David Adam

House bill calls for replacing IHSA with new agency

By Herald-Whig
Posted: Feb. 20, 2019 10:20 am Updated: Feb. 24, 2019 9:46 am

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. -- A state representative from the south Chicago suburbs has introduced a bill that calls for the creation of a new agency that would legislate high school athletics in place of the Illinois High School Association.

The Illinois Elementary and Secondary Education Committee is scheduled to meet at 2:30 p.m. Wednesday at the capitol in Springfield, and HB 330 is among 26 bills that could be introduced during that meeting. The seven-member committee is chaired by Sue Scherer, D-Decatur.

The bill was filed Jan. 11 by Thaddeus Jones, D-Calumet City. It would prevent schools from being members of the IHSA and instead require them to participate in the newly created High School Interscholastic Association Commission.

The IHSA, based in Bloomington and formed in 1900, regulates 14 sports for boys, 15 sports for girls and eight co-educational non-athletic activities for nearly 800 member high schools.

Jones' bill calls for the new commission to be governed by five appointees by the governor, Speaker of the House, president of the Senate, minority leader of the House of Representatives and minority leader of the Senate.

Jones has not spoken publicly about the bill or explained his issues with the IHSA. Attempts to interview both Jones and Craig Anderson, executive director of the IHSA, were unsuccessful Tuesday.

Rich Miller, the editor of the daily political newsletter Capitol Fax, recently wrote that he received a brief explanation from someone associated with Jones who said the bill was filed in response to "an email that was sent to the IHSA office, but never replied to."

Jones' bill was filed five weeks ago, but no legislator has signed up to sponsor the bill.

"I'm suspecting a skunk," said Randy Frese, R-Paloma. "I don't know what he's trying to grab. I haven't heard him say anything in the past about issues or problems that he needs to correct.

"Until I know more, it doesn't smell quite right."

State Senator Jil Tracy, R-Quincy, said she didn't know much about the bill but admits she also is skeptical.

"I have no reason to believe that the state could do better," Tracy said. "It had no knowledge of it, but I can't imagine we need another state agency to fall under the governor's office. We already have 102 state agencies, and I don't know that we need another without some glaring reason.

"Usually, you'll get rumblings about a bill, but I have heard nothing. I don't know why he would take away from the IHSA. By and large, they do a good job. He's looking for a solution to something that we don't know that it's broken."

The committee was supposed to meet on Feb. 14, but a poor weather forecast for Feb. 15 led to the postponement of the meeting.

Jones does not have to introduce the bill on Wednesday. He could wait until May to do so.

Discussions about the government taking over the IHSA's operations were last held in April 2014.

Linda Chapa LaVia, D-Aurora, previously chaired the House's Elementary and Secondary Education Committee. She wanted to ask the IHSA about its contracts with food vendors, equipment companies and clothing companies that provide goods to teams and during events. Meanwhile, the IHSA was warning people that the state was trying to take over its operations and place control with the Illinois State Board of Education.

Chapa LaVia later said she no longer wanted to try to determine whether the ISBE should assume the duties of the IHSA.