COLUMBUS — State Reps. Bill Roemer (R-Richfield) and Joe Miller (D-Amherst) have introduced bipartisan legislation to protect sports officials.

The proposal, House Bill 208, would bring the penalty for assaulting a referee who is on the job, or in retaliation for a prior incident, in line with that of teachers, school administrators and bus drivers. The assault charge would be a first-degree misdemeanor.

“This bill provides important protections which our sports officials deserve," Roemer said in a prepared statement. "It’s no coincidence that the numbers show harassment as the top reason for dissuading new sports officials. As a former official and the father of a current AA baseball umpire, I know firsthand the importance of preserving the safe, enjoyable nature of competitive sports. This legislation will ensure this experience exists long into the future.”

The legislation has been sent to the House Rules and Reference Committee, where it will receive a committee assignment.