Has your state passed laws related to assaults on officials, officials’ liability or independent contractor status? Those three issues impact sports officials and the officiating industry. 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, fields and ice by passing laws to protect them.
NASO has been bringing attention to assault, liability and independent contractor issues for years. The map, updated for 2018, 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. In addition, three states — Idaho, Washington and Missouri — have supportive resolutions for sports officials. How does your state match up with others? If there is work to be done, consider getting involved in pushing for legislation.
Pass Legislation in Your State
Since 1984, when NASO first submitted model legislation regarding assaults against 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 their local officials associations and 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 naso.org. Contact your state government to find out what specific legislation is in place. And if your state does not have needed laws supporting officials, you can get involved.
1. Contact your local association.
Share with your association what other states have done in terms of legislation. Move forward united. You can also work to get other officials associations in the area or your state association to back your cause.
2. Circulate a petition.
Ask members of your association and area officials associations to sign a petition asking 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 Internet.
Contact your legislators and meet with them to present information that may help to pass the legislation.
5. Follow up and don’t give 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. Even if a proposed bill doesn’t pass the first time, it doesn’t mean it won’t pass in the future. Take time to gather more support and continue to pursue the legislation at the next opportunity.
Assault Legislation Information Available Online
For the latest legislation information, visit naso.org. There you will find legislation statuses in each state, information about model legislation and specific state assault legislation.
Missouri Pursues Officials’ Assault Legislation
Missouri lawmakers are considering House Bill 1725, which would increase criminal penalties for abuse of sports officials. Sponsored by Rep. Jerome Barnes of Raytown, the bill would afford additional protection to those who officiate. Such protection is already given to law enforcement officials, emergency personnel and highway workers in Missouri.
The bill was read for the first time on Jan. 3. On April 4, it was referred to the Rules – Legislation Oversight Committee. No additional action has taken place, as of presstime.
In 2015, the state legislature approved a resolution calling on school districts and Little League programs, as well as high school, college and recreational programs and law enforcement and prosecutors, to “do all they can to put an end to the increased threats and assaults on sports officials and to prosecute such criminal acts to the full extent of the law.”
New Jersey Bill Calls for Tougher Penalties for Attacks on Officials
A New Jersey bill is calling for tougher penalties for spectators who attack officials. Bill A3776 was originally introduced in 2016 by Republican Assemblyman David Rible but never made it out of the Assembly Judiciary Committee. It was reintroduced by Deputy Assembly Speaker John Burzichelli in April.
If approved, the bill would raise the penalty for attacking a referee or umpire to aggravated assault. If bodily harm were inflicted, the punishment could possibly reach a $15,000 fine and up to five years in prison. The penalty could be up to 18 months in prison and a $10,000 fine if no bodily harm is inflicted.
“I think it’s appropriate public policy. I think these athletic events should be someplace that is safe and that parents who act out and cause disruptions, maybe causing physical harm, that is something the law should be clear about,” Burzichelli told New Jersey radio station 101.5.
As of presstime, the bill is up for a hearing by the Assembly Judiciary Committee.