FHSAA Gets a Reprieve as Florida State Legislature Shuts Down for the spring

May 1, 2015

As this story was being written, we wondered whether the Florida High School Activities Association, the power broker in high school athletics in that state, was on the verge of being eliminated.
 
In recent months, the Florida State Legislature, both the House and the Senate, were considering bills that would effectively gut the association.
 
“The future of Florida high school sports is once again under attack in Tallahassee,” the FHSAA somberly noted in a statement. “Lawmakers are choosing to meddle in the business of a non-profit organization in an attempt to create ‘free agency’ in high school sports with Senate Bill 948.”
 
The association went to elaborate on this point, suggesting that “lawmakers are toying with the exploitation of high school athletes, which could lead to the demise of high school sports in our state.”
 
The FHSAA added that the legislation “creates an unfair advantage for a few schools by ill-meaning individuals who feel it’s important to win at all costs and who can afford to assemble powerhouse teams.”
 
Fortunately for the association, it was granted a reprieve. At the 11th hour, the house adjourned its 2015 regular session in Tallahassee on Tuesday. The Senate was also expected to close up shop, today.
 
What the Legislation Might Have Meant
 
Had the bill in the Senate become law, the FHSAA believed it would:
 
“Allow transfers at any time without any impact on eligibility, permitting students who attend a school to be displaced by student-athletes transferring in
 
Establish an atmosphere that facilitates recruitment by prohibiting transportation from being deemed an impermissible benefit
 
revent school districts and private schools from having their own local policies on transfers and eligibility
 
Constitute government overreach of operations, governance and funding on a non-profit private corporation”
 
 
It also claimed that elements of the bill would “constitute government interference aimed at dismantling the FHSAA” by:
 
Terminating the FHSAA current Board of Directors, and replacing it with specified interest groups
 
Eliminating the FHSAA Representative Assembly (elected by members), the primary governing body that establishes by-laws of the corporation
 
Restricting the FHSAA from accepting funds from private corporations that promote major sporting events (these funds currently lower the cost of membership dues)
 
Restricting certain sport event fees that have been established through democratic process by the membership as the means of funding the non-profit organization
 
Prescribing how tickets to State Championships must be issued and priced (single and multiday passes)
 
Establishing a precedent setting requirement for the State Auditor General to conduct operational audits of a private non-profit corporation (the Auditor General’s purpose is to audit governmental entities that derive funding from taxes)
 
Prohibiting School District’s and Private Schools from adopting transfer and eligibility policies – conflicts with home rule and government overreach of a Private School
 
 
The FHSAA was equally alarmed by House Bill 7137.
 
Authored by Rep. Manny Diaz Jr., R-Hialeah, the bill was passed on its third reading by an 86-29 vote on April 23. It has been referred to an appropriations subcommittee on education.
 
“Special interest groups … have prevailed in their influence on the Florida House,” FHSAA executive director Roger Dearing said. “Instead of focusing on far more important issues in education, lawmakers are choosing to meddle in the business of a not-for-profit organization once again in an attempt to create free agency in high school sports.”
 
And What about the Future?
 
Proponents of the legislation believe it was in-line with programs like open-enrollment, which afford students choices on where to attend school for academic reasons.
 
But the real reason for their interests may be less opaque.
 
Buddy Collings, the long-time prep sports editor of the Orlando Sentinel, told Sports Litigation Alert that “it’s not over.
 
“The power brokers who pushed these bills, some of whom had children or favorite teams that were restricted or ruled upon by the FHSAA, are going to be standing in line with their list of grievances a year from now,” he said.


 

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