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HR 895 legislation on IHSA endorsed by House

Published: Monday, April 7, 2014 6:11 p.m. CDT • Updated: Tuesday, April 8, 2014 12:15 a.m. CDT

A House resolution seeking more transparency from the IHSA continued to gain traction Monday when legislators called a roll call vote to allow State Rep. Linda Chapa LaVia to conduct public hearings on the matter.

House representatives voted 55-51 to allow Chapa LaVia (D-Aurora) to conduct the hearings, which will likely take place this summer. Because of its not-for-profit status, the IHSA is not required to answer to state officials the way public companies are.

Last week, IHSA executive director Marty Hickman said Chapa LaVia's resolution amounted to a "takeover" suggesting that the legislator is attempting to have the Illinois Board of Education (ISBE) take over the IHSA's duties.

On Monday, Chapa LaVia re-iterated that's not the case.

"I said it on the House floor....it's not my intention to remove the IHSA from what it's doing right now and putting it under ISBE," Chapa LaVia said in a phone interview. "That's not my intent and I said that on the House floor a couple of times...I will not be doing that."

"I just want accountability and transparency."

But opponents to HR 895 question if transferring the IHSA's duties isn't Chapa LaVia's goal, why would language included in the resolution suggests otherwise? The resolution states that the public hearings would consider "the feasibility of statutorily transferring the duties and functions" to ISBE.

On Monday, Chapa LaVia said the language was included to give her – as the chairperson of the elementary and secondary education committee – a reason to look into the matter.

State Rep. Mike Unes, R-East Peoria, isn't convinced.

"It's one thing to say what your intent is, but that's not what her resolution says," Unes said in a phone interview. "My question is, why not change it?"

On Monday, IHSA officials released a statement, stating that the resolution has "unfairly cast the association in a negative light."

"While we believe the hearings (Chapa La Via) proposes will be a unnecessary strain on the time and resources of both the General Assembly and the IHSA," Hickman said in the statement. "We welcome the opportunity to clear up any misconceptions the resolution has created."

At issue is the number of exclusive contracts the IHSA maintains with vendors and suppliers for IHSA state tournament events along with a pact with the National Federation of High Schools that gives the group exclusive broadcast rights for championship events. While the IHSA reported nearly $11 million in revenue on its 2012 and 2013 annual reports, where that revenue comes from is not specified.

The IHSA refuses to release those contracts and also, beginning in the fall of 2012, began claiming it had exclusive rights to broadcast or webcast and control which other media is allowed to broadcast or webcast any playoff event.

The resolution calls that policy "is contrary to the public policy of the State of Illinois."

On Friday, Hickman told the Northwest Herald that he has difficulty fathoming when someone criticizes a group have "quality relationships with quality companies."

In Monday's issued statement, Hickman referred to the IHSA as a "model of transparency."

Unes said that, at a time when public schools in Illinois are owned "hundreds of millions of dollars," conducting hearings on whether the IHSA is being accountable enough seems like a bad idea.

Like Hickman did last week, Unes trumpeted the IHSA's ability to balance its budget, fund its pension system without charging schools fees to belong to the association. Unes also mentioned the economic impact felt by communities that host IHSA tournaments each year. How the IHSA conducts specific business, he suggested, shouldn't be the state's concern.

"I don't know why we're spending time talking about this organization when we ought to be spending our time trying to talk about fixing the inequities in our school funding," Unes said.

If the IHSA is doing so much good, though, Chapa LaVia said the IHSA should not have a problem answering questions. She called Monday's vote a good step.

"I think enough legislators understand that their constituents are asking us for accountability and transparency," Chapa LaVia said.

"If they're doing such a great job, I don't understand their reluctance or their fear."

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