Noem’s Partial Veto Has Precedent With Rounds Abortion Ban Revision

Mar 24, 2021

Governor Kristi Noem’s style and form veto of a bill that requires girls’ sports be reserved for “biological females” is considered by some lawmakers as executive overreach.  


But the revision is not without precedent.  


In 2004, then-Governor Mike Rounds issued a style and form veto of a bill that would ban almost all abortions in South Dakota. The only exception was in the case of preserving the life of the pregnant mother.  


According to reports at the time, Rounds said there were technical mistakes at the end of the bill. He said he also had concerns about the bill repealing existing state law that regulates and limits abortion. If a court struck down the bill, or put it on pause, abortion in South Dakota could have been unregulated. So, Rounds put regulations back in.  


During debate on Rounds’ style and form veto, late-Republican Representative Tom Hennies, of Rapid City, said the changes were good and should have been in the bill that reached the governor’s desk. However, he didn’t think the governor had the ability to issue such a change.   


“To me, that’s beyond the constitutional prerogative of the executive branch and beyond the constitutional prerogative of style and form,” Hennies said. “That veto looks like the executive branch of the government is writing legislation. Ladies and gentlemen, just like the courts, I believe the executive branch is constitutionally prohibited from writing law.”  


But the prime sponsor of the bill disagreed.  


Republican Representative Matt McCaulley carried the bill in the House. He said the constitution does speak very specifically about style and form vetoes and how the legislature can go about reviewing the governor’s changes.   


“Article 4, section 4, says bills with error’s in style or form may be returned to the legislature by the governor with specific recommendations for change. The legislature, then, can approve those by majority vote,” McCaulley said. “This is not an executive branch legislating. This is an executive branch recommendation—a formal recommendation—that we amend this bill.”  


McCaulley is now a top advisor to Governor Kristi Noem. His bill was ultimately referred and rejected by South Dakota voters.  


State lawmakers will consider Noem’s style and form veto on Monday.