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House falls short of overriding veto on transgender bathroom legislation

PIERRE--The Legislature's fight over treatment of transgender students ended Thursday when the state House of Representatives failed to override Gov. Dennis Daugaard's veto.

PIERRE-The Legislature's fight over treatment of transgender students ended Thursday when the state House of Representatives failed to override Gov. Dennis Daugaard's veto.

The legislation, HB 1008, would have restricted use of bathrooms, locker rooms and shower rooms in public schools to students of the same biological sex.

Students who didn't want to use the facilities for their biological sex could have asked for a separate accommodation in another part of the school.

The tally was 36 ayes to override the veto and 29 to support the veto. A two-thirds majority of 47 ayes was needed for an override.

The House originally approved the legislation 58-10 on Jan. 27. The Senate passed it 20-15 on Feb. 16. But the bill wasn't delivered to the governor until Feb. 23.

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Daugaard used the full five business days allowed by the state constitution and vetoed it Tuesday afternoon.

When the House considered the veto Thursday afternoon Rep. Fred Deutsch, R-Florence, asked that his legislation be allowed to die "a dignified death."

"If there was any possible way to pass this in the Senate, I'd be all over it," Deutsch said.

He would have needed 24 ayes to override in the Senate.

Despite Deutsch's pledge to work on a stronger version of the bill to bring back for the 2017 legislative session, several House members called for the override and then see what the Senate might do.

Several of the bill's supporters in the House seemed to turn on Deutsch.

The credibility of legislators and the House as a body was on the line, said Rep. Thomas Brunner, R-Nisland.

"You ride that horse to the end of the race," Brunner said.

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Brunner further argued that the governor was on board with the bill at the start. "We didn't change, he changed," Brunner said.

Then Brunner asked what was the point of switching from an aye to a nay.

"I don't know if I'm going to support it next time, if this is how it ends," Brunner said.

Rep. Karen Soli, D-Sioux Falls, called for support of the veto. "We do not need legislation about how transgender children use the bathroom," she said.

Soli said she understood the bill's supporters had good intentions about protecting children. She recalled what her parents taught her about how she treated her younger brother when they were children.

"If he said I hurt him, then I did. And I was the one who had to stop hurting him and apologize," Soli said.

The legislation's passage set off national criticism of South Dakota and prompted transgender people to spend a day at the Capitol visiting legislators.

Rep. Mike Verchio, R-Hill City, agreed with Brunner that the House should override the veto as a matter of integrity and send it to the Senate.

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"Like the representative said, miracles happen," Vechio said.

Among other representatives speaking in favor of the override was Rep. Steven Haugaard, R-Sioux Falls. He showed Daugaard no favor, saying the governor supported the legislation before vetoing it.

"Do what you did the first time. We're the adults in the room," Haugaard urged.

A lawyer who works in the criminal justice system, Haugaard said many students confused about their gender attempt suicide.

"It seems like a virus has broken out," Haugaard said about what he said is a higher frequency of transgender youths in the past 20 years.

Some of the legislators' comments drew a rebuke from Rep. Kristin Conzet, R-Rapid City. "Please don't let anyone shame you into a vote," Conzet said.

Rep. Jim Stalzer, R-Sioux Falls, said the legislation was a response to President Obama's administration, which Stalzer said had "overreached" on its interpretation of Title IX federal law regarding the use of personal facilities in public schools.

"It makes a reasonable protection, and yet it protects the boys and girls who don't want the opposite sex in the bathroom, locker room or shower," Stalzer said.

Eighteen House members changed from ayes on the legislation originally to nays on the veto override.

They were Deutsch, Dan Dryden, of Rapid City; Mary Duvall, of Pierre; Jean Hunhoff, of Yankton; Alex Jensen, of Sioux Falls; G. Mark Mickelson, of Sioux Falls; Jeff Partridge, of Rapid City; Kent Peterson, of Salem; Nancy Rasmussen, of Hurley; Fred Romkema, of Spearfish; Kyle Schoenfish, of Scotland; Jacqueline Sly, of Rapid City; Roger Solum, of Watertown; Mike Stevens, of Yankton; Steve Westra, of Sioux Falls; Dean Wink, of Howes; Mathew Wollmann, of Madison; and Larry Zikmund, of Sioux Falls.

Democrat Dennis Feickert, of Aberdeen, voted for the override Thursday after he was absent for the original vote Jan. 27. Five legislators were absent for the override vote. Four of them were ayes on the bill originally; the fifth was absent for the original vote.

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