Congresswoman Kristi Noem’s Weekly Column: Why We Need an Opportunity Economy

Why We Need an Opportunity Economy
By Rep. Kristi Noem
January 23, 2015

kristi noem headshot May 21 2014During last week’s State of the Union address, President Obama intended to make the argument that his economic approach was “middle-class economics.”  We ought to be investing in growing the size and strength of middle-class America – as well as its pay – but the President’s policies have failed to do that.

On his watch, only top earners have seen their incomes rise, but middle-class Americans are earning less on average than they did in 2009 – by about two thousand dollars a year.  While jobs have been added at the top and bottom of the wage scale, those positions sought by the middle class have been shed.

A house divided against itself cannot stand – and neither can an economy.  This administration’s policies have divided our nation by class and income.  That’s never been the American way – and it never should be. I believe we ought to seek opportunities for every citizen.  We ought to be bringing folks out of poverty and making sure wages increase across the board.  We ought to be fighting so that every South Dakotan has the opportunity to succeed – so long as they work hard and play by the rules.  We ought to be aiming for an Opportunity Economy.

In many cases, opportunity is a product of education, whether that is a traditional university, community college or vocational school.  I believe in the importance of receiving a higher education, but I also understand the obstacles life can throw in your way when you’re trying to get that education.  I worked multiple jobs after high school to support my own education.

When my dad passed away and I came home to help run the farm, I had to put that education on hold.  I finally finished my degree almost 20 years later. Needless to say, I understand the challenges.  That’s one of the reasons why I’ve been so supportive of 529 savings plans, which hundreds of South Dakota families currently take advantage of.  The President proposed increasing taxes on these savings accounts as part of his State of the Union pitch.  But this is money hardworking Americans have earned and saved for their kids’ education.  The government doesn’t deserve to take a bigger piece of that money than it already gets.

I’ve also been looking to increase opportunities for working moms.  For many, finding the right work-life balance is a constant struggle.  I’d like to see working families get a little more flexibility.  If you work overtime, you should have a choice: take the overtime pay or get that time back by receiving an equal amount of extra time off.  I helped pass a bill through the House to accomplish this last year, and I’ll be working with the new Republican Senate to try to get it over the finish line this year.

Achieving an Opportunity Economy will also require some changes to the tax code and regulatory environment to make it more fair and affordable.  We’ve done it in South Dakota and it’s produced real results.  Rosenbauer America, a company that manufactures fire rescue vehicles in Lyons, offered almost every employee a dollar-an-hour raise about a year ago, according to the Argus Leader.  They also made it easier to earn vacation days.  This wasn’t something that was mandated by the federal government; it was a decision the company made.  Why?  Our unemployment rate in South Dakota is the third lowest in the nation.  Tax rates are kept low.  And smart regulatory policies have made us one of the nation’s top states to do business. Now, companies have to compete for workers.  That drives pay and benefits up.  It works.

I am committed to securing more opportunities and freedoms for South Dakotans so you can seize every promise the American Dream has always provided.  We can and must do better.


Release: Noem’s Human Trafficking Provisions Pass Key House Panel

Noem’s Human Trafficking Provisions Pass Key House Panel

Washington, D.C. – Rep. Kristi Noem’s Human Trafficking Prevention, Intervention, and Recovery Act was passed today by the House Judiciary Committee.  The legislation is expected to be considered by the full House as early as next week.

“We have to do everything we can to protect young people from this unconscionable industry.  And when prevention efforts fail, we have a responsibility to intervene and help survivors recover,” said Congresswoman Noem.  “The provisions that advanced today would give caregivers, state law enforcement officers, and others more tools to end trafficking in our communities. My hope is that we’d also be able to open the door for local shelters to receive the support they need to house survivors, because recovering victims must have a safe place to go.”

The bipartisan Human Trafficking Prevention, Intervention, and Recovery Act (H.R.350) would launch a review to look into federal and state trafficking prevention activities.  This will help us identify best practices to stop human trafficking.  It also requires an inventory of existing federal anti-trafficking efforts to make sure all federal agencies and programs work together and that federal resources are being targeted where needed.  Finally, the legislation improves existing Department of Justice grants, ensuring that the grants also support shelters for survivors.

“Every day, here in the United States, thousands of victims are shuttled from place to place for the purpose of becoming sex slaves in a black market that feeds on the misery of others.  We cannot allow this to continue,” said Rep. Bob Goodlatte, Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee.  “In order to effectively attack this problem, it is first necessary to fully understand it. This legislation requires the Interagency Task Force to Monitor and Combat Trafficking, in consultation with nongovernmental organizations, to identify best practices and any possible gaps that might exist in research and data.  The bill also directs the Government Accountability Office to report to Congress on the effectiveness of the various federal grants aimed at stopping this crime.  Finally, H.R. 350 helps to provide young victims of sex trafficking a safe and secure path forward by ensuring that existing federal grants can be used for housing services. I encourage my colleagues to support this legislation.”

