Senate Democrats pledge drag-out fight over anti-trans athlete bill

Sen. Bill Wielechowski, D-Anchorage, during the beginning of amendments on SB140.

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Legislation that would ban transgender girls from participating against cis girls in K-12 sports is poised to pass in the Senate, but the chamber’s Democrats aren’t going to make it easy.

Concerned over a litany of legal problems with the legislation—that range from its violations of students’ constitutional right to privacy, its discrimination against transgender girls (as the legislation doesn’t apply to transgender boys) and its potential impacts on federal funding—Democratic Sen. Bill Wielechowski said on Tuesday his caucus will offer “several dozen” amendments to the bill.

The legislation is almost certain to pass the GOP-controlled Senate, but the amendment process will likely delay passage of the legislation by many hours, if not days, and eat into the dwindling hours and days of the legislative session. The legislation is thought to have no chance in the House (but who really knows).

See also: Senate to vote on GOP bill banning trans youth from girls’ sports, backers claim they’re protecting cis girls who train hard and ‘watch their diet’

The Senate took up amendments following the passage of the budget and were clearly hoping for a speedy passage on Tuesday night but were only able to get through two of the “dozens of amendments” by the time they broke for the evening. The most significant issue covered in the amendments was one by Wielechowski that would have turned the issue over to the school districts, effectively gutting the legislation’s statewide impact. He said the issue is best left to local communities to decide.

“This is where this decision should be made. It should be a local decision, it should be a decision of the local school boards. The local communities elect those members of the school boards and we should not be micromanaging how they deal with these issues,” he said. “Quite frankly, we’ve got a lot of other things that we should be spending our time on.”

The amendment failed on a 10-10 vote—effectively decided by Kodiak Republican Sen. Gary Stevens, who was ostensibly the most moderate of the bunch heading into the night—which is likely the closest any of these amendment votes will get to passing. The two amendments took the Senate about 80 minutes to debate and vote on.

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Sen. David Wilson, R-Wasilla, made a motion to limit debate on the amendments to two minutes. It’s a motion that is common in the frequently unruly 40-member House but has never been invoked in the Senate, according to Sen. Bert Stedman, who told the chamber dealing with opposing points of view comes with the job and it’s unfair to ignore it.

“In my 20 years, I don’t ever recall limiting debate. It seems like when those type of tactics come into play it just slows things down,” he said. “One of the arts of this job is to listen to people with different points of view, whether it’s a budget issue or a legislative issue, it just comes with the territory.”

Senate Minority Leader Tom Begich also argued limiting debate would be a breach of the trust of the chamber, warning that if they were to do so that the Senate Democrats would find other ways to slow down the process.

“I’m curious why the body would choose to limit our ability to speak on this issue. The Senate has worked until a relatively collegial way until the last few hours,” he said. “It is my hope that this will not lead to having to take our time to review every aspect of Mason’s to find out how many times we stray from the issue of the day.”

Wilson ultimately withdrew his motion.

The Senate will be back at 11 a.m. and is likely to spend the entirety of the day dealing with amendments as Democrats put up a stiff fight on this issue. There is a week left in the legislative session.

Follow the thread: Senate takes up amendments on anti-trans sports bill

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