N.D. Senate committee gives nickname bill 'do not pass' recommendation
The Senate Education Committee has given a do-not pass recommendation to the Fighting Sioux nickname bill.
The 5-2 vote against the bill came late this afternoon and the day after the committee listened to about five hours of testimony from nickname supporters and opponents.
Senate Majority Leader Bob Stenehjem did not know when the bill would go to the floor for a final vote.
A few senators will be absent on state business toward the end of the week, he said, so Monday is likely the soonest the bill would go to the floor.
House Bill 1263 states University of North Dakota athletic teams shall be known as the Fighting Sioux. Neither UND nor the state Board of Higher Education may take action to discontinue the use of the nickname or logo.
It requires the attorney general to consider filing a federal antitrust claim against the NCAA if the association takes any action to penalize UND for using the nickname and logo.
Senators voting against the bill were Sen. Tim Flakoll, R-Fargo; Sen. Joan Heckaman, D-New Rockford; Sen. Donald Schaible, R-Mott, Sen. Larry Luick, R-Fairmount, and Sen. Richard Marcellais, D-Belcourt.
Those voting in favor of the bill were Sen. Layton Freborg, R-Underwood, and Sen. Gary Lee, R-Casselton.
Heckaman said UND is ready to move on from the nickname, and it's time to move the focus back to education.
"I think it's (the nickname issue) just causing more dissention across our whole state right now," she said.
Lee said he favored the bill after hearing testimony from Spirit Lake and Standing Rock members who favor the nickname and logo.
"I think they had good reasons that the logo did express historic meaning for them as a prideful symbol, and I agree with that," he said. "I think it's a strong tradition for North Dakota. It was worthy of a yes vote."
Freborg said he doesn't think out-of-state interests like the NCAA should dictate what the state does.
"I'm not going to lay awake at night if they (the Senate) kill the bill," he said. "I can certainly go along with that. But I voted for the bill in committee, and I'll vote for the bill on the floor."
Freborg said it was good to make a decision on the bill quickly.
"The longer we hold that bill, the bigger the problem it becomes," he said. "I think it's time to settle it one way or another."
Flakoll said there was excellent testimony on both sides of the issue, but he did not see that there were viable legal remedies remaining.
Marcellais said the issue has been going on for years and will cost the state more money to continue the fight. He said he was also influenced by e-mails on the issue, including one that said Native Americans should not be mascots.
"I felt that UND's there for an education, not for a logo or a name," he said. "The main thing is to educate our students. That's the No. 1 thing."
The House passed the nickname bill on a 65-28 vote, leaving it up to the Senate to decide the bill's fate.
Don Barcome Jr. of Grand Forks, one of the more active champions of the effort to retain the nickname and logo, said he was saddened by the committee's action.
"I just wish we could have a vote on it, an up-or-down vote (at Standing Rock or statewide), and I could live with that," he said.
"This really sticks in my craw."
Herald reporter Chuck Haga contributed to this article.
Finneman is a multimedia reporter for Forum Communications Co., which owns the Herald.