PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — The governor’s surprising decision to seek substantial changes in legislation that would ban people who were born males from playing female sports in South Dakota has sparked a sharp response from the presiding officer for the state House of Representatives.
House Speaker Spencer Gosch says Governor Kristi Noem went too far with her style-and-form veto. He is a co-sponsor of the legislation.
“This would be an unprecedented request by a governor in South Dakota, and I am greatly concerned as to whether the executive branch has the authority to make substantive changes to a bill through style and form,” Gosch said about Noem.
Gosch continued, “The legal definition of style and form clearly states that it has to be ‘distinguished from substance’, and the proposed changes clearly alter the overall substance of House Bill 1217.”
Late Friday night, the farmer, insurance salesman and broadcaster of high school sports took what for South Dakota were unusual steps. He issued a formal statement disagreeing with his fellow Republican’s veto and included recorded statements by the bill’s two main sponsors, Representative Rhonda Milstead and Senator Maggie Sutton.
The governor originally said in a tweet March 8 after the Senate passed the legislation: “In South Dakota, we’re celebrating #InternationalWomensDay by defending women’s sports! I’m excited to sign this bill very soon.” She re-tweeted it from her political account. But on Friday she issued a series of 22 tweets and a lengthy statement explaining the style-and-form veto.
One of the changes the governor now wants from state lawmakers is eliminating the legislation’s ban against athletes born as males competing on women’s teams at South Dakota’s six public universities. Noem now says the ban should apply only at the K-12 level.
A style-and-form veto requires support from majorities of 36 representatives and 18 senators. The House voted 50-17 and the Senate 20-15 to pass the legislation. Overriding a veto requires 2/3 majorities of 47 representatives and 24 senators. Lawmakers are scheduled to return to the Capitol on March 29 to consider HB 1217 and any other vetoes the governor might issue.
KELOLAND News requested a response from the governor’s office shortly after 9 a.m. Saturday. Neither her spokesman nor her senior policy advisor had responded as of 6 p.m. At about 4 p.m. Saturday, the governor tweeted: “Since Nov, I’ve been exploring litigation to defend Title IX and fairness in girls’ sports at ALL levels. To pursue that strategy, I’m asking legislators to pass a new bill on Veto Day, or I will call a special session. Let’s protect girls’ sports & fix the concerns with 1217.”
Milstead and Sutton also strongly disagreed with Noem.
“House Bill 1217 has undergone a thorough legislative vetting process in which 70 legislators have agreed that the language of the bill was accurate and best protected South Dakota values in protecting women’s sports,” Milstead said.
“In her press release, Governor Noem expressed concerns about an ‘unworkable administrative burden on schools’ to prove biological age and sex, but every school already requires a birth certificate upon enrollment, so what is the real burden here?”
Milstead questioned why Noem would put concern for the National Collegiate Athletic Association above majorities of South Dakota. “Don’t the taxpayers fund our universities? Aren’t South Dakota’s elected officials burdened with governing these universities or is that left up to a separate private entity?”
Senate president pro tem Lee Schoenbeck took the opposite view. In a blog post he said the South Dakota High School Activities Association solved the issue through its policy that has seen one transgender female participate in a girls’ sport.
“Here’s the oddity. South Dakota has nonissue because through our local school administrations, they implemented a rule NINE years ago,” Schoenbeck wrote. “It’s not sexy to just solve a problem, especially to solve it at the local level. It’s just a conservative way to do it. No press. No news release. Just solutions.”
He continued, “The national agenda pushed by the proponents don’t like to talk about why South Dakota has solved this years ago. We need real Republican conservatives, not the fake stuff this bill is selling. Governor’s style and form is a good start to letting this one bleed out.”
This is a developing story.