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2 Illinois media groups back hearings into IHSA

SPRINGFIELD (AP) — Two media groups are throwing their support behind a bill that would require legislative hearings into the operations of the Illinois High School Association, the governing body that oversees state high school athletics.

The Springfield bureau of Lee Enterprises newspapers reported the Illinois Broadcasters Association and the Illinois Press Association are backing the legislation that has been introduced by Rep. Linda Chapa LaVia, an Aurora Democrat.

"We want to throw some transparency and light on it to make sure we're working in harmony," Chapa Lavia said. "All I'd like to do is have them come to us and answer a lot of questions."

Dennis DeRossett, president of the Press Association, said the hearings are needed to give taxpayers more insight into how the Bloomington-based nonprofit group operates.

"The IHSA is presently subject to almost no accountability or oversight," he said in statement. "They claim to be exempt from both the Freedom of Information Act and Open Meetings Act, and they argue that they alone should control any revenue that is ultimately derived from taxpayer-funded sporting events."

Chapa LaVia's bill also calls for an evaluation of whether the state should take over duties for the group.

But the head of the IHSA called the measure "mind-boggling."

Marty Hickman, IHSA executive director, said his group already releases an annual financial audit. And its financial reports are also available for public review because of its tax-exempt status.

"We're puzzled, quite frankly," he said. "I think we're being responsible citizens."

But the resolution is already drawing some criticism from at least one lawmaker.

Rep. Dan Brady, a Bloomington Republican, said the group's work shouldn't be given to the Illinois State Board of Education.

"I think they do a good job. Are there things that can be improved upon? I would think so," Brady said. "If there are changes or improvements that need to be made, let's leave that to the IHSA."

A spokeswoman for the state board of education said taking over the ISHA's work would mean the agency would need more money and employees.

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