Threat of legislative action topples Georgia’s high school sports czar

The prospect of its destruction by the state Legislature has caused the organization that oversees high school sports in Georgia to sack its top dog. From the Macon Telegraph:

With [measures] pending in the state Legislature that would all but eliminate the GHSA for another association to govern high school athletics in the state, the GHSA’s board of trustees voted 5-3 at a special meeting Monday to ask executive director Gary Phillips to resign….

Two bills would permit the state Board of Education to designate a new organization that would replace the Georgia High School Association, which coordinates sports competition among 450 public and private high schools: Senate Bill 203 and House Bill 415.

If you’re the GHSA, the latter merits the most concern. H.B. 415 is sponsored by House Rules Chairman John Meadows, R-Calhoun. It passed out of committee on Monday and is poised for a House floor vote. The Telegraph recounts this action prior to the committee vote:

Jay Russell, son of state football coaching legend Erk Russell and an assistant executive director with the GHSA, spoke to the committee. About 15 minutes into the 18-minute discussion, Russell delivered news Meadows was apparently interested in hearing.

“By the way, chairman Meadows, the board of trustees did meet (Monday) morning, and Mr. Phillips has decided to retire at the end of this school year. So we will be looking for a new exec director,” Russell said. “I don’t know if that will influence the vote at all, but I wanted you to have that as information.”

This isn’t the first time that the GHSA has come under aggressive legislative scrutiny, and motives have varied. From a 2014 effort:

One current measure, S.B. 288, is the work of Charlie Bethel, R-Dalton, who is Gov. Nathan Deal’s Senate floor leader. It would require the GHSA – which is already subject to state open records and open meeting laws — to annually report “its assets, liabilities, income, and operating expenses.”

 

Days after the bill was introduced, the GHSA posted two years of audits on its website, showing revenues of $4.7 million in 2013, up from $4 million in 2012. Fifty-seven percent of the GHSA’s budget comes from playoffs. The organization gets between 5 and 12 percent of the gate.

 

You’ll be happy to know that, even in a struggling economy, football revenue increased a delightful 27 percent to $1.3 million in 2013.

 

Which has many state lawmakers wondering why their constituents had to pay $20 each to see their kids participate in the Georgia Dome playoffs last year.

Another supporter of that 2014 bill was state Sen. Renee Unterman, R-Buford, who was more concerned that, five decades after Congress passed civil rights legislation, and 42 years after federal Title IX requirements opened athletics to young women, high school sports in Georgia was still being governed almost solely by white men.

Of the 58 members on the GHSA board at the time, only six were African-American, and only four were women.

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Our AJC colleague Aaron Gould Sheinin snapped the photo below on the way into the state Capitol this morning. The group called Georgians For Trust Fund Honesty have begun constructing a “Scrapitol” of old tires on Liberty Plaza, across from the real state Capitol. A 1 p.m. event is scheduled, to protest the millions of dollars in fees that are supposed to go to specific causes – like tire clean-up and driver education – but don’t.

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The Georgia Life Alliance has declared Sixth District congressional candidate Karen Handel, a Republican, worthy of its “pro-life” stamp of approval. The anti-abortion group recognizes exceptions for rape, incest and threats to the life of the mother.

Last month, Georgia Right to Life, which recognizes no exceptions in its opposition to abortion, endorsed state Sen. Judson Hill, R-Marietta.

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Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed has said many, many times he won’t run for statewide office in 2018 but that he has another campaign in him. The Democrat said again Tuesday he still has his eye on higher office, even as the bribery scandal threatens to tarnish his legacy, although he wouldn’t say what seat.

“What I’m not doing ins being coy and acting like I’m playing games with you all. I definitely want to run for office again. I’m going to finish up my term as mayor,” said Reed. “I’m going to get through these very tough challenges we’re dealing with around these bribery allegations and then I’m going to be normal for a little while.”

He wouldn’t say what “normal” is – aside from taking a vacation – but he talked about a recent joy: Showing up for his daughter’s recital early, and staying even after she performed.

“The one conclusion that I’ve come to in a real comfortable fashion – certainly after having the opportunity to watch President Obama’s last year – is that I’m going to be fine putting this down,” said Reed. “This is a tough job, it’s my dream job, but it’s tough.”

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State Sen. Curt Thompson called Donald Trump a “racist” on Facebook ahead of his first address to Congress on Capitol Hill.

That quickly led some Trump supporters and conservatives to compare the post to the fury facing Gwinnett County commissioner Tommy Hunter after he called Rep. John Lewis a “racist pig.”

Thompson, a Tucker Democrat, made no apologies for his remarks: “I will put John Lewis up against Commissioner Hunter any day of the week.”

Here’s the rest of the statement he sent our way:

“Most folks in politics insist on their Facebook pages being an echo chamber. They block or delete anyone that doesn’t agree with them. I try to let both sides have their say within reason. I represent my district and I try to represent the views of the constituents who live in my district. I don’t think my views are far from theirs or far from the truth. Here I think people are just looking for some excuse to use to defend Commissioner Hunter and the comparison is simply not the same.”

 

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