This legislation was first introduced by Rep. Noem in the 113th Congress to help give shelters, law enforcement officers, and caregivers more resources to address the human trafficking crisis.  While the legislation passed the House late last year, the Senate failed to consider the legislation.  Rep. Noem reintroduced the legislation at the beginning of this Congress with California Democrat Rep. Doris Matsui.


Yep. Congresswoman Noem is definitely from South Dakota

From the Hill:

When we inquired about any potential future in the broadcast booth, Noem replied, “Who knows! I get pretty animated in games like the Seahawks-Packers matchup because as a [Minnesota] Vikings fan, I have seen my fair share of tragic mistakes leading to a loss.”

Read it here.

I think the statement about the Vikings says it all.  You can easily identify South Dakotans because we all watch the Vikings blow it, again and again.

Congresswoman Kristi Noem’s Weekly Column: Hitting the Ground Running

Hitting the Ground Running
By Rep. Kristi Noem
January 16, 2015

kristi noem headshot May 21 2014Over the last few years, thousands of South Dakotans have reached out to me about the Affordable Care Act – or as most people refer to it, “Obamacare.”  Undoubtedly, there are a handful of people who have talked about the new access they’ve received, but the vast majority have contacted me about the problems they’ve faced – whether that’s significantly higher costs for their family, new restraints on their small business, or concerns about losing the healthcare coverage they trust, as it’s already gotten their family through some pretty serious medical situations.

By this time, most people reading this column understand that I want to fully repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and replace it with a patient-centered plan that gives you more control over your healthcare while simultaneously targeting the elements of healthcare that are driving insurance costs up, such as frivolous lawsuits and a lack of competition.  I’ve voted numerous times to repeal the legislation and have put forward an alternate plan, but I remain convinced that repeal is not possible under this President.  To him, this is his legacy and so he will veto any full repeal.  And while we have hopes to overcome some presidential vetoes with the new Republican majority in the Senate, there is not enough support from Democrats to override a veto on the repeal of ACA.

While I remain committed to ultimately replacing the President’s healthcare law, I will do what I can today to lessen its impact on South Dakotans. With just two weeks under our belt in 2015, I’ve already helped the U.S. House of Representatives pass three reforms this year that specifically benefit veterans, volunteer firefighters, and small businesses.

The first, the Save American Workers Act, updates ACA’s definition of “full-time” – something I’ve talked to many South Dakota small businesses about in the last few years.  Under ACA, full-time was defined as 30 hours per week – rather than the traditional 40 hours per week.  The 30-hour definition is almost unheard of.  Even France defines full-time as 35 hours per week.

As a result, some hourly workers – including many in the services industry – saw their time being cut from 40 hours per week to 29.  Fewer hours means less pay.  Through the Save American Workers Act, we aim to save workers from having their hours cut.  This legislation passed with bipartisan support, 252-172.

We also passed the Hire More Heroes Act.  Under ACA, employers with more than 50 full-time workers must help employees pay for insurance through an employer-sponsored plan or face a penalty.  But many veterans receive healthcare through Tricare or the VA.  The Hire More Heroes Act says that veterans don’t count toward ACA’s 50-employee threshold.  I’m hopeful it will encourage folks to hire more of our heroes, while also allowing small businesses to grow without being held back by ACA’s red tape.  This legislation passed the House unanimously.

Finally, we made similar exceptions for volunteer firefighters and emergency personnel, as most receive healthcare through other means.  I’m hopeful this legislation, which also passed the House unanimously, will help preserve precious emergency response dollars.

These three reforms are expected to be considered in the Senate soon, but they continue to face an uphill climb in the White House.  Nonetheless, I remain hopeful that we’ll be able to get some reforms enacted.


Release: Powder River Decision a Victory for Ellsworth and the Air Force, Says Noem

Powder River Decision a Victory for Ellsworth and the Air Force, Says Noem

Washington, D.C. – Rep. Kristi Noem today applauded the U.S. Air Force’s final Record of Decision on the Powder River Training Complex as a positive step toward finalizing the proposed expansion of air space.

“Nothing can replace the value of air time for our airmen,” said Noem.  “Proper training and readiness are critical to our airmen’s safety and success in the field.  With the expansion of air space at Powder River, Ellsworth Air Force Base and the U.S. Air Force will have critical access to one of the largest training complexes in the country.  I have worked with the Air Force and monitored the progress of the Powder River Training Complex expansion since coming to Congress.  The Record of Decision released today clears an important hurdle for the U.S. Air Force and moves us one step closer to finalizing this mission-critical project.”


Press Release: Noem, Matsui Introduce Bipartisan Human Trafficking Legislation

Noem, Matsui Introduce Bipartisan Human Trafficking Legislation

kristi noem headshot May 21 2014Washington, D.C. – Congresswomen Kristi Noem (R-SD) and Doris O. Matsui (D-CA) today led more than 50 Members of Congress in introducing the bipartisan Human Trafficking Prevention, Intervention, and Recovery Act.  This legislation works to better prevent and intervene when trafficking or attempted trafficking occurs, while also opening additional resources for survivors who are trying to recover.

