Senate President Stuart Adams denies political pressure as reason for veto override

Mar 24, 2022, 11:52 AM | Updated: 11:51 pm
Utah Senate President Stuart Adams discusses the 2022 legislative session in his office at the Capi...
Utah Senate President Stuart Adams discusses the 2022 legislative session in his office at the Capitol in Salt Lake City on Wednesday, Jan. 12, 2022. Adams has denied political pressure as a reason for today's vote to override Gov. Spencer Cox's veto of the transgender ban in girls high school sports.

SALT LAKE CITY — Utah’s legislature will vote to override Governor Spencer Cox‘s veto of the transgender athlete bill Friday. And the override seems all but certain.

Sen. President Stuart Adams said he believes lawmakers still have the votes for it.

He denied, however, political pressure is the reason lawmakers are voting to override the governor’s veto of the bill.

Political pressure

“We’re getting a lot of emails from both sides.” Adams said when asked if lawmakers were doing this to get political points from GOP delagates on this issue. Several GOP lawmakers have re-election bids and those who chose not to go the signature route can only get on the ballot through delegate support.  

“I’m not sure that that really weighs into this.” Adams said. “I believe the legislators are making decisions because they believe in the policy.”

That policy would put a ban on transgender athletes in girls high school and middle school sports until a court weighs in, then a commission would be in charge of evaluating and deciding criterea for trans athletes to participate in girls sports.

The bill originally formed just the commission after a compromise with LGBTQ advocates, but among other things they didn’t like the make-up of the commission. The bill was then changed in the final hours of the legislative session to include the ban.

Why override now?

Adams said it’s time for the legislature to move on from the issue.

“I don’t think it’s very kind, I don’t think it’s very considerate to year after, year after, year to have this issue come up and we debate it as a legislature,” he said. “We need to make a decision.”

Directly following the veto override session lawmakers are posed to change H.B.11 to include legal protections and money for any potential lawsuits over the expected new law.

Adams said it was discussed at one point to go back to the commission-only version of the bill.

“But if everybody thought the commission was the only answer that would probably be the way,” he said. “But there’s a lot of people that think the ban is the answer.”

Adams said this is balanced approach.

It is possible that the bill could change further with amendments brought by other lawmakers when the bill is debated, but he doesn’t know if any of those ideas have support. 

“I’m hearing about a couple other amendments,” Adams said. “We’ll see which ones have support and which ones don’t — if there are any others.”

Public input 

Many have argued there was no public debate on the bill that would ban transgender athletes in girls sports. Adams argued when lawmakers tried similar legislation last year,  the concept of a ban was debated publicly.

The version of the bill that passed this year was debated in House and Senate commitee’s before the ban was proposed. 

Sen. Derek Kitchen argued Thursday to allow for more public feedback.

“Seeing as community organizations and the public were uninvolved and removed from the legislative process to call for reconsideration on H.B. 11I am urgently pleading for public feedback ahead of tomorrow’s sessions.”

But Adams said he’s not seeing that as an option.

Taxpayer money

The newly proposed H.B. 3001 is the bill that will make changes to the existing transgender athlete sports policy. It will “indemnify and hold harmless” Utah’s High School Activities Association and school districts from any potential lawsuits. It also allocates $500,000.

GOP Rep. Mike Winder argued he cannot vote for a bill to “throw away” Utah’s tax dollars on a lawsuit. 

Adams argued the policy is worth it.

“The ban starts out and the commission will follow if it gets stayed [by a court], and I think people feel like it’s worth it be able to find out which alternative actually will function right,” Adams said.

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Senate President Stuart Adams denies political pressure as reason for veto override