Monday, September 21, 2020

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A look back at the 114th Congress

Being South Dakota’s lone voice in the U.S. House of Representatives has been the honor of a lifetime. With the current administration in place, progress on big issues – like tax reform and the repeal and replacement of Obamacare – has been slow, but I’m confident change will come soon.  

Still, many things have been accomplished. In fact, during the 114th Congress, we were able to come together on the more than 240 bills that were signed into law.

For example, we passed legislation, including provisions I authored, that allocated more resources for survivors of human trafficking, offered more tools to go after traffickers, and created a framework for law enforcement to better intervene and prevent human trafficking.

Changes were made to correct No Child Left Behind, most notably empowering states and localities to make more decisions about our children’s education and making sure the federal government can’t force states into adopting Common Core. 

 Legislation to help address the country’s mental healthcare crisis was also signed into law.  It included important provisions for tribal communities, an addition that occurred after I brought the bill’s author to South Dakota to see the challenges we faced. The legislation also included new resources to help expand mental health access for rural communities.

The first long-term infrastructure bill in a decade was also signed into law, offering much-needed certainty for states and localities. Additionally, the legislation cut red tape and gave states more flexibility to organize infrastructure programs in a way that best suits their local needs.

 In addition to the new laws, we made headway in critical policy areas.  The Indian Health Service, for example, has been poorly managed for years. In consultation with tribal communities and healthcare providers throughout South Dakota, I wrote and introduced legislation that would make comprehensive structural changes to how IHS operates, addressing both the medical and administrative challenges.  This legislation pushed a critical conversation, one that will continue in earnest in 2017, into the national spotlight.

I also helped introduce changes to the wetland determination process, which has frustrated many South Dakota farmers and ranchers in recent years. With the policy now written, we’re already working to make sure it is included in the next Farm Bill.

Moreover, we put forward ideas to hold the IRS accountable to taxpayers. We’ve advanced legislation to expand the Black Hills National Cemetery and put pressure on the EPA to strengthen the Renewable Fuel Standard and reverse their controversial Waters of the U.S. rule. 

We’ve gotten legislation signed into law to put restrictions on the Forest Service in an effort to prevent something like the devastating Pautre Fire in the future. We’ve helped draft a blueprint for tax reform that will serve as an outline for upcoming negotiations.  We’ve protected DC Booth, helped prioritize the Lewis & Clark Water System, demanded answers from the VA about plans for the Hot Springs Hospital, and introduced reforms to incentivize work and fight poverty.

 And on an individual level, we’ve personally helped more than 400 South Dakotans as they’ve fought through federal bureaucracies to receive care from the VA, a passport from the State Department, or their Social Security benefits, among many other things.

 There’s so much more to do, but I’m optimistic that the work we’ve done in recent years has set us up for success when the new administration takes office in January.  Thank you for giving me the opportunity to serve.

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