S.D. governor promised “a new bill” on fairness in girls’ sports, but she meant something else

Capitol News Bureau

PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — Turns out “a new bill” wasn’t really what Governor Kristi Noem had in mind Saturday afternoon, when she tweeted about “a new bill” about fairness in girls’ sports.

The words posted on her Twitter account said: “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.”

But her spokesman, Ian Fury, told KELOLAND News on Monday that the phrase “a new bill” actually was a reference to the recommendations made in the style-and-form veto that she had issued on Friday against HB 1217.

“There isn’t a different ‘replacement bill,'” Fury said. “The Legislature has 3 bites at the apple. They can 1) approve the style and form recommendations, 2) suspend the rules to pass the style and form recommendations as a new bill on Monday, or 3) pass such a bill in special session.”

So, the ‘new bill’ was actually the ‘style and form’ language?

“Correct,” Fury replied, “that tweet outlines bites 2 and 3 at the apple that I just referred to. It’s not new language, but it would technically be a new bill.”

Would a 2/3 majority in each chamber be needed to introduce it?

“If on Veto Day, yes,” Fury said. “It would require suspension of the rules. Special session would only require a simple majority for passage.”

What wasn’t clear was why the governor wouldn’t just try to get the style and form veto accepted. It requires a simple majority in each chamber.

“Governor Noem is still advocating for the style and form. Again, that’s the first bite at the apple,” Fury said.

Turns out the governor also didn’t let Representative Rhonda Milstead know she wants Milstead’s bill largely rewritten. Asked Monday whether the governor had talked about the veto with her or the bill’s lead Senate sponsor, Maggie Sutton, Milstead had a one-word reply: “No.”

House Speaker Spencer Gosch, another co-sponsor of the bill, issued another statement Monday evening expressing their displeasure with the route Noem has taken.

Asked what he had understood Noem’s phrase “a new bill” to mean, Gosch told KELOLAND News, “We aren’t exactly sure what she’s asking us to do.”

The governor during her Sioux Falls media availability Monday said it was up to the Legislature to decide whether to accept her style and form recommendations.

Gosch said he’s had no communication with the governor’s office on the issue. “So I only know what I hear in the media. If the information that has been presented to me is 100% accurate, then it will be difficult to get over the likeliness that this is unconstitutional.”

Noem told reporters Monday that she wants the language removed from the bill regarding women’s sports at South Dakota’s public universities and is heading a new drive called Defend Title IX now. She wants wants other language changed so that the bill applies only to the South Dakota High School Activities Association.

The association adopted a procedure in 2013 on deciding whether to allow a transgender athlete. One transgender student has been allowed since to compete as a girl athlete.

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