South Dakota is on the verge of regulating fighting sports such as boxing, karate and — most controversially — mixed martial arts.
A bill to create a fight commission passed the South Dakota House 50-20, despite strenuous objections that mixed martial arts was so violent and dangerous it should be banned.
“Just the visceral perception from the average person is, this thing is violent,” said Rep. Steve Hickey, R-Sioux Falls, who led the charge against mixed martial arts in the Legislature. “I just can’t imagine us giving the green light to this and bringing in this industry.”
He pitched his amendment as a compromise — to allow a commission to oversee boxing, karate and other traditional fighting sports, but draw the line at mixed martial arts.
But the House rejected Hickey’s amendment 43-27. Rep. Dean Schrempp, D-Lantry, successfully argued that any problems with mixed martial arts in South Dakota were due to the lack of oversight.
“Once we get it regulated, we shouldn’t have no more problems with it, or at least not as many as we have now,” Schrempp said.
Among the regulations a commission could impose would be medical personnel at fights, insurance for bouts, blood tests for fighters, and mandatory bans for fighters who sustain concussions.
The House also defeated an amendment offered by Rep. Kristin Conzet, R-Rapid City, requiring members of the commission to have liability insurance. Among the objections Gov. Dennis Daugaard has raised to a fight commission is that the state or the commissioners could be exposed to costly lawsuits as a result of their rulings. Rep. Susan Wismer, D-Britton, said commissioners could exercise personal judgment about obtaining or not obtaining such insurance.
The Senate previously approved the fight commission and is expected to concur in amendments made on the House side, Senate sponsor Sen. Mark Johnston said. The measure, Senate Bill 84, would then head to Daugaard, who strongly opposes it.
Daugaard could sign the bill, veto it, or let it become law without his signature. Both houses of the Legislature passed the fight commission bill with margins sufficient to override any veto.