Fighting Sioux bill gets do-pass recommendation

BISMARCK – The North Dakota House will decide next week whether the University of North Dakota nickname debate should continue.

The House Education Committee gave a do-pass recommendation on Wednesday to a bill supporting the Fighting Sioux nickname and logo.

House Bill 1263 states UND 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 anti-trust claim against the NCAA if the association takes any action to penalize UND for using the nickname and logo.

The bill is sponsored by House Majority Leader Al Carlson of Fargo and received a 10-5 favorable vote. The other two nickname bills received do-not pass recommendations.

All of the nickname bills still need to go to the House floor for final votes. Carlson said this could happen as early as Monday, but Tuesday is more likely.

If one or more are approved, the state Senate will then take up the issue.

Wednesday’s recommendations come three weeks after the committee listened to several hours’ worth of testimony from nickname supporters and opponents.

During the committee discussion, Rep. Phil Mueller, D-Valley City, said he’s never had a problem with the Fighting Sioux nickname, but he would not support the bill.

He said the state Board of Higher Education and UND concluded it’s time to move on.

“I guess I’m of common mind with them about that. This isn’t going to go away,” Mueller said. “I don’t think that the Standing Rock people are going to decide this is all fine and the NCAA is going to be happy.”

The NCAA has deemed the Fighting Sioux nickname and logo “hostile and abuse.” Opponents say the nickname and logo have contributed to an atmosphere where racist and abusive incidents occurred.

Rep. David Rust, R-Tioga, reviewed numbers of Native American students at the state’s colleges. He said UND has higher numbers than other campuses, and he didn’t think this would be so if the campus was unfriendly and unsafe.

Rep. RaeAnn Kelsch, R-Mandan, said it bothered her that the state Board of Higher Education took a neutral stance on the nickname bills.

If the board is confident in its decision to move on and believes it was fully transparent and explored every angle, representatives should have testified in opposition, she said.

“If you truly believe what you did was right and you truly believe that the decision was the way it should have been, then man up and come in and testify against it. But that didn’t happen,” she said.

Rep. Corey Mock, D-Grand Forks, said he has no problem with turning over every stone to exhaust all of the options. However, he said no other school in the state has its nickname and logo in state law.

“More importantly, there’s no other nickname or logo that has the repercussions that this bill has on its student athletes,” he said.

UND has decided to move on, and the bill takes away local control, he said. Mock said he couldn’t support the bill due to the impact it would have on students.

Rep. Mike Schatz, R-New England, said the state of North Dakota takes priority over an association.

“What we decide as the state of North Dakota about this issue is what it’s going to be,” he said. “I’m very much in favor of this bill.”

Mock tried to amend one of the other Fighting Sioux bills that discussed permission from the tribes, but he did not get the votes to do so.

Here is the vote breakdown on the bill that passed:

YAY: Kelsch; Rep. