Bill Summary for H 91 (2021)

Summary date: 

Jul 21 2021

Bill Information:

View NCGA Bill Details2021
House Bill 91 (Public) Filed Tuesday, February 16, 2021
AN ACT TO RESTRUCTURE OVERSIGHT OF PUBLIC HIGH SCHOOL INTERSCHOLASTIC ATHLETICS TO ENSURE ACCOUNTABILITY AND FAIR PLAY.
Intro. by Bell, Lambeth, K. Baker, Saine.

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Bill summary

Senate committee substitute deletes the content of the 3rd edition and replaces it with the following. Makes conforming changes to the act's titles.

Part I.

Applicable beginning with interscholastic athletic competitions occurring during the 2022-23 school year, enacts new Article 29E, Interscholastic Athletic Competition, to GS Chapter 115C. Sets forth 10 defined terms applicable to the new Article. Provides for the regulation of interscholastic athletic activities and creates the North Carolina Interscholastic Athletic Commission (Commission) as follows.

Directs the State Board of Education (State Board) to adopt student participation rules governing student eligibility and student health and safety for interscholastic athletic activities conducted by public school units, with rules adopted for high school level athletics administered by the Commission and rules adopted for middle school athletics administered by the Department of Public Instruction (DPI). Requires rules to include academic standards, enrollment requirements, attendance requirements, medical eligibility requirements, recruiting limitations, and hardship exceptions. Bars public school units from being regulated by entities other than the State Board and the Commission for regular and post-season interscholastic athletics. Provides for the following, some of which is substantively transferred from GS 115C-12(23), which empowers the State Board to adopt rules governing interscholastic athletic activities by local boards. Details requirements for rules concerning concussions and head injuries that must be adopted by the State Board for middle and high schools, including requiring (1) annually providing all coaches, school nurses, athletic directors, first responders, volunteers, students who participate in interscholastic athletic activities and their parents with an information sheet on concussions and head injuries, as defined, and (2) requiring removal and barring return for the day of a student participating in an interscholastic athletic activity when exhibiting signs or symptoms consistent with concussion until the student is evaluated and cleared for participation by one of five licensed health professionals. Requires schools to maintain records of compliance with the requirements concerning concussions and head injuries. Requires the State Board to adopt a rule that requires middle and high schools to develop a venue specific emergency action plan to deal with serious injuries and acute medical conditions in which the patient may deteriorate rapidly. Specifies required form and content, including approval by the school principal and annual review and rehearsal. 

Creates the 17-member North Carolina Interscholastic Athletic Commission (Commission) and enumerates three purposes of the Commission, including oversight of high school interscholastic athletic competition for public school units; explicitly excludes oversight of interscholastic athletic competition for nonpublic schools. Houses the Commission in the Department of Administration (Department), and requires the Department to provide administrative services, and office and meeting space at no cost to the Commission. Specifies that the Commission exercises all of its statutory powers and management functions, as described, independently of the Department. States member qualifications to include employment in a public school unit as an athletic director, superintendent, assistant or associate superintendent, principal, or assistant principal, or full-time employee serving as a coach. Details member appointment, with nine members appointed by the Governor and eight members appointed by the NCGA, and provides further limitations on appointments based on position and athletic division. Sets terms at four years and bars members from serving more than two consecutive terms. Provides for vacancies, meetings, and member compensation and expenses. Requires the Commission to meet at least 10 times a year. Requires initial appointments to the Commission to be made by September 15, 2021. Details additional requirements and restrictions for initial appointees related to the school classification (A, AA, AAA, or AAAA) of the employee. Directs the Secretary of the Department to convene the first meeting of the Commission within 21 days of all legislative appointments, and provide temporary staffing through December 1, 2021. 

Lists 11 powers and duties of the Commission, including: (1) applying, enforcing, and administering all student participation rules adopted by the State Board; (2) adopting, applying, enforcing, and administering gameplay rules as specified; (3) adopting a system of demerits for infractions of student participation rules and gameplay rules which may result in specified disciplinary action; (4) coordinate the appeals processes established by the Article; (5) annual report described content to the specified NCGA committee and the State Board; and (6) exercise the powers of a body corporate. Explicitly prohibits the Commission from taking 11 enumerated actions, including: (1) soliciting grant funding and sponsorships from third-party organizations other than for state tournament games; (2) provide grants to schools regulated by the Commission; (3) provide scholarships to players; (4) retain a percentage of gate receipts for games other than state tournament games; (5) regulate or control the intellectual property of schools other than state tournament games; and (6) restrict the recording of audio or video at a state tournament game by any parent of a student participating in the game or any employee of the school participating in the game. Requires the Commission to appoint a Director and employ and designate personnel to coordinate appeals, as specified. Authorizes the Commission to employ necessary personnel; prohibits employing or contracting with a legislative lobbyist or liaison. 

Requires the Commission to be entirely supported by fees and a percentage of gate receipts from state tournament games only. Directs the Commission to adopt reasonable annual fees for participating schools as need to support the Commission's duties, which may vary based on the division to which a school is assigned. Establishes the High School Interscholastic Athletic Fund (Fund) in the Department of State Treasurer for fee and gate receipt deposits. Sets a balance threshold that triggers required reduction of annual fees for participating schools, and a threshold at which the Commission is authorized to increase fees. Provides further parameters for the Fund, including a requirement for an annual audit. 

Directs the Commission to maintain a State-funded student-athlete catastrophic insurance policy and notify public school units regarding the coverage provided by the policy annually prior to the start of each school year, as specified. Provides for inclusion of the cost of the policy in the annual fees charged to each participating school based on the number of participating students in the immediately prior school year. 

Requires the Commission to adopt rules and fees in accordance with the new Article by February 15, 2022, and authorizes the Commission to adopt temporary rules for use in the 2022-23 school year pursuant to the Administrative Procedure Act. Requires the Commission to provide information to all public school units on adopted rules and fees by February 28, 2022. 

Directs the State Board to appoint appeals boards to provide initial and final decisions on appeals of a decision related to the application of student participation rules for high school interscholastic athletic activities. Provides qualifications for appeals boards members, including being an employee of a public school unit. Provides for four-year terms, member expenses and vacancies. Requires appointment of a Student Athletic Participation Initial Appeal Board and a Student Athletic Participation Final Appeal Board, with further member qualifications and appeals procedures specified for each. Details notice requirements related to the application of student participation rules. Specifies the appeals procedure for a school or student to appeal an application of the student participation rules by the Director of the Commission, including an initial appeal before a three-member panel and a final appeal before the Student Athletic Participation Final Appeal Board (decided en banc, by the eight-member Board). Provides for notice of appeals boards' decisions. Directs the State Board to adopt procedural rules for appeals consistent with seven specified parameters, including the right to be represented by a nonattorney advocate and the right to present evidence. Allows for virtual hearings in the discretion of the reviewing entity. Requires the State Board to make appointments to both appeals boards by March 1, 2022. Provides for staggered terms of initial appointees. 

Directs the Commission to appoint an eight-member Interscholastic Athletic Gameplay Appeal Board to provide initial decisions on appeals of a decision related to the application of gameplay rules, composed of one member from each of the eight education districts who meets specified qualifications, including being an employee of a public school unit. Provides for four-year terms, member expenses and vacancies. Requires recusal from appeals related to schools located in the member's education district. Details notice requirements related to the application of gameplay rules. Specifies the appeals procedure for a school or student to appeal an application of gameplay rules, including an initial appeal to the Gameplay Appeal Board and the opportunity to appeal the Gameplay Appeal Board's panel decision to the Commission. Directs the Commission to adopt procedural rules for appeals consistent with seven specified parameters, including the right to be represented by a nonattorney advocate and the right to present evidence. 

Mandates each public school unit with one or more participating schools to annually report the specified categories of information for the three school years completed prior to July 15 to the State Board regarding amounts spent on and received from interscholastic athletic activities. Directs the State Board to provide a summary of the reports by public school units and a copy of each public school unit report to the specified NCGA committee no later than October 15 annually. Requires all public school units to submit the first annual interscholastic athletic report to the State Board by July 15, 2023, and include data from the 2018-19, 2019-20, 2020-21, 2021-22, and 2022-23 school years. 

Requires the State Board to review and adopt new or revised rules on interscholastic athletics in accordance with the new Article by January 31, 2022, and authorizes the adoption of temporary rules for use in the 2022-23 school year pursuant to the Administrative Procedure Act. 

Bars the State Board from designating the North Carolina High School Athletic Association (NCHSAA) to apply and enforce the State Board's rules governing participation in interscholastic athletic activities at the high school level for the 2021-22 school year unless the NCHSAA agrees to discontinue all financial penalties for rules violations for participating schools during the 2021-22 school year through a memorandum of understanding (MOU) by August 15, 2021. Requires the State Board to direct DPI to apply and enforce its rules for the 2021-22 school year in the event NCHSAA is not designated or elects to not be the designee, whereby DPI must apply and enforce the existing rules as of July 1, 2021, and the existing rules and policies adopted by the NCHSAA as of July 1, 2021, for the 2021-22 school year, except for any financial penalties for rules violations for participating schools for the 2021-22 school year. Authorizes the State Board to charge participating schools fees to cover administrative costs for 2021-22. Allows the State Board to use fees collected from participating schools to contract with an independent contractor with experience in managing athletics competitions for students of high school age to assist with administration of interscholastic athletic activities for the 2021-22 school year.

Bars public school units from paying dues to the NCHSAA for the 2021-22 school year prior to the date the NCHSAA enters into a MOU with the State Board as described. Explicitly provides for authorized participation in interscholastic athletic activities by public school units as specified, limited to: (1) activities regulated by either the NCHSAA operating under a MOU with the State Board, or DPI, for the 2021-22 school year; and (2) activities regulated by the State Board and the Commission beginning with the 2022-23 school year. 

Directs the Commission to study (1) whether the Commission should be responsible for overseeing the conduct of middle school interscholastic athletics for public school units, and (2) factors that should be considered in home school students' participation in interscholastic athletics. Specifies required considerations and workgroups for study input. Directs the Commission to report to the State Board and the specified NCGA committee by April 1, 2022. 

Part II.

Makes conforming changes to the following statutes to provide for the enactment of new Article 29E to GS Chapter 115C, and repeal redundant language substantively transferred to or replaced by the new Article: GS 115C-12(23) (regarding the State Board's power to adopt eligibility rules for interscholastic athletic competition, now applicable to public school units rather than local boards); GS 115C-47(4) (regarding local boards' power to regulate extracurricular activities); and GS 115C-366(f) (regarding student transfers between local school administrative units). Adds to GS 115C-47(4) to explicitly restrict local boards to participation in interscholastic athletic activities regulated by the Commission if the Commission has adopted gameplay rules for that sport. 

Enacts new GS 116-235(b)(4) to require the NC School of Science and Math to conduct any program of interscholastic athletics it elects to provide in accordance with rules adopted by the State Board and the Commission pursuant to new Article 29E, GS Chapter 115C. Similarly restricts the School to participation in interscholastic athletic activities regulated by the Commission if the Commission has adopted gameplay rules for that sport. 

Makes conforming changes to GS 126-5 to add the Director of the Commission to those exempt from the State Human Resources Act, except for certain Articles related to equal employment and personnel record privacy. 

Repeals GS 143-291(c), which deems the NCHSAA a State agency for purposes of Article 31, governing liability in tort claims against State departments and agencies. 

Makes the above provisions effective July 1, 2022.

Part III.

Effective July 1, 2021, amends Section 5.3(e) of SL 2017-57, as amended, expanding the authorized uses of grant funds from the Needs-Based Public School Capital Fund (funded with revenues collected by the NC Education Lottery) to include the construction of school athletic facilities by recipient counties (was, limited to new school buildings only). 

Part IV.

States legislative intent to provide funding to establish the Commission and its initial personnel costs for 2021-22.

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