By Matt Lamb
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South Dakota’s Republican Gov. Kristi Noem told her constituents over the weekend that they will just need to find a different job if a company within the state mandates that they receive a vaccination against COVID-19.

“Workers whose employers are mandating a vaccine for continued employment have the power to say no,” Noem tweeted on Saturday. “Our robust economy and job market gives them the option to find a new employer that values personal choice and responsibility, and doesn’t force mandates on their employees.”

Some South Dakota employers, including Sanford Health, recently mandated the experimental COVID jab.

Considered a potential contender for the 2024 presidential election, Noem has generally taken a hands-off approach to the coronavirus. However, what critics call her refusal to protect her constituents from COVID vaccine mandates puts her at odds with another potential 2024 contender, Florida’s Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis.

Like Noem, DeSantis largely rejected the large-scale lockdowns that many Republican and Democratic states implemented, focusing instead on protecting the state’s numerous elderly residents. Unlike Noem, however, he also signed legislation prohibiting both private industry and government vaccine passports, which prohibit citizens from entering places without proof of vaccination.

This is not the first time Noem has drawn criticism for refusing to stand up to major corporations in her state.

For example, in March, she vetoed legislation to ensure that athletes at public schools and universities compete only against biological members of their own sex. After initially expressing support for the legislation, critics say Noem appeared to cave to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA).

Her chief of staff served on the board of the Sioux Falls Chamber of Commerce. Another Noem advisor is a lobbyist for Sanford Health, which owns a sports complex that wanted to compete for NCAA tournaments.

“Employers view the workforce as a place of inclusion,” the South Dakota Chamber of Commerce president told The Federalist.

One commentator said that Noem’s recent agenda on COVID is “tone deaf.”

“With a tone-deaf statement posted from her personal, campaign-focused Twitter account, the Republican governor told employees concerned that their employer will force them to choose between getting the COVID shot or losing their jobs to take a hike,” Jordan Davidson wrote at The Federalist.

“Noem’s tweet is specifically worded to pretend that she believes the businesses that do mandate the shot are wrong,” Davidson continued, “but it doesn’t take Sherlock Holmes to realize her emphasis on power,’ ‘personal choice,’ and ‘responsibility’ really means she’s not interested in stopping employers in her red state from making health decisions for their employees. Noem just doomed her citizens who are eager to work when others aren’t to choose between their convictions and their income.”

Perhaps responding to the criticism she received on social media, Noem noted that she had signed an executive order banning vaccine passports, though it only applies to government entities, similarly to how she issued executive orders on women’s sports after her veto on the issue.

“Big push by the left has intensified for mandated Vaccine Passports—and that’s why I issued an Executive Order back in April banning them in South Dakota,” Noem wrote.

Signed legislation is typically stronger in the eyes of the judicial system than executive orders, which can usually be revoked by the next executive with a stroke of the pen.

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