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Legislature Unwilling to Override Noem Vetoes

Having burned up all of its defiance in thwarting the Governor’s #1 Legislative priority, the Legislature yesterday let stand all of Governor Kristi Noem’s misinformed and misinforming vetoes.

House Bill 1193, the mostly boring but probably useful update of the Uniform Commercial Code, won House approval last month on a 49–17 vote. Bankers and cryptocurrency backers refuted Noem’s claim that HB 1193 would make it harder to use cryptocurrency in South Dakota, but Noem’s lizard-people hokum about the UCC update leading to government-issued digital currency swung 20 House members to nay, producing a majority House vote against HB 1193 and sustaining her veto. As state Chamber of Commerce exec David Owen says, Noem and the House chose fear over facts:

The other thing that helped sustain the veto was the effective date was next year anyway. What we lose is a year to help the bankers get ready to put it into their systems. So, we lose some preparation time. Again, I think fear overcame fact on a complicated issue. That’s not rare [David Owen, in Lee Strubinger, “House Upholds Noem’s UCC Update Veto,” SDPB, 2023.03.27].

The House also picked fear over fact in letting stand Noem’s veto of House Bill 1209, which would have raised the THC limit for industrial hemp that’s still being processed from 1% to 5%. As farmer and House Minority Leader Oren Lesmeister explained repeatedly, THC levels normally fluctuate while running industrial hemp through the mill. HB 1209 would only protect producers from wider fluctuations as they produce their useful and non-intoxicating product. But Noem said HB 1209 would confuse cops and let people sell recreational marijuana, and the House fell for it, switching from a 44–26 vote in favor of HB 1209 last month to a 32–35 vote to leave it vetoed yesterday.

The Schoenbeckian Senate was, predictably, a little spinier on Veto Day, but not enough to override the Governor’s mistaken vetos. Only three Republican Senators (Novstrup, Reed, and Wiik) slinked away from Senate Bill 129, a measure that would have given the same enhanced penalties for assaulting school employees that current law provides for assaulting first responders and health care workers. But neither the bill’s original Senate vote of 22–12 nor yesterday’s override vote of 20–15 reached the 24 yeas necessary to reverse the veto.

Support for the least consequential of Noem’s vetoed bills, Senate Bill 108, completely collapsed in the Senate. SB 108, which sought to allow underage students taking college classes on brewing alcoholic beverages to taste but not swallow their homework, struggled in all of its regular Session votes, making it out of both Senate and House last month by just one vote. Yesterday, Senators abandoned that ship, rejecting SB 108 5–30.

The Legislature’s unwillingness to override vetoes, even four vetoes based on misrepresentation and misunderstanding, is perhaps unsurprising. In her first term, Noem issued nine substantive vetoes (four in 2022, one in 2021, two in 2020, and two in 2019), and the Legislature has not overriden any. The closest the Legislature has come to overriding a Noem veto was in 2021, when the House correctly rejected Noem’s attempt to misuse the style-and-form veto and fell just two votes shy of overriding her politically embarrassing opposition to that transgender sports ban. Yesterday’s sustaining votes, plus the House’s failure earlier this month to override Noem’s veto of the higher hotel-tax cap in House Bill 1109, brings Noem’s record on practical vetoes to 14–0, a fact Team Noem eagerly points out in its press release celebrating Veto Day… a release which shouts the word veto by consistently placing it in all caps:

Governor's Office, press release on "VETOES" sustained, 2023.03.27.
Governor’s Office, press release on “VETOES” sustained, 2023.03.27.

The Governor can use her perfect veto record to distract the voters from her broader failure as Governor. She can protect South Dakotans from fake risks, but she can’t follow through on her practical promise to protect South Dakotans from the state’s very real, unusual, and regressive tax on food.


  1. Mark Anderson 2023-03-28 08:32

    Imagine the hissy fit if they did override a Noem veto.

  2. Bob Newland 2023-03-28 08:40

    Mary Jo Fitzgerald appears to be even dumber than her hubby. Now THAT’S saying something.

  3. sx123 2023-03-28 09:44

    People are funny. They elect others based on emotion, celebrity status, and rhetoric a lot, seemingly more often than logic and critical thinking skills, so none of this comes as a surprise.

  4. John 2023-03-28 10:31

    It is bewildering that the SD legislature choose summer study projects (county funding and long term care facilities) while skipping the controversies found in the governor’s vetoes. It’s challenging to imagine how funding of an entity with taxing authority is an issue. Unless, of course, the motive to the county funding study is to create the political cover necessary to reduce the number of tax sucking counties and their administrative positions from 66 to 20-something, the same number of counties that can afford a county jail. (I mean really, if a county cannot afford a jail, is it really a county?)

    In a similar vein, if a county lacks a hospital or long term care . . . is it really a viable county? People, needs, and time changes resources and demands. Maybe our counties are 130+ years out of date to support those changed needs.

    A better use of summer studies would be sales tax reform with the goal of eliminating state and local sales taxes on food, or the proposed update on the Uniform Commercial Code. Reflect on the wisdom of Nvidia, that nothing useful to society comes from crypto. This is despite the company sells powerful chips to crypto miners.

  5. bearcreekbat 2023-03-28 11:59

    Deja Vu. In the 1980’s the legislature passed a bill to provide additional funding for legal services in civil cases (legal aid) for the poor. The potential financial benefit to the State was shown to substantially outweigh the cost to the State since increased funding would help poor people enforce their statutory rights to federally funded benefits such as Social Security disability, federal rent and utility assistance, federal food stamps benefits etc. Governor Mickelson initially supported this bill.

    But, as the story goes, an influential attorney/relative of the Governor that had lost cases against indigents that had been represented by legal aid lawyers asked the Governor to veto the bill. Despite the fact that an overwhelming majority of legislators initially voted for the bill, about half reversed their postitions and sustained the Governor’s veto.

    The lesson seems to be that too many legislators will vote either for or against a bill, regardless of the bill’s merits or the benefit to the State or its residents, based upon holding a finger up in the political wind. Apparently this situation was repeated this year based upon the foul odor of the current Governor’s political wind.

  6. John 2023-03-28 12:42

    On the national level, and our state is mere small replica of the national political malfeasance – reflect on the wisdom Jon Stewart shared with Fareed Zakaria.

  7. O 2023-03-28 12:57

    The Governor got her chips into the pot and at the end of the hand won. Like Teddy KGB says, “He beat me… Straight up… Pay him… Pay that man his money.”

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