David Adam

House bill to replace IHSA with new agency goes nowhere

By Herald-Whig
Posted: Feb. 21, 2019 9:40 am Updated: Feb. 24, 2019 9:46 am

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. -- A bill that calls for the creation of a new state government agency that would legislate high school athletics in place of the Illinois High School Association was expected to be called Wednesday afternoon during a meeting of the Illinois Elementary and Secondary Education Committee at the capitol in Springfield.

However, Rep. Thaddeus Jones, D-Calumet City, sponsor of House Bill 330, did not show up for the meeting. Sue Scherer, D-Decatur, chair of the seven-member committee, said she learned two minutes before the start of the meeting that Jones would not attend.

"I've talked to (Jones), and I had planned on calling it today," she said. "It was going to be called last week. Now he doesn't want it to."

The bill, filed Jan. 11, 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 bill calls for the 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.

An official in Jones' office at the capitol on Wednesday said Jones was not in and wouldn't be back until next week.

It's possible a Tuesday meeting in Springfield with Craig Anderson, executive director of the IHSA, changed Jones' mind.

"I was able, in my opinion, to enlighten him about the IHSA, about things we do and things we don't do, and some of the perceptions he had or folks in his district had about what we do," Anderson said. "Considering he had the opportunity to call the bill and the fact he didn't, I think it's a good thing for us. It tells me the meeting went well."

Anderson said he doesn't believe any one instance upset Jones and led him to creating the bill. He said Jones told him he sent an e-mail to the IHSA asking questions from constituents, but the e-mail went unanswered because it was sent to two former employees of the IHSA.

"He thought it was received, and unfortunately it wasn't," Anderson said.

Anderson did not know if Jones planned to continue pursuing the bill, which has no co-sponsors.

"At least he spent some time deliberating what he wants to do with it," he said. "We were able to make some connection and share contact information, but he didn't make any final decision. I think it's still somewhat up in the air. (The bill) could be called on a different day. He didn't say, ‘Never again,' but I thought he was in a good place knowing more about us."

Several legislators interviewed Wednesday in the capitol were skeptical about the bill.

"Sometimes bills are introduced to poke someone and say, ‘Hey, I've got a beef with you, and I'm going to file this bill to make your life miserable,'" said Tom Morrison, R-Palatine, a member of the Illinois Elementary and Secondary Education Committee.

"The last thing we need to do is have state government get involved with running anything to do with the IHSA when the IHSA is doing quite well on its own," said Dan Brady, R-Normal. "I'm not in favor of what I'm hearing. We have our own mess to take care of over here."

C.D. Davidsmeyer, R-Jacksonville, said "three or four" school superintendents from his district recently had called to express their dislike of the bill.

"I don't know what (Jones') point of view is," he said. "I think it's more of a personal vendetta. There's probably an axe to grind. If it was a priority bill, there would be more people talking about it."

Norine Hammond, R-Macomb, succinctly summed up the thoughts of many legislators.

"I know enough to know it's a really bad idea," she said. "I'm a hell no."