and I’m committed to doing all I can to ensure Hot Springs can serve veterans in this way for a century more.

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Kristi Noem posts over $110k raised in last few weeks of election, 201k spent, $820k Cash on hand.

You know, I think I see a disparity between the Republican and the Democrat in this race.

While Corinna Robinson couldn’t raise 5k, Kristi Noem handily raised over $110,000 during the same period covered by the post-general election report. Noem also reported $201k spent, and $820,738 cash remaining on hand for the next go-around. This is a real testament to the strength and popularity of the Congresswoman, who only continues to gain in popularity with the South Dakota electorate. To quote Henry Higgins, You might say we’ve ‘grown accustomed to her face,’ as she continues to better her percentage of victory each time she runs.

Noem Post General

So you guys like Marty… you really, really like him.

marty_mick

It’s been about a week and almost 300 votes, but in our completely unscientific, inside the bubble, poll of readers, you guys really like Marty Jackley for Governor, with Mark Mickelson a close second. Matt Michels, Dusty Johnson, and Kristi Noem rounded out the top 5 as we stuck our finger in the air for a momentary 4-years out benchmark.

There’s lots of time, and lots of jockeying left to do.  This list could completely turn upside down in a month. But, it’s a glimpse into who you see in that role.

Any comments?

Noem Pre-Primary: 73k raised, 95k spent, 881k in the bank.

The pre-primary FEC report is a bit of a different cat, as it isn’t a full report – it’s about 1/2 of a reporting period.  Regardless, Congresswoman Kristi Noem continues to remain in a far, far superior position than that of her Democrat Challenger:

Kristi Noem 2014 Pre-primary FEC Report

While Democrat Corinna Robinson has $8572 cash on hand, Congresswoman Kristi Noem has $881,078.74 cash on hand.  Yes, you are reading that correctly. Kristi Noem has approximately 102x the amount challenger Corinna Robinson has in the bank.

And while Congresswoman Noem has an experienced & professional campaign team, Robinson can’t keep staff, and is otherwise assisted by morons.

It’s going to be a long campaign for the competition.

Kristi Noem – an Update on Military Pensions

News from Representative Kristi Noem

Dear Friend,

I hope this finds you well and warm!  I wanted to give you a short update on a provision I helped pass in the House today.

The bipartisan budget agreement that was enacted late last year to avoid a government shutdown included a provision that would have slowed the rate of the annual Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) increase for certain military pensions.  This is an issue that I know has been on the minds of many South Dakotans.

I wanted to let you know that this afternoon I helped the House pass a repeal of that reduction for current and former members of the military.  This means that if you entered the military before January 2014, there will be no changes to your benefit plan.

We were also able to keep this provision budget neutral by making a small, one-year reduction to entitlement spending.

If you have any questions on this change, please reach out to my office nearest you or click here to send me an email directly.

Stay warm!

-Kristi

Department of Labor Revokes Family-Farming Guidance After Noem’s Letter

Department of Labor Revokes Family-Farming Guidance After Noem’s Letter

Washington, D.C. – Following a letter led by Rep. Noem urging the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to stay off small farms, the Department of Labor announced Monday that the agency would withdraw the controversial enforcement guidance that allowed OSHA inspectors on farms with fewer than 10 employees.

“Our family farms have a strong vested and personal interest in keeping their operations safe and viable,” said Rep. Noem. “OSHA has no authority to add more regulatory burdens on these small family businesses. I am pleased the Department of Labor will be revoking OSHA’s attempt to circumvent the law and join many producers across South Dakota in breathing a sigh of relief that OSHA will be staying off our family farms.”

Since 1976, Congress has banned OSHA from regulating farming operations with ten or fewer employees. However, in 2011, OSHA issued a memo without any public notice indicating the Agency has authority to regulate “post-harvest” activities which could include storage, fumigation, and drying – processes common on farms of all sizes. To view a copy of Rep. Noem’s January 28th letter to Labor Department Secretary Thomas Perez, please click here.

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Argus: Noem raises bulk of funds from South Dakota, Unclear if Robinson will be opponent

The Argus Leader was trumpeting Congresswoman Kristi Noem’s fundraising acumen today, noting that she raised over $206,000 from South Dakotans, but wasn’t so bullish on her opponent:

Rep. Kristi Noem raised almost $300,000 in the fourth quarter of 2013 and had about $845,000 in her campaign account to start the year, according to campaign finance reports.

and…

But the Republican incumbent also raised plenty of money in donations from the public, including South Dakota residents. Individual contributions during the period were just over $206,000, according to data from the Federal Election Commission.

and…

Robinson, a Rapid City native, raised almost $24,000, including about $7,100 she gave to her own campaign. Records showed she also loaned her campaign $20,000. Still, it remains unclear if she will be the Democratic candidate to face off against Noem in November.

Read it here.

With her opponent Corinna Robinson raising even less than some State Legislative candidates did during a similar period of time, it remains to be seen if she’s going to make it through to the fall campaign.