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FILE – White Swan's Wiwnu Mills (23) drives to the hoop against Okanogan during a State B Hardwood Classic 2015 semifinal game on Friday, March 6, 2015, at Spokane Veteran's Meorial Arena in Spokane. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)

Sen. Michael Baumgartner wants Washington Legislature to oversee high school sports leagues

OLYMPIA – Parents would have someone else to call – their legislator – with questions or complaints about changes in high school sports, under a bill introduced by a Spokane senator.

And before the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association could add or change any rules, move its tournaments to a new town or rearrange schools in the local leagues, it should have to get the OK from the Legislature, Republican Sen. Mike Baumgartner told the Senate Commerce, Labor and Sports Committee Wednesday.

But high school sports officials said people with questions or complaints already can call their school, their local league, their regional office and the WIAA, depending on which is responsible for the change.

The association has about 410 public and private schools, executive director Mike Colbrese said, and they choose in what league they compete. The state has nine districts, each with its own board, and each district determines how teams get to state championships.

“I believe the member schools want to control their own local destiny. They believe they have that through their own local league,” Colbrese said.

The WIAA doesn’t just oversee sports, he added. It also regulates activities like music, drama, speech and debate.

Herb Rotchford, director for District 8 that includes the Greater Spokane League, said the districts and leagues need to be able to make changes on a reasonable time line, something that wouldn’t be possible under Baumgartner’s bill. It would require any changes be reported to the Legislature at the beginning of January, be approved by lawmakers and take effect 90 days after a session ends.

“That would significantly delay any implementation of policies and procedures,” Rotchford said. He added later the association and the districts were taken by surprise by the proposal.

Sen. John Braun, R-Centralia, said he received many calls from constituents when the local high school league went from nine teams to four.

“All I heard was complaints. Nobody seemed to have the slightest idea how that happened,” Braun said.

Baumgartner said the bill was an attempt to give the public someone to complain to. The association should “come before the people’s representatives and explain,” he said.

But if extra oversight is needed, Sen. Steve Conway, D-Tacoma, said, the Legislature might not be the best place to do it. It might be better under the superintendent of public instruction, he said.

No member of the public testified in favor of the proposal. The committee has until 5 p.m. Friday to decide whether to send it to the full Senate for further consideration.