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SD Legislators urge ‘vaccine mandate ban,’ face Noem opposition

State Representatives Jon Hansen (R-Dell Rapids) and Scott Odenbach (R-Spearfish) have co-authored legislation that would all together ban “vaccine mandates” in South Dakota, but they do not currently have Governor Kristi Noem’s support.
Published: Aug. 19, 2021 at 10:05 PM CDT
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PIERRE, S.D. - Governor Kristi Noem and conservative Republican lawmakers are at odds over banning corporate vaccine mandates.

“If we mandate one thing, are we setting a precedent for what we are telling businesses they have to do far into the future?” Noem asked in an interview Tuesday.

Republican state house representatives Jon Hansen (R-Dell Rapids) and Scott Odenbach (R-Spearfish) authored the “COVID-19 Vaccine Freedom of Conscience Act.” The bill would effectively ban COVID-19 vaccine mandates under any and all circumstances in South Dakota.

If passed, the proposed bill would go farther the current policy of several states across the country. In Florida, Governor Ron DeSantis signed an executive order that would ban proof of vaccination as a requirement for entry into a venue. In Montana, Governor Greg Gianforte signed a bill into law that prevents private businesses from denying goods, services, and employment to people who have not been vaccinated.

Noem has only banned them as a condition of employment in state and local government.

As for those who do not want the shot, but work for private employers requiring COVID-19 vaccines, Noem says other employment opportunities are available to them.

“I don’t think as this keeps changing, we should make, force, or coerce people to be guinea pigs,” said Odenbach. “I think the COVID-19 vaccines are good, and I am glad we have the vaccine, it is shown to be good for those who take it, but I am discouraging coercion.”

RELATED: State Rep. Taffy Howard (R-Rapid City) calls for defunding businesses with vaccine mandates

Odenbach and Hansen argue that the bill should be debated in a special session as soon as possible, given that a number of vaccine mandates will go into effect prior to the regularly schedule legislative session next January, and the special session scheduled for November 8th.

To call a special session, 2/3rds of both chambers of the legislature would have to agree, or the Governor could call legislators back for one on her own.

Both scenarios are highly unlikely.

“I am not planning to bring forth anything other than my executive order at this time,” Noem explained. “I will continue to evaluate the situation though, I do have my general counsel and others looking at my authorities and what latitude I have. I know people are concerned about the government or businesses coming in and mandating vaccines to them. I have long stood on the belief that people should not be told what to do. It is a personal choice and a personal responsibility.”

Odenbach and Hansen, who have already garnered both support and disapproval from some of their colleagues, are hopeful that the Governor will reconsider and support their bill.

“This isn’t more big government, this is exactly the opposite,” Odenbach said. “I think especially now, what you see so often are large corporations working hand in hand, with the government and especially the federal government. They become a de facto arm of the government. I believe it is our job as a representative of the people to protect the individual rights of those folks who are standing up to those entities.”