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Bill to Limit High School Athletic Association Dies in Fla. Senate

A bill that sought to force fundamental changes upon the Florida High School Athletic Association went out with a whimper after failing to be called to the Senate floor by May 3.

The proposed legislation, which would have dramatically changed rules regarding student-athletes' eligibility, needed Senate approval by the end of the 2013 legislative session this past Friday. Instead, after a companion bill was passed by the state House with an 89-26 vote on April 24, the Senate's version of the bill languished in the Senate Rules Committee for the final days of the legislative session.

Had the bill been passed, it would have allowed students who transfer during the school year to retain their athletic eligibility in their new school so long as the transfer occurred before the start of practice for their particular sport. That provision sparked fears among some athletic directors and FHSAA officials, who believed such a system could have been exploited to allow schools to recruit certain top student-athletes based on sports.

"It is gratifying that Florida's 260,000 high school student-athletes will be spared some of the negative consequences of this legislation," FHSAA Executive Director Roger Dearing said in a statement after the bill failed, according to the Tampa Bay Times. "We understand that many of the legislators who supported the proposal were doing what they thought was best for high school athletics, but it would have opened the door for a few adults and athletes to build powerhouses while those who respected the rules of fair play were left behind."

The bill also would have dramatically changed the process by which the FHSAA could challenge the eligibility of student-athletes. While the FHSAA currently adjudicates all eligibility decisions, the proposed legislation would have sent student-athlete eligibility hearings through the state's Division of Administrative Hearings instead. Had the division ruled against the FHSAA in an eligibility hearing, the association would have been responsible for the associated legal costs.

Meanwhile, a bill in Louisiana that seeks to prohibit public schools from participating in the Louisiana High School Athletic Association was voluntarily deferred by the House education committee unanimously on May 1.

The bill's sponsor, Rep. Bob Hensgens, was inspired by the LHSAA's decision to separate "select" and "nonselect" schools in football playoffs. On SportsNOLA.com, Hensgens called it "segregation" and "discrimination" to separate schools in such a manner.

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