Legislation forcing merger dies

DES MOINES — Gov. Kim Reynolds isn’t shedding any tears over the death of legislation that would have forced the merger of the Iowa boys and girls high school athletic associations.

“I’m still trying to get over the fact that we left six-on-six and went to five,” the former high school basketball player said Tuesday.

She was responding to a question about Senate File 326 that would have prohibited schools from paying dues to the Iowa High School Athletic Association or the Iowa Girls High School Athletic Union after 2022.

Sen. Randy Feenstra, R-Hull, hoped to force a merger of the two.

“We’re the only state with two associations,” he told the N’West Iowa Review.

In 2017, The Gazette reported that Iowa is the only state in the nation with separate groups governing boys and girls sports, which entails the cost of paying two sets of executives, financial deficits on the boys’ side and disparities between the two groups. The boys association at the time had five employees who each earned more than $100,000 a year, including its now former executive director who was paid over $282,000 and had a $9,000 annual entertainment expense account.

After a subcommittee hearing on his bill, Feenstra said he questioned whether the money the associations raised was “being used correctly, in a way that benefits Iowa student-athletes, or is it all going to salary and wages for the people who work there?”

The bill did not survive the Legislature’s deadline last Friday for bills to win committee approval.

Some of Feenstra’s concerns stemmed from the boys association signing a television contract with NBC Sports Chicago that does not provide service in western Iowa, or much of the central part of the state. Boyden-Hull/Rock Valley played in the football championship last fall.

Reynolds didn’t take a position on the bill, which was opposed by the associations and school boards and administrators, other than to say it wasn’t a priority for her.

“We focus too much on that kind of stuff,” she said. “Let’s focus on growing the economy.”