SPRINGFIELD -- Some House lawmakers today expressed doubt a suburban Democrat's proposal limiting how often young football players can tackle in practice needs to be tackled by lawmakers at all.
State Rep. Carol Sente, a Vernon Hills Democrat, introduced legislation this year to mandate young football players only be allowed to tackle in practice one day a week.
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Before a House committee today, Sente said she will most likely increase the proposed limit to two days a week. But others said it should be an Illinois High School Association matter, not a state law.
State Rep. Sandra Pihos, a Glen Ellyn Republican, said such safety measures should be added to the IHSA's rules.
"I strongly feel if it is their own rules it will have more teeth," Pihos said.
The IHSA opposes legislative restrictions on tackling, advocating leaving it up to coaches.
State Rep. Linda Chapa LaVia, an Aurora Democrat, and Sente called the IHSA's objections into question and criticized what they said was association leaders' unwillingness to discuss the bill.
"It's a very strange relationship the state has with the IHSA," said Chapa LaVia. "It's almost self-autonomous. They almost feel like they're above us."
Sente said her discussions with the IHSA haven't gone as she hoped.
"I know they are the organization that is responsible for most athletics in the state, so I wanted to reach out to them," Sente said. "I am a little disappointed that people have been saying, 'You aren't the expert, don't legislate this, let us do this.'"
IHSA Director Marty Hickman was invited to today's committee but was unable to attend.
Reached by phone, he said the IHSA has a great history of working with the legislature. He cited working with legislators on recent bills about football concussions and implementing drug testing for state high school athletes.
"But we don't always feel like we need legislation to help us do our job," Hickman said. "I don't think there is really any evidence to show that we haven't been active and responsible in regards to this issue."