One on the points of the TASO Mission Statement is "... to be the main advocate for sports officials...". To that end, TASO has been instrumental in the creation of two bills currently working their way through the legislative process. Both of these bills address issues that are important to not only TASO members, but also all sports officials involved in amateur sports. Following is a brief description and intent of each bill.
HB 1040: This bill addresses a situation that occurred several years ago when an official was involved in a collision with a coach that was in the restricted area on the sideline. Unfortunately, the coach was severely injured. The day before the statute of limitations expired the school district's workers compensation insurance carrier filed a multi-million dollar lawsuit against not only the official involved in the accident, but also all officials on the field. Eventually the suit was dismissed but our TASO members suffered through several years of concern and fear over the potential outcome.
HB 1040, carried by Representative Chris Paddie (House District 9) is designed to limit the liability of sports officials when someone is injured on the field or court. The official is protected from legal action unless gross negligence or wanton, willful, or intentional misconduct.
Passage of this bill will ensure that TASO members and other sports officials will not need to endure the painful process of being a defendant in a frivolous lawsuit. TASO owes Representative Paddie a great deal of thanks for the recognition of the need for this bill and the actions taken.
HB1829: Several years ago the criminal assault statute was amended to upgrade an assault on a sports official from a Class C misdemeanor to a Class B. While this is effective in dealing with fans, the glaring loophole in this statue is that "participants" in the game or match are excluded. This means that coaches, team staff, players and yes, officials were excluded. Most of us will agree that a moment of anger by a student athlete should not be on his/her record that may affect them many years later.
HB 1829, introduced by TASO Football Life Member, State Representative Ed Thompson (House District 29) will only exclude players under 19 years of age. When passed, an assault in conjunction with a sporting event, an assault will be upgraded to a Class A misdemeanor. This will include fans, spectators, coaches, staff, and yes, officials. Assaults on officials are rare in UIL, TAPPS and other private school leagues, and occur more frequently in recreational leagues, adult and youth, club and select leagues.
As a 40+ year official, Representative Thompson is the perfect champion for this bill. TASO is greatly appreciative of his actions that will benefit Texas sports officials.
You may be asking how you can help with passage of these important
bills. As they both work their way
through the committee process, just be patient.
When the time comes for a call to action, I will let you know. I will report to you the progress of these
bills as they progress.