Roller Derby Skaters Want Hard Hits Legalized

What happens when Maine politics and roller derby collide? The result could be a change in state law.

Members of the Maine Roller Derby league skated to the state house in Augusta, Maine Tuesday afternoon to testify in favor of "An Act to Promote Roller Derby," emergency legislation sponsored by Rep. Diane Russell (D-Portland).

The bill would add an exception to a law passed in 1991 that prohibits a skater "attempting to overtake" another skater from colliding. It was initially passed to protect rink owners from liability.

According to Russell, the Act to Promote Roller Derby would add an organized sports exception to the rule.

While nine roller derby leagues have been apparently playing illegally in Maine, with the normal hits, checks, and collisions that come with the game, this legislation helps pave the way for future roller derby expansion.

"We want to eventually make a juniors roller derby league, and we don't feel good about doing that unless the sport is legal," said Heather Steeves, a member of the Portland-based league.

Steeves said the league has already started raising money for a new training facility in Portland, which is expected to be a $1 million project.

"The reason we need to do this [emergency legislation] now is because they're looking to build the competition facility," said Russell, "and they needed the law changed in order to make that happen."

The Commerce and Labor Committee heard public testimony Tuesday, and has a work session scheduled for Thursday, Feb. 11. A vote on the bill is expected after that work session, which could send the bill to the House.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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