LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – A bill proposed in the Arkansas House increases protection for sports officials and penalties for violators.

House Bill 1496 was proposed Thursday. The bill broadens the definition of harming a sports official and changes penalties from a class A misdemeanor to a class D felony.

The bill strikes existing language that says a violation is striking an official. Instead, it would be creating a violation by either injuring an official, physically contacting an official in a harassing way, or making an official think they were about to be harmed.

The specific change from a class A misdemeanor to a class D felony means the maximum penalty moves from up to one year in jail and a $2,500 fine to up to six years in jail and a $10,000 fine for violators.

HB1496 is sponsored by Rep. RJ Hawk (R- Bryant), with cosponsors Rep. Brian Evans (R-Cabot) and Rep. Lane Jean (R-Magnolia).