SD lawmakers to face decisions over “fairness in women’s sports” on Veto Day

RAPID CITY, S.D. — Monday is Veto Day in Pierre and House Bill 1217 looks to be a main topic of discussion. Lawmakers will be asked to consider the changes that Governor Kristi Noem sent back as a “style and form” veto and if they choose to not approve, they will either face a long day or days of work.

An act calling for “continued fairness in women’s sports” is facing push and pull in all directions. The bill says only women who are biologically female can compete in women’s sports in public schools in South Dakota.

“Men tend to be stronger, they tend to be faster, men have different bones, ligaments, they also have larger hearts and lung volume and on and on,” said Gov. Noem. “These biological differences lead to very different athletic capabilities and put simply, it is fundamentally unfair for men to compete in women’s sports and its a violation of Title IX.”

Opponents to the bill see it as unnecessary.

“The problem I have with this particular piece of legislation is to, and to coin a phrase that gets used every once and a while during the session, it’s looking for a problem,” said Roger Tellinghuisen, former South Dakota Attorney General and current Rapid City lawyer.

According to the South Dakota High School Activities Association, in the last nine years, there has been one transgender athlete and currently none compete.

“We have a very small number of students in South Dakota that are transgender,” said Tellinghuisen. “They have a tough enough time. They have a higher rate of suicide. They just want to fit in and sometimes sports is a mechanism to do that.”

But support of House Bill 1217 threatens industries removed from sports. In 2017, North Carolina repealed its controversial bathroom bill after boycotts cost the state hundreds of millions of dollars. Concerns now of similar impacts in South Dakota – a state known for being open for tourism and business.

President and CEO of Elevate Rapid City, Tom Johnson, wrote in a letter to the Governor thanking her for efforts in keeping South Dakota open for business and the effect it’s had on prospective businesses eyeing the state but says, “our fear regarding House Bill 1217 is simply this: the attention and press the bill receives when signed into law makes it more challenging to recruit those same companies and workers to Rapid City.”

Similar words were echoed by the South Dakota Association of Convention and Visitors Bureaus in the effect on local communities and small business.

In the Governor’s latest move, she returned the bill with, what she calls a “style and form” veto, removing colleges from falling under the legislation after concerns of potential legal battles with the NCAA.

But the changes in her “style and form” veto have lawmakers raising eyebrows ahead of Monday’s assembly.

“Basically, this is probably more than a “style and form” and that it goes into additional subject matter and changes that goes beyond the style and form so as of right now, I’m not in favor of supporting the “style and form” veto,” said District 34 Representative Mike Derby.

To look at a new bill on Veto Day, they’d have to suspend the rules – which requires a two-thirds majority vote in each chamber. Another option, call a special session. The last option is to put the subject off another year.

Categories: Local News, Politics & Elections, South Dakota News