A revamped bid to force changes in high school football and other playoffs was crushed Monday in the Louisiana House.
The lopsided vote likely ends any effort by the Legislature to get involved in the issue during the current session, which ends June 6.
Opponents said it would be a mistake for state lawmakers to meddle in a playoff system endorsed by the Louisiana High School Athletic Association.
“When we start legislating in the school business we are just opening up something I don’t think we want to get into,” said state Rep. Larry Bagley, R-Stonewall and a former coach.
The sponsor of the proposal, House Bill 863, initially tried to ban public or private schools that get state dollars from belonging to an athletic organization that splits its playoffs into separate divisions like those used in Louisiana.
Under current rules, high school football playoffs are divided between contests for traditional public schools and those for private, magnet and laboratory schools.
But Rep. Kirk Talbot, R-River Ridge, reworked his bill after saying his original measure was probably too broad.
Instead, Talbot proposed that schools that get state dollars cannot belong to organizations that discriminate among schools on the basis of gender, race or religion.
“They are looking at schools, and looking at the criteria, and saying because of religion and gender we are going to treat these schools differently,” he told the House.
“It is not what Louisiana is about,” Talbot added in closing comments.
“We have always been a diverse state,” Talbot said. “We are a gumbo of cultures. We are not divisive.”
Rep. Frank Hoffmann, R-West Monroe, questioned the impact of Talbot’s revised bill. “After we did the amendment basically the bill does not amount to much anymore,” Hoffmann said.
Rep. Ed Price, D-Gonzales said current law bans discrimination over race, gender or religion. “I am trying to figure out now what the bill actually does,” Price said.
Rep. Dorothy Sue Hill, D-Dry Creek, noted that a majority of principals statewide approved the split three years ago.
“Do you think principals and coaches are not smart enough to make decisions on their own? You think we should be telling the people back home what to do?” she asked Talbot.
Talbot replied, “I just think when it comes to discrimination, and that is where this is headed, I think we absolutely have a dog in the hunt.”
Last month Talbot delayed a House vote on his bill at the request of LHSAA officials.
LHSAA member principals are set to meet June 8 to vote on a hybrid compromise plan. One part of that proposal calls for Classes 5A-4A to be reunited for football playoffs.
Voting in favor of revamping high school football and other playoffs (34): Speaker Barras, Reps. Abramson, Billiot, Bishop, Carmody, G. Carter, S. Carter, Connick, Coussan, Davis, Edmonds, Emerson, Foil, Garofalo, Guinn, J. Harris, L. Harris, Hazel, Henry, Hensgens, Hilferty, Hodges, Hunter, Ivey, James, N. Landry, Lopinto, Miguez, Pearson, Seabaugh, Simon, Talbot, Willmott and Zeringue.
Voting against HB863 (51): Reps. Abraham, Bacala, Bagley, Bagneris, Berthelot, C. Brown, T. Brown, R. Carter, Chaney, Cox, Cromer, Danahay, DeVillier, Dwight, Franklin, Gaines, Gisclair, Hall, Havard, Hill, Hoffmann, Horton, Howard, Huval, Jackson, Jefferson, Jenkins, R. Johnson, Jones, T. Landry, LeBas, Mack, Magee, Marcelle, McFarland, D. Miller, G. Miller, Moreno, Jay Morris, Jim Morris, Norton, Pierre, Price, Pugh, Pylant, Reynolds, Richard, Schexnayder, Shadoin, Smith and White.
Not Voting (19): Reps. Adams, Amedee, Anders, Armes, Bouie, Broadwater, Carpenter, Falconer, Glover, Hollis, M. Johnson, Leger, Leopold, Lyons, Montoucet, Pope, Schroder, Stokes and Thibaut.
Follow Will Sentell on Twitter, @WillSentell.