Kansas Senate overrides vetoes of transgender sports bill, parents bill of rights

Two of the heavily-debated bills involved transgender student-athletes and the "parents bill of rights."
Published: Apr. 26, 2022 at 3:59 PM CDT
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WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH) - The Kansas Senate was four for four on Tuesday as lawmakers voted to override Gov. Laura Kelly’s vetoes.

Enough lawmakers supported the veto override for the transgender sports bill that would ban transgender athletes from competing in girls’ and women’s sports. The override passed with one more vote than what was needed, 28-10.

The bill is similar to other legislation that has passed or been considered by other states.

It would impact public school sports starting at the elementary level and up through post-secondary. Including kindergarten through fifth grade in the bill is one of the concerns lawmakers continue to express.

“There are no physical advantages for males at the elementary level and I’ve said this before, I’m just sad that this bill includes our youngest students,” said Sen. Brenda Dietrich, a Republican from Topeka.

Supporters of the bill argue it’s about fairness and say student-athletes can only compete on teams based on biological sex. It also opens the door for a student who feels they were deprived of an athletic opportunity to file a civil suit.

“Providing fairness in competition and to our young ladies and our girls. It’s right there on the clock. Every single boy in their competition finished faster than the fastest girl,” said Sen. Kellie Warren, a Republican from Leawood.

Lawmakers who oppose the bill say it’s not needed as the Kansas State High School Activities Association (KSHSAA) already has guidelines in place and purposely targets transgender athletes.

“A population that is at higher risk of suicide. I believe that it does have economic risks for Kansas, with regard to factoring against us for NCAA, FIFA and other tournaments as well as opening our schools to liability and lawsuits,” said Sen. Jeff Pittman, a Democrat from Leavenworth.

The measure now heads to the Kansas House which needs a two-thirds majority to override the governor's veto.

The Senate also voted to override the governor’s veto of the “parent’s bill of rights.” The bill seeks more transparency and allows parents to review and object to curriculum or other material available at school. It would also give parents access to records the school keeps on their children.

Supporters of the bill say it puts into state law 12 rights parents have over their children’s education and care. Opponents, including education groups, say the bill is unnecessary and there are other ways for parents to address concerns without a law.

“Parents must be a part of that foundation of learning. We have the parents on one side. We have on the other side, our educators, all focusing on the top of the pyramid and that would be our children,” said Sen. Pat Pettey, a Democrat from Kansas City.

Overrides also prevailed on bills banning cities from prohibiting single-use plastics and authorizing short-term health care plans.

The Senate sustained two governor vetoes including a COVID-19 bill.

The Kansas House still has to vote on the veto overrides where it will be much more challenging to reach the two-thirds majority needed. The House has not yet scheduled when that will happen.

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