“The uncomfortable truth is that human trafficking still occurs in communities across the country.  We cannot turn a blind eye to the plight of these survivors,” said Congresswoman Matsui.  “I am pleased to join with my colleague, Congresswoman Kristi Noem, in introducing legislation to help ensure federal resources are being used in the most effective manner possible to help these young men and women.  We must shine a public spotlight on this most egregious of human rights violations and this bill is an important step in that direction.”

“If we are going to give young people a way out of trafficking, they need a place to stay at night.  They need a safe place to go,” said Congresswoman Noem.  “Our bill opens the door for local shelters to receive the support they need to house survivors and get these young people back on the path to recovery.”

The Human Trafficking, Prevention, Intervention and Recovery Act was first introduced in 2014.  The legislation takes a three-pronged approach in combating human trafficking:

  • Improves existing Department of Justice grants, allowing the grants to also support shelters for survivors.  Currently, there are just 200 beds available in the United States for underage victims.
  • Launches a review by the Interagency Task-Force to Monitor and Combat Trafficking that will look into federal and state trafficking prevention activities.  The review will be done in consultation with nongovernmental organizations and will work to identify and develop best practices to prevent trafficking.
  • Requires an inventory of existing federal anti-trafficking efforts by the non-partisan Government Accountability Office to make sure all federal agencies and programs work together and that federal resources are being targeted where needed.

Noem and Matsui currently serve as Co-Chairs of the bipartisan Congressional Caucus for Women’s Issues.


Congresswoman Kristi Noem’s Weekly Column: A New Year Brings New Responsibilities

A New Year Brings New Responsibilities
By Rep. Kristi Noem

January 9, 2015

kristi noem headshot May 21 2014Legislative business in Congress is divided between just over two dozen committees, each of which specializes in a specific policy area.  At the beginning of each Congress, members are assigned to the committee – or committees – on which they will serve.

Last Congress, I served on the House Agriculture and Armed Services Committees.  Within those committees, I was able to help write and pass the Farm Bill and two annual National Defense Authorization Acts (NDAA).  With farm policy largely set for the next five years and a number of reforms made to defense policy through the last two NDAA’s, I felt I could have a greater impact for South Dakota on the Ways and Means Committee, which has jurisdiction over taxes, trade, Social Security, Medicare and much more.  During the first week of January, I was officially welcomed as a member of the Committee and I’m already looking forward to the work that must be done.

The Ways and Means Committee is considered to be one of the most powerful committees in Congress and I will be the first representative from South Dakota to serve on it.  It is also the oldest congressional committee, first gathering in 1789.  Eight Presidents and eight Vice Presidents have served on this committee, as have four Supreme Court Justices.

The congressional agenda this year is jam-packed with efforts that fall under Ways and Means jurisdiction.  One of the first places we’ll focus is expanding trade.  Currently, South Dakota exports billions of dollars in goods and services annually, which supports nearly 125,000 jobs in the state.  My goal is to grow these numbers even further by expanding our access to foreign markets.

Over the last few years, we’ve been looking at finalizing two new free-trade deals – the Trans Pacific Partnership with countries in the Asia-Pacific and the Transatlantic Trade Investment Partnership with the European Union.  While Congress doesn’t negotiate the deals, we can help guide the discussion and we have the final say on whether to accept the agreement.  All of this will go through Ways and Means.

In addition to trade, both Ways and Means leadership and the White House have shown a willingness to work together to simplify the tax code.  Farmers and ranchers in South Dakota are often disproportionately impacted by bad tax policy, especially when it comes to Section 179 or the death tax.

After my dad passed away, my own family was impacted by the death tax.  Like most farmers, everything we had was wrapped up in the land and machinery that was necessary for the business to continue.  As a result, we took out a loan that impacted every decision we made for a decade.  I understand the impact of these taxes and as one of the only voices from rural America on the Committee, I will do all I can to protect South Dakota families from the burdensome taxes that jeopardize the American Dream.

Tax simplification and trade expansion are two of Congress’s top agenda items this year.  Beyond these two issue areas, I will play a big role in holding the IRS accountable, ensuring children within our foster care system are properly cared for, taking a look at unemployment compensation, and much more as a member of Ways and Means.

As South Dakota’s only voice in the 435-member House, I want to make sure our voice is heard and I’m confident we’re in the best position possible for that to happen.


Press Release: With Noem Support, Keystone XL Approved by the U.S. House

With Noem Support, Keystone XL Approved by the U.S. House

kristi noem headshot May 21 2014Washington, D.C. – Rep. Kristi Noem today joined House Republicans and Democrats in passing H.R.3, the Keystone XL Pipeline Act, which would authorize the long-awaited pipeline’s construction and operation. The vote in the U.S. House of Representatives comes in the wake of a Nebraska Supreme Court decision this morning that lifted one of the final state-based barriers on the project.

“The only thing stopping Keystone is the President and his far-left political agenda – and that’s flat-out wrong,” said Noem. “Delaying Keystone is depriving South Dakota of good jobs, millions of dollars in revenue for cash-strapped counties, and relief for the roads and rails that are currently crowded with oil transit. The President has no more excuses. His own administration has released more than 20,000 pages of reviews showing Keystone is in the best interest of our economy and the environment. Now is the time to build.”