Utah Activities Association Bill Passes Committee

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Copyright 2017 The Deseret News Publishing Co.

Deseret Morning News (Salt Lake City)


SALT LAKE CITY - A bill that would change the governing board of the Utah High School Activities Association, create a new panel for adjudicating appeals and imposing government standards for open meetings and records passed the House Education committee despite objections from the UHSAA.

The sponsor of HB413, Rep. Francis Gibson, R-Mapleton, and collaborator Rep. Greg Hughes, R-Draper, told the committee that the bill is the result of nearly a month of twice a week meetings that included UHSAA officials, coaches, state school board members, superintendents and lawmakers.

"This bill is only about transparency and accountability," said Speaker Hughes, who participated in a work group that created the compromise legislation. "All this does is create certainty for the public."

UHSAA officials, on the other hand, said they see it as "overreach" and an attempt by the Legislature to take over management of the association, which is a private, nonprofit formed by the 149 member schools to manage prep sports and some activities.

"Our governance and oversight currently takes place at the grassroots level," said Kristen Betts, a member of the Nebo School District and chairman of the UHSAA's Board of Trustees. "We feel that UHSAA governance should remain at the most local level. Therefore the position of the UHSAA board of directors is to oppose legislation that changes this governance structure."

Gibson questioned how the bill changed the way the UHSAA was governed at all. Instead, he said, it asks the organization that does the public's business abide by open meetings and records laws, creates an independent hearing panel to ensure hearing panels follow UHSAA rules consistently, and codifies the makeup of the Board of Trustees, which is the group responsible for passing rules and assigning regions and classifications.

"You're going to hear a lot of testimony that they do not disagree with what's in the bill," Gibson said. "Just that they don't want it in code."

Rep. Daniel McCay asked Betts and UHSAA executive director for a breakdown in revenue.

Executive director Rob Cuff said 80 percent of the UHSAA's revenue comes from state tournament gates, while about 15 percent comes from corporate sponsorship (including the Deseret News) and five percent or less comes from fees schools pay for membership in the association.

"You're almost completely dependent on resources (from) public schools," McCay said in questioning why the UHSAA would object to the bill. "I just don't understand that. ... Without public funding, could your organization even exist?"

Rep. Marie Poulson, who along with Rep. Carol Spackman Moss were the only committee members to vote against the bill, tried to clarify what the objection was to any legislation.

"Your opposition to this bill is just that it's in statute and that wouldn't give you flexibility to make changes in the future," Poulson said.

The committee ended up passing the bill 11-2 and now heads to the floor of the House.

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March 2, 2017


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