South Dakotans are asking the state’s lone United States Congresswoman about national issues they see affecting South Dakota. Tuesday US Representative Kristi Noem held a town hall meeting in Sioux Falls.
People meeting with Congresswoman Kristi Noem in Sioux Falls want to know how Washington, DC sees topics important to them. One of those is the Keystone XL oil pipeline, which would run through western South Dakota. Both the Senate and the House passed a measure approving the pipeline. Noem says the decision now rests with President Barack Obama.
"He has indicated that he will veto the bill, which means it comes back to us to potentially send another opportunity for him to make this important project a reality," Noem says. "You know, we could potentially put the Keystone pipeline legislation back on his desk attached to another bill, maybe with something else that he would want to sign into law. We’ll just have to see how this next Congress goes."
Noem says the pipeline is a safe way to transport Canadian crude oil on American soil, and she says South Dakota counties would benefit financially. Critics of the plan worry about the environmental and social impacts of building the Keystone XL pipeline.
The oil pipeline is far from the only wedge between the Obama administration and the Republican-controlled Congress. A member of the audience asks Congresswoman Kristi Noem about an upcoming US Supreme Court ruling related to the Affordable Care Act. That opinion could jeopardize health coverage for millions of people who use the federal insurance exchange.
"Certainly we see a lot of volatility right now," Noem says. "When the Supreme Court comes out with their decision here in June, we need to have that alternative ready so that people know that we really do recognize those 5 million people need to have insurance and want to be covered and have it done more affordably."
Noem says she can’t reveal many details about the plan, but she says it would be market-based and patient-centered. The Congresswoman says lawmakers want to have it finalized in May.
The Congresswoman takes additional questions from the audience. One deals with FCC regulations. The Federal Communications Commission’s leader wants to ensure the internet gets to people uninterrupted. The FCC says, right now, providers could charge people who use more data a higher price or they could slow or speed up service to certain customers. The agency wants to expand its power to stop that from happening. Noem says she doesn’t support the FCC’s move.
"I just believe that the internet has been a wonderful opportunity-creator for individuals regardless of their income level, status, or where they live in the country, and I don’t believe that another layer of federal bureaucracy will improve utilization of that resource," Noem says.
Noem says she supports ensuring net neutrality through legislation in Congress, not through a federal agency. Regulators vote on the FCC measures late next week.