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Gov. Noem sends controversial sports bill back to South Dakota Legislature

Published: Mar. 19, 2021 at 10:49 PM CDT
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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (Dakota News Now) - A piece of legislation Governor Noem said she was excited to sign has been sent back to state lawmakers for “style and form” changes.

HB 1217 is the bill that would prevent transgender girls and women from participating in female sports in South Dakota.

Changes that Governor Noem wants to see in the bill include limiting the ban to only elementary and high school students, effectively excluding college sports from the proposal.

“I am also concerned that the approach House Bill 1217 takes is unrealistic in the context of collegiate athletics,” Gov. Noem said in an emailed statement.

The governor also wants to change the yearly requirement for how often a student-athlete must prove their gender at birth, saying the bill creates an “unworkable administrative burden on schools.”

Now it is up to lawmakers to decide if these changes qualify as a “style and reform” veto or not.

“If they determine it is a substantial change, they can take it up as a regular veto where a two-thirds vote of each chamber is required to override the veto,” said Michael Card, University of South Dakota political science professor.

The sponsor of the bill, Representative Rhonda Millstead, said she feels the Governor’s changes substantially change her intended legislation.

“What the governor has done is not a style and reform veto,” said Milstead. She has rewritten the bill, so it is content she is changing that has nothing to do with style and form making it an unconstitutional act in her responsibility in the executive branch.”

Supporters of the original bill, the American Principles Project, say they are disappointed in Gov. Noem’s decision.

“We are extremely disappointed to see Gov. Noem break her word on this critical legislation. For more than a week, Noem’s office has frozen out advocates of HB 1217 and instead taken advice from the bill’s most vocal critics,” said Terry Schilling, President of American Principles Project.

Some who are against the bill say they are also unsatisfied with this decision.

“We are really disappointed in basically anything other than a full veto, this bill is still harmful, it’s still discriminatory it still has the same legal issues, it still has the potential for serious economic fallout, there’s really no version of this bill that is acceptable, so anything less than a full veto is not enough,” said Jett Jonelis, Advocacy Manager for the ACLU of South Dakota.

Some feel these changes have more to do with money than the people who would be affected by the bill.

“It’s unfortunate that money plays more of an important piece in this than people do, our organization works with the people who are directly impacted by anti-trans legislation, so it’s disappointing it’s come to this for sure,” said Susan Williams, Executive Director for the Transformation Project South Dakota.

Gov. Noem maintains that she believes “that boys should play boys’ sports, and girls should play girls’ sports.”

She goes on to say that her style and form clarifications would protect women sports while also showing empathy for youths struggling with “what they understand to be their gender identity.”

The Governor says she will sign the legislation if her proposed changes are approved by lawmakers.

Lawmakers return to Pierre on March 29th to decide on this bill and officially wrap up this year’s session.

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