Kansas House fails to override Democrat Gov. Laura Kelly’s vetoes of bills for fairness in women’s sports and parents’ rights

The Kansas House failed Thursday to override the governor’s veto of a bill protecting women’s sports and another establishing a parents’ bill of rights.

The state Senate had successfully voted to override Gov. Laura Kelly’s vetoes of both bills, but the House failures sink both bills.

The House could vote again when lawmakers return May 16, but there’s no guarantee the outcomes would be any different. House Republicans, who hold solid majorities in both chambers, needed an 84-vote two-thirds supermajority to override Kelly’s vetoes – but only managed 81 votes to protect women’s sports, and even fewer votes, 72, to override on the parents’ rights bill. 

The Fairness in Women’s Sports Act (SB 160) would prohibit transgender student-athletes who are biological males from competing in women’s sports. The bill would apply to “​​all interscholastic, intercollegiate, intramural, and club athletic teams that are sponsored by public elementary, secondary, and postsecondary institutions that compete against teams from other public educational institutions.” 

Senators overrode Kelly’s veto by a vote of 28-10, one vote beyond the necessary two-thirds to override.

Senate President Ty Masterson, who had vowed to override the veto, said Kelly misunderstands fairness.

“The Fairness in Women’s Sports Act is about just that – fairness. It simply sets guidelines that ensure the fair playing field continues for women that we have recognized for decades. 

“It’s about protecting the woman who worked and trained all her life and should not have her hard work wiped out by being forced to compete on unlevel playing fields.”

Republican Sen. Kellie Warren explained her support of the bill as “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.”

Critics suggest the bill is redundant, as the Kansas State High School Activities Association already has measures to address transgender athletes, and they worry about the bill’s effect on transgender students.

Senators also overrode Kelly’s veto on the Parents’ Bill of Rights (SB 58) 27-12, a bill that ensures parents exercise control over and have information about their child’s education. The bill outlines 12 rights of parents, including access to materials and the ability to address public school officials during board meetings.

By choosing secrecy over transparency,” Masterson said of the parents’ rights veto, “the governor is indicating she believes parents are the enemy and that schools have a right to hide what they are teaching our children.”