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Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, Published April 20 2013

Letter: 100 days fighting for ND

Over Easter recess, I spent two weeks crisscrossing the state listening to the concerns of North Dakotans. Whether it was a veteran in Fargo, a mayor in oil country, a young person in Indian Country, or one of our hardworking farmers, I was asked the same question: How have your first few months been in the U.S. Senate? I told them, as frustrating as Washington can be, I am excited and honored to fight for them and all North Dakota priorities in the Senate. My first 100 days in office have been a whirlwind, but I am proud of the work we have done for our state. From the passage of the Violence Against Women Act to searching for solutions to North Dakota’s housing crisis, I have been busy working to shape federal policies for North Dakotans.

The most satisfying moment of my first 100 days was when the president signed into law the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act. It wasn’t easy, but we pushed hard for reforms to this proven program that will protect more North Dakotans. VAWA has reduced domestic violence by more than 50 percent, and our new protections aim to reduce violence even more. Because of our work, Native American women will for the first time have the same protections as all other women.

Another top priority for me during my first few months in office was to work on solutions to North Dakota’s housing crisis. As a member of the committee that oversees housing policy, as well as chair of a rural development subcommittee, I am in a unique position to seek changes that will help North Dakota housing. My concerns about our housing situation were validated when I held discussions with local leaders across the state this month. This is a serious issue that is hampering our state’s economic growth. With the input I received from community and industry leaders, I am putting together a plan to push for policies that will improve our housing situation.

I have also spent much of my time working on energy issues. North Dakota is leading the nation in energy production, but there are serious challenges that could impede the development. With Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., I introduced legislation to help address the first issue, a backlog in drilling permit approvals at the Bureau of Land Management. It currently takes less than 30 days to obtain a permit to drill on private land in North Dakota, while the same process for drilling on federal land can take almost 300 days. The legislation we introduced would require that BLM’s one-stop-shop in Miles City, Mont., also service North Dakota and help alleviate the current backlog.

As a member of the Agriculture Committee, I have spent the last few months drafting a new long-term farm bill. We aim to make smart reforms that will reduce our federal deficit by $23 billion, while still supporting North Dakota producers who work every day to feed Americans. The bill we are working on would strengthen crop insurance while eliminating direct payments to producers. It is my hope that the Ag Committee will begin debating a specific bill in the next two months.

As much as I miss being in North Dakota all the time, I am so honored to serve our state in the U.S. Senate. I am glad I was able to hit the ground running in my first 100 days in office and get a good start on shaping federal policy that works for North Dakota.


Sen. Heitkamp, D-N.D., is in her first term in the U.S. Senate.