Louisiana lawmakers poised to give themselves seats on high school athletics board

Clay Schexnayder
Louisiana House Speaker Clay Schexnayder, R-Gonzales, speaks on behalf of Republican leadership in September.

The Louisiana House Education Committee approved a bill that would put two lawmakers on the Louisiana High School Athletic Association’s executive committee. The LHSAA is a nonprofit organization that serves as the governing authority for high school athletics across the state.  The association receives no money from the state and has been deemed a private entity by state courts.  Its executive board is made up of principals of its member schools.

The language from SB 11 states that any school that receives funds from the government cannot be a part of interscholastic extracurricular athletic organizations, like the LHSAA, unless the chair of the Senate and House education committees are on that organization’s board.

Sen. Stewart Cathey, R-Monroe, who introduced the bill, called it a response to constituents “blowing up his phone” when high school football was postponed by the LHSAA because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“That’s what’s led me to believe, with the legislature having just a small seat at the table, issues like this could be averted,” Cathey said.

Originally, the bill was drafted to force the LHSAA to have four legislators on its board but changed to two.

Rep. Rep. Charles Owen, R-Beauregard, said this bill could be adding unnecessary government oversight. “Because the LHSAA is a principals’ organization, they understand the importance of this to our communities and our societies,” Owen said. “Is there a problem we’re trying to solve?”

Cathey said he doesn’t see it that way because the LHSAA doesn’t have a student-athlete or parent representative on their executive committee. “I represent about 110,000 parents and student-athletes… Maybe the legislator represents those parents and student-athletes on the executive committee,” Cathey said.

When the bill was introduced in the Senate education committee two weeks ago, Eddie Bonine, executive director of the LHSAA, said he would have no problem with the legislation if it passed but described it as unnecessary. He said he  has been transparent with Louisiana lawmakers.

“We walk a fine line, not as a government entity, but as a private organization,” Bonine said. “If this boils down to a more communicative piece, you’ll always have a seat at the table.”

The state Senate approved the bill 30-4 on Oct. 5. If the full House approves, it will be sent to Gov. John Bel Edwards’ desk.