Officials say transgender medical bill could be bad for business

KELOLAND.com Original
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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — There is an economic risk to the state if the South Dakota Legislature passes HB1057 that makes it a crime for medical professionals to do surgery or provide treatment that alters the gender or slows the puberty of a child younger than 16, said David Owen, the president and lobbyist for the South Dakota Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

The state could lose businesses who may want to expand or locate in South Dakota because they do not agree with the law, Owen said.

“This is too big to ignore,” Owen said. He’s already receiving telephone calls from economic professionals asking him ‘What is South Dakota trying to do?’ We’re talking about the substantial threat of economic loss.”

Supporters of the bill say it protects minor children and families. Opponents say the bill damages the relationship between families and their medical providers and can damage youth who are transgender or who are questioning their gender.

Owen described the proposed law as Draconian and bad for business.

“We learned from North Carolina,” Owen said of North Carolina’s HB2 which prohibited transgender people from using a public restroom that correlates with their identified gender.

HB2 passed in March of 2016 but was partially rescinded by the North Carolina Legislature in 2017.

The economic fallout started almost immediately after the North Carolina Legislature passed HB2. The NCAA announced that absent any changes, the state would not be a site for championship events from 2018 to 2022. Several companies, such as PayPal, canceled plans to locate or expand in the state. A list of entertainers canceled concerts.

Thomas Lee, the director of the South Falls Sports Authority, worked in Charlotte, North Carolina, during the roughly 18 months of HB2. The Sioux Falls Sports Authority is the host of the Summit League’s men’s and women’s basketball league tournament each year.

“We lost a lot,” Lee said of the economic impact of HB2. Lee was the director of sports development for the Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority.

The city and the state lost sporting events such as the NBA All-Star game in 2017 because of HB2, Lee said.

Ironically, Lee was working for the city that had passed a city ordinance that stated transgender people could use the public restroom of the gender they identified with.

“We’re the ones that started it (inclusiveness for transgender people),” Lee said. But, the organization understood the reasons sports groups withdrew from events in North Carolina, Lee said.

Lee said there is a slight difference between HB2 and HB1057.

From a sports perspective, the NCAA and NBA pointed out that HB2’s language had a negative impact on athletes and fans, Lee said.

HB107 in South Dakota does not have similar language because it focuses on medical professionals, medical procedures, children and families and not public use of restrooms, he said.

As of now, HB107 does not effect bids for submitted to the NCAA for sporting events, Lee said.

That’s different from bills proposed in South Dakota in 2016 and 2018 that restricted bathroom use by transgender people and placed regulations on high school sports teams. Lee said the Sioux Falls Sports Authority had concerns related to sports in 2016 and 2018 because those bills involved public restroom and public school locker room use and the potential for discrimination.

Lee said while there are differences in North Carolina’s HB2 and the South Dakota proposals, it’s important to remember that all could negatively impact people, including adults and children.

“We don’t want to discriminate against anyone,” Lee said.

Owen is concerned about the potential to lose sports tournaments, entertainment and business losses in general.

National firms that have a presence in South Dakota will be concerned because their employment policies are inclusive and HB107 does not appear to be inclusive, Owen said. Those firms could withdraw investments in the state or choose not to expand, he said.

Some supporters of HB1057 have said during the legislative process that North Carolina did not experience any negative economic impacts because of HB2, Owen said.

Owen and Lee disagree with that belief.

Lee said while North Carolina’s tourism figures may have increased during HB2, “it was not as much as it would have been (without it). (Figures) didn’t keep up with the trends of previous years.”

An analysis by the Williams Institute and Out Leadership in May of 2016 said North Carolina had already lost more than $40 million in business investment that withdrew from the state. The state was also risking the loss $4.7 billion in funding for state public schools, colleges and universities.

On March 30, 2017, the Associated Press said the state could have lost $3.76 billion over a dozen years. The AP analyzed public documents and conducted interviews to track businesses that chose to not invest in the state because of HB2 and the loss of sports tournaments and other losses attributed in documents or interviews to HB2.

Although North Carolina’s economy was growing during the lifespan of HB2, it could have grown at a greater pace without HB2, the AP analysis said.

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