Troy Scheuermann. (RI photo)

The chairman of a key Senate committee has introduced a bill to boost the penalty for assaulting a referee or umpire.

During a Senate subcommittee hearing this morning, Troy Scheuermann of Farmington is urging lawmakers to make this move for sports officials. Scheuermann, who’s a basketball referee, cites what happened after he and a partner volunteered to referee a three-on-three tournament for fifth graders in Fort Madison last March.

“My partner, Pat Weber, at about 3:15 that day a guy came up — who he’d called this guy’s son on traveling three times that day — and the guy came up and decked him and knocked him out.”

Fort Madison’s newspaper has reported that a Burlington man was arrested and charged with a serious misdemeanor. Weber suffered a concussion and amnesia, according to Schueermann.

Senator Lynn Evans of Aurelia is a licensed official for football, basketball, baseball, softball and track. He’s never been assaulted over a call he’s made, but Evans said the escalation of these kind of incidents is discouraging people from becoming a sports official.

“I’m seeing a number of games that are having to be either cancelled or rescheduled because of a lack of officials in high school and middle school athletics and that’s concerning. And why is that? Because us old guys keep doing it and we’re not getting young people into this semi-profession,” Evans said during this morning’s Senate subcommittee meeting, “so I think this is needed, just in that respect.”

Senator Nate Boulton of Des Moines said police in Des Moines had to be called this past year after an umpire was assaulted at a slow pitch softball game.

“I did some officiating back in the day as a summer job in high school and college and anybody who’s done it for not very long has had either something happen or something close to happening,” Boulton said.

Senator Mike Bousselot of Ankeny said the bill will draw a line of protection for sports officials. “Unfortunately a bill like this is necessary because of things we’ve seen,” Bousselot said.

The bill cleared the Senate subcommittee unanimously and is scheduled for a vote in the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday. Twenty-three other states have already made assaulting a sports official a felony.

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