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Bill to change governance of Utah High School Activities Association heads to final passage

By Marjorie Cortez | Posted - Mar. 8, 2017 at 2:22 p.m.



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SALT LAKE CITY — The governance and operations the Utah High School Activities Association face significant changes upon final passage of HB413.

The bill, which reduces the governing board from 32 members to 15, creates an independent appeals board and requires the organization to comply with state open meetings and records laws.

HB413 was approved Wednesday by a 22-4 vote of the Utah Senate and returned to the House to address a clarifying amendment.

The bill does not address transfers of student athletes to other schools but makes many other needed changes that ensure transparency and accountability of the organization, said Sen. Dan Hemmert, R-Orem, HB413's Senate sponsor.

Late last year, the Utah State Board of Education passed a rule that loosened transfer prohibitions, but the board has agreed to revisit that unpopular decision, the bill's sponsor, House Majority Whip Francis Gibson, R-Mapleton, said in House debate earlier this week.

Hemmert said the bill would create a three-member appellate body to hear appeals of the 15-member governing body's decisions. The large association board had been difficult to manage, he said.

"It's all been done in private, people making applications don't know why they're not approved. Then you have to appeal back to the same group that denied you," Hemmert said.

Some senators, including Senate Assistant Minority Whip Luz Escamilla, D-Salt Lake City, questioned why the heavy hand of government is meddling in the operation of the organization, which also receives private funds from member schools outside the public school system.

During committee debate on the bill, UHSAA Executive Director Rob Cuff said 80 percent of the organization's revenue comes from state tournament gates, while about 15 percent comes from corporate sponsorship, and some 5 percent comes from fees schools pay for membership in the association.

But Sen. Lincoln Fillmore, R-South Jordan, noted that administrators of the activities association receive state benefits and participate in the state retirement system.

"I think we're simply calling it a duck," Fillmore said.

Given that, the high school activities association "ought to live by the government standards of the state" with respect to its structure and appeals process, he said. Email: marjorie@deseretnews.com

Marjorie Cortez

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