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House prepares for vote on trans athlete ban, Senate delays

“Is it worth it? We don’t think it is,” said Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith.
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Posted at 7:39 PM, Apr 13, 2021

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Passage of Florida’s bill banning trans women from playing in K-12 and college female sports was less certain, Tuesday.

It followed the NCAA’s warning that states approving the policy will feel repercussions. Monday afternoon, the organization’s board of governors threatened to pull championship games from states like Florida if a trans ban is in place.

“When determining where championships are held, NCAA policy directs that only locations where hosts can commit to providing an environment that is safe, healthy, and free of discrimination should be selected,” the statement read. “We will continue to closely monitor these situations to determine whether NCAA championships can be conducted in ways that are welcoming and respectful of all participants.”

Staunch opponents of HB 1475, like Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith (D-Winter Park), said approval could cost Florida 50 games and $75 million, over five years.

“It’s harmful, it’s disruptive, and it’s totally unacceptable,” Smith said. “Is it worth it? We don’t think it is.”

But the bill’s House sponsor, Rep. Kaylee Tuck, does. The Sebring Republican brought her policy to the House floor Tuesday, as planned, calling the threat of economic losses “speculative.”

"I am proud to sponsor the fairness in Women's Sports Act,” Tuck said in a statement before the floor session began. “This supports women and girls by ensuring they have the same opportunities as men and boys to showcase their skills, strength, and other athletic abilities".

Tuck had previously said she feels men are biologically stronger and have athletic advantages. She said her goal is to maintain opportunities for women in sports.

House members were expected to spend hours discussing HB 1475, Tuesday evening. Democrats had proposed 18 amendments to water down the policy. Following discussion and debate, the bill would be in the proper posture for a final vote Wednesday afternoon.

And while the House was poised to move forward, the Senate’s version was set to suffer a delay.

Sponsor Sen. Kelli Stargel (R-Lakeland) was planning to postpone the discussion of SB 2012 in its last committee stop, Wednesday. A spokesperson said the decision was due to time constraints, despite coinciding with the NCAA warning.

“There are several high profile bills in that committee tomorrow, including an elections bill (SB 90) and a bill regarding employee organizations (SB 1014), which are going to have significant amendments, and which have also had a great deal of public testimony at other committee stops,” said Senate President Spokeswoman Katie Betta. “This bill (SB 2012) has also had a lot of public testimony, and rather than have everyone traveling and waiting at the Civic Center for five hours on a bill we might not get to, Senator Stargel thought it was best to [postpone] the bill and to let people know in advance.”

Some opponents wonder if the delay was just an excuse for the GOP majority to save face and let the bill die quietly. Time will tell if that's true.