South Dakota Bill Aimed at Protecting Women’s Sports Rejected Over Noem’s Changes

March 29, 2021 Updated: March 29, 2021

Legislation in South Dakota that would have banned biological males from participating in female sports was rejected by state lawmakers on March 29 after Gov. Kristi Noem had sent the measure back to the legislature with recommended modifications.

Noem, a Republican, insisted she didn’t veto the legislation, but the end result was the same in the standoff with state legislative leaders. The legislative session then ended without an override of the veto.

The bill was intended to prevent transgender persons from participating on single-sex sports teams, primarily to block males from taking part in womens’ sports.

Both South Dakota chambers passed House Bill 1217 in recent weeks. Noem on March 19 sent the bill back to the state House, asking for style and form changes before she’d sign it. Among the proposed changes was removing college athletics from the sports teams that would be affected, under pressure from the NCAA.

The House on March 29 overwhelmingly rejected all the proposed changes, in a 67–2 vote after House Speaker Spencer Gosch, a Republican, pushed colleagues to do so.

Noem then sent a letter to the House asserting that the state Constitution prevented her from signing the bill because the final version didn’t conform with her recommendations.

“Therefore, my only option consistent with the constitution is [to] fail to certify the bill and to return it to you,” she wrote. The bill should be treated as if it was vetoed, she said.

Terry Schilling, president of the American Principles nonprofit, said in a statement that the proposed alterations would have “fundamentally subverted the entire bill,” adding that Noem was “the only Republican governor to date to refuse to sign legislation protecting girls’ sport when given the opportunity.”

Ian Fury, a spokesman for the governor, told The Epoch Times via email: “It is an incorrect reading of the South Dakota Constitution to suggest that the Governor had a second opportunity to sign the bill.”

Governors in Arkansas and Tennessee have recently signed bills similar to the South Dakota legislation.

Noem said in a separate letter obtained by The Epoch Times that those bills were different than the one the state legislature delivered her.

She pointed to two executive orders she recently signed, one of which addresses potential transgender players in K–12 athletics and the other that deals with the issue in college sports.

South Dakota’s Senate adjourned on March 29 without overriding Noem’s veto on the last legislative day of the session, which means the bill is dead until the next session. The House failed to achieve the required two-thirds majority to override the veto.

Noem said in a statement on Monday night that she will be working with state legislative leaders to schedule a special session in late May or early June to address the sports bill, among other issues.

South Dakota is one of some 23 states where the GOP controls the governor’s mansion and both state chambers.

Noem’s attempt to change the legislation has pitted her against conservative heavyweights, including Fox News’s Tucker Carlson. Noem is generally popular among Republicans and is thought of as a serious potential 2024 contender.

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