South Dakota Republican Gov. Kristi Noem issued a “style and form” veto of a transgender sports bill Friday sending legislation which would have barred biological males from competition in female leagues back to the statehouse with revisions.
Noem’s demanded changes however, gutted the bill by eliminating its application to institutions of higher education and eliminating avenues for girls in K-12 schools to seek legal remedies when harmed by the inclusion of biological males in their leagues.
The move by the South Dakota governor, who made a national name for herself over refusal to implement statewide lockdowns, came at the behest of corporate interests who pressured Noem to reject the bill she had claimed she was “excited” to sign on the day it was passed. The South Dakota Chamber of Commerce, along with other powerful business groups, launched a lobbying campaign to prevent Noem from putting her signature on the bill for fear the state would suffer an economic backlash from woke corporatists who protest what surveys show is a popular common-sense law.
Noem defended her move on Fox News’ Tucker Carlson Monday, claiming the bill as written would have provoked a flood of unwinnable litigation by the NCAA against the state, despite similar legislation passed in Idaho and Mississippi.
“I’ve been bullied for the last year by liberals,” Noem said, then framed herself as a victim of conservatives critical of the governor’s political theater to appease corporate groups. “I’m not going to let anybody from the NCAA, from any big business, I’m not even gonna let conservatives on the right bully me.”
A look behind the curtain reveals a network of big business with wide influence in Noem’s office opposing the transgender sports bill passed by the legislature.
The governor’s chief of staff, Tony Venhuizen, serves on the board of the Sioux Falls Chamber of Commerce. The group listed H.B. 1217, the transgender sports bill effectively vetoed by Noem as a “tier 1” priority “of the highest importance.”
Matt McCaulley, another “top advisor,” is a lawyer and lobbyist whose clients include Sanford Health. Sanford Health owns Sanford Sports Complex, an arena in Sioux Falls with hopes to host NCAA tournaments.
Noem's "top advisor" is "controversial behind-the-scenes power broker" Matt McCaulley. Clients include Sanford Health, which owns Sanford Sports Complex, a Sioux Falls arena that hopes to lure NCAA tourneys. Lawmakers worried about conflict of interest. https://t.co/w1ZyQtRHpm
— Mollie (@MZHemingway) March 23, 2021
Federalist Executive Editor Joy Pullmann reported Wednesday, Sanford Health performs transgender treatments on minors, and lobbied against a bill in the South Dakota legislature last year prohibiting child mutilation.
The state Chamber of Commerce meanwhile, was adamant Noem veto the bill, and rallied business groups to pressure Noem against signing.
“Employers view the workforce as a place of inclusion,” South Dakota Chamber of Commerce President David Owen told The Federalist last week confirming the coalition. “They’ve made it clear to us they won’t support groups that help pass laws that blindly discriminate in certain areas,” with transgenderism being one of them.
While Noem claims immunity to corporate interests, the South Dakota governor has gone on defense this week conducting damage control in effort to appease grassroots conservatives who are aghast at her excuses.
On Monday, Noem held a press conference announcing a new coalition to protect women’s sports after she vetoed the very bill that would have done just that. Such a coalition, however, had already long existed, led by the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) taking actionable measures on the issue. Noem meanwhile, has remained completely absent, despite claiming otherwise on Carlson’s program Monday night.
Noem argues the bill on her desk would have been a losing battle in the courts, according to unnamed legal scholars she consulted.
“The bill that my legislature gave me is a trial lawyer’s dream,” Noem said on Fox News. “It creates more and more litigation and regulation that’s impossible to comply with.”
Kristen Waggoner, the general counsel for the Alliance Defending Freedom told The Federalist Noem’s comments on Carlson’s program were “intentionally misleading or she is uninformed.”
“There is no NCAA policy that requires any state school to allow men to compete against women,” Waggoner said. “The Fairness in Women’s Sports bill does not violate any law or any NCAA policy. Schools have the freedom to make this decision and other states have passed similar bills.”