Sports Officials Legislative Scorecard

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2013 Sports Officials Legislative Scorecard




Has your state passed laws pertaining to assaults on officials, officials’ liability or independent contractor status? Those issues impact sports officials tremendously. And many states have realized the importance of addressing those topics.

Sports officials should be able to perform their duties without threat of personal injury, administrative hearings or litigation because of their game calls. Being a referee or umpire is no easy task. State legislators can show support for the men and women who officiate on the courts and fields by passing laws to protect them.

NASO has been bringing attention to assault, liability and independent contractor issues for years. The map displays the states that have passed laws dealing with those issues. There are currently 21 states that have officiating assault laws (including 19 with criminal laws and two with civil statutes), 16 with limited liability legislation and 14 states with independent contractor laws.
How does your state score? If there is work to be done, you can get involved.


Pass Legislation in Your State

Since 1984, when NASO first submitted model legislation regarding assaults against sports officials, members and legislators have used such models to construct their own legislative bills.
There is no fool-proof plan to get the job done. Each state handles legislation differently, and it is up to the local constituency to manage the process effectively.
It is NASO’s goal that individual members utilize the proposed legislative models and work with local legislators to construct viable laws. Before you do anything else, it’s a good idea to do some research. Request an NASO Assault Legislation Packet and visit www.naso.org. Contact your state government to find out what specific legislation is in place. And if your state does not have needed laws in place, you can get involved.
1. Contact your local association. Share with your association what other states have done in terms of legislation. Move forward as a united group.
2. Circulate a petition. Ask members of your association and area officials association to sign a petition asking your lawmakers to take action.
3. Gather information. Gather and present information to legislators about incidents that have happened in your state that apply, such as officiating assaults, etc.
4. Get on the phone or web. Contact your legislators directly and ask to meet with them to present a packet of information that may help to pass the legislation.
5. Follow up. After talking and meeting with your legislators, follow up with a thank you letter and tell them that you will follow their progress. Keep the topic in the forefront.


Assault Legislation Packets Are Available

The NASO Assault Legislation Packet is available by request free of charge to NASO members. The packet contains information about the states that have passed legislation, what NASO has done to support legislation efforts and more details about how you can take steps to protect the officials in your state.
If your state does not have tough laws protecting officials from assaults, you can make a difference. To request a packet, contact NASO at naso@naso.org or call 262/632-5448.


When Did Legislation Pass?

Below are the various states that have passed specific officiating assault/battery legislation, along with the years in which the legislation was passed.

  1. Oklahoma (1978)
  2. Arkansas (1987)
  3. New Jersey (1987)
  4. Pennsylvania (1990)
  5. Montana (1991)
  6. California (1991)
  7. North Carolina (1993)
  8. Louisiana (1997)
  9. Minnesota (1997 Civil Statute)
  10.  Kentucky (1998)
  11.  Oregon (1999 Civil Statute)
  12.  Georgia (2000)
  13.  New Mexico (2001)
  14.  Alabama (2001)
  15.  Texas (2003)
  16.  Florida (2004)
  17.  Illinois (2004)
  18.  Delaware (1990/2004)
  19.  Nevada (2005)
  20.  South Carolina (2008)
  21.  West Virginia (1999/2013)

West Virginia Passes Law to Protect Officials and Coaches

West Virginia lawmakers have passed legislation to  increase the penalties for those who attack officials and coaches. Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin approved the House Bill 2548 on April 29. It passed the House on April 4 and passed the Senate on April 12.

While West Virginia was among the 21 states that had legislation addressing assaults on officials, under the previous law, assault and battery penalties against officials were misdemeanors with small fines and limited jail time.

The new law requires the person convicted of assault on an athletic official (including sports officials and coaches) to be fined not more than $500 or confined in jail not more than six months, or both fined and confined. If the person is convicted of battery on an athletic official, the penalty would jump to a fine of not more than $1,000 or jail confinement of not more than 12 months, or both a fine and jail time.

Other State Action:

New York proposed officiating liability legislation in 2013, but the bill was referred to the judiciary committee.

New Indiana Child Labor Laws Allow Youth Officials

Indiana Gov. Mike Pence signed Senate Bill 153 into law April 9, allowing youth to work as recreational sports officials. According to the bill, a child who is at least 12 years old, but younger than 18, working as referees, umpires or officials are exempt from Indiana’s child labor law.  Matthew Burkart, a 13-year-old from Newburgh, Ind., was instrumental in lobbying for the child labor law reform so he and other kids could work as youth soccer referees.

Concussion Legislation Passes in Many States

According to USA Football, 47 states and the District Columbia have passed legislation related to concussions. Two states had legislation pending as of presstime. Officials should be familiar with the legislation in their state related to concussions and understand how it impacts them.