Burgum vetos transgender and facemask bills

K. William Boyer
Devils Lake Journal

North Dakota- In a bold move, North Dakota’s Governor Doug Burgum vetoed two high issue bills on April 21, sending them back to the state houses for discussion.

Burgum wrote two letters to the North Dakota House of Representatives giving detailed reasons for vetoing House Bill 1298,  discussing the need for equality for transgender in sports and House Bill 1323, which would take away the right of local state officials the ability to mandate the use of face masks.

In his letter discussing HB1298, Burgum said the state had a high level playing field and fairness in girl’s sports and there was no evidence to suggests their was any danger of that being tampered with.  He said the state has fairness in both boy’s and girl’s sports largly in part due to the North Dakota High School Activities Association Board which he says ensures the smooth running of the sports.

“To date their has not been a single recorded incident of a transgender girl attempting to play on a girl’s team,” Burgum said. “NDHSAA already has regulations in place for participation in sex-separated interscholastic contests by transgender students.”

Burgum said the regulations would require transgender girls to undergo testosterone suppression treatment for gender transition for a full calendar year before they are eligible to compete in girl’s sports. He said the bill’s proposed prohibitions did not extend to students attending tribal or private schools, which created potentially unlevel playing fields.

In his letter discussing HB1323, the governor said taking away a local state officials ability to mandate the use of a face shield used to save lives and livelihoods in a future pandemic and other emergency would be irresponsible and an unnecessary risk to the public.

Burgum said the state implemented the shortest mask mandate in the country, only lasting 65 days. He said the tool was used both briefly and judiciously with other protocols at a time when the state’s health care officials and staff were overwhelmed with patients and pandemic-related deaths. As a result, the governor said the COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations dramatically dropped.

“The current pandemic has painfully demonstrated that viruses do not respect borders and localized protocols may, at peak times, not adequate to mitigate infection rates and protect our most vulnerable citizens of all ages,” he said.

After vetoing the two bills,  Burgum did sign House Bill 118.

“House Bill 1118 is an erosion of executive authority in reaction to an extremely challenging year of responding to a global pandemic, during which we were in frequent contact with legislative leaders and members,” he said. “While we believe the current system worked well, this bill represents a compromise that allows for broader legislative involvement in future statewide health emergencies that affect all North Dakotans.”

K. William Boyer is the Managing Editor of the Devils Lake News Journal. He can be reached at kboyer@gannett.com, or by phone at (701) 662-2127.  

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