PIERRE, S.D. — The ghost of House Bill 1217 — the transgender sports bill — has now been banished to the pile of failed bills, perhaps for good.
On Thursday, April 8, South Dakota House Speaker Spencer Gosch told Forum News Service that while "appetite" remained in his chamber to address the bill, to ban what the measure's supporters call "biological boys" from girls' sports, such a hunger can't be found in the Senate.
"The senate doesn't feel like they're interested in doing it in the special session," said Gosch, reached by phone.
A day earlier, The Sioux Falls Argus Leader first reported that talks on a conference call for reviving the bill at an upcoming special session hit the same impasse legislators and Gov. Kristi Noem found themselves in prior to Veto Day last month — with the governor calling for a tempered version of the original bill that removed collegiate sports, the House remaining bullish on the original HB 1217 language, and the Senate opposed to taking up the bill that only squeaked by the chamber in a 20-15 vote.
While Noem has issued two executive purporting to be "temporary," one saying colleges "should" require that transgender women be banned from participating in sanctioned sports, and another order governing K-12 sports saying such sex-segregation "shall" be imposed, Gosch said the orders are, in effect, political fodder.
"The executive orders don't have much enforcement," said Gosch.
The Glenham Republican pointed to an order Noem issued a stay-at-home order last year for keep elderly and "vulnerable" residents in Minnehaha and Lincoln Counties, observing, "That didn't exactly happen."
In an email to FNS, a spokesman for Noem's orders "will protect fairness in women's sports until there is legislative appetite to fix this issue."
Regardless the livelihood of these orders, the demise of HB 1217 — seemingly permanent, after previous rallies — comes while states across the U.S. are dealing with transgender-related legislature, particularly in Republican-led chambers.
On Monday in Raleigh, N.C., three lawmakers brought a bill banning gender confirmation surgery for persons under 21.
Last week, Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson vetoed a bill banning surgeries for minors before the legislature overcame the governor's block, enacting the legislation.
On Thursday in Sioux Falls, the leader of the small contingency of Democrats in the South Dakota House of Representatives compared the measures to "political football being played in Republican states across the country."
"It's been nice to see that other (lawmakers') questioning in other states has been the same as ours: show us the problem here. Because there isn't one," said Rep. Jamie Smith, D-Sioux Falls.
According to the South Dakota High School Activities Association, one transgender girl in nearly a decade of the group's gender policy has been allowed to play in girl sports.
Legislative leaders say they plan to tackle the medical marijuana program legalized by voters at the polls last November and the influx of more federal, pandemic-related aid at the special session, which the governor has called for the beginning of summer.