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Breaking: South Dakota House rejects Gov. Noem's 'style and form' revisions to transgender sports bill


Now Noem must either sign the bill or veto it outright

Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images

The South Dakota House of Representatives on Monday overwhelmingly rejected Gov. Kristi Noem's "style and form" revisions to the Women's Fairness in Sports bill.

State house lawmakers voted 67-2 against certifying Noem's recommended changes to a bill that would prohibit any student at a state school from joining a sports team that does not match his or her biological sex. The bill, H.B. 1217, was designed to prevent gender-dysphoric males who identify as females from competing in sports against women.

Two weeks ago, Gov. Noem sent H.B. 1217 back to the legislature with a "style and form" veto, a power she has under the state constitution to suggest changes to a bill related to the style or form of the legislative text. Noem said that the protections for women's sports teams were "unrealistic in the context of collegiate athletics" and asked lawmakers to remove provisions that would apply to collegiate athletics, in addition to other changes conservative supporters of the legislation claimed would gut the bill. The governor used her style and form veto power to dramatically revise the legislation, striking some sections entirely in a move several state lawmakers characterized as an unconstitutional abuse of her executive authority.

The state House considered Noem's proposed changes on "Veto Day," the last day of the legislative session in South Dakota during which lawmakers will consider bills vetoed by the governor.

In debate before the vote to certify Noem's changes, the bill's House sponsor, Rep. Rhonda Milstead (R-Hartford), said the changes were "not appropriate for the executive branch," KELO-TV reports. Other lawmakers said Noem's revisions were not actually related to "style" or "form," which is generally understood to mean corrections in grammatical errors or the like, not substantial changes to the proposed law.

The governor needed a simple majority of the state House and then the state Senate to certify her proposed revisions. In the end, only two lawmakers in the House voted in favor of Noem's version of H.B. 1217.

The bill now heads back to the governor's desk. According to South Dakota's Constitution, "if the Governor certifies that the bill conforms with the Governor's specific recommendations, the bill shall become law. If the Governor fails to certify the bill, it shall be returned to the Legislature as a vetoed bill."

A spokesman for Noem's office previously told TheBlaze that if the legislature rejected her revisions, Noem would call for a special session of the legislature to draft a new bill.

"If the legislature declines to accept her Style and Form, Governor Noem is proposing that they suspend the rules and pass her recommended changes as a new bill, or she can call them back into special session to accomplish the same goal with a simple majority," Noem communications director Ian Fury said.

Last week, Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson (R) signed a version of the "Fairness in Women's Sports Act" that requires athletes to compete on teams that match their sex. Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee (R) signed a similar bill that requires student athletes to play on the teams that match the sex declared on their birth certificates.

Editor's Note: This article was updated on 3/29 at 2:00 p.m. ET to correct an error regarding the "style or form" revision power in the South Dakota Constitution. Governor Noem will not have an opportunity to sign the original draft of H.B. 1217, she must either certify that the bill comports with her specific revisions or decline to certify the bill, returning it to the legislature as a vetoed bill. TheBlaze regrets the error.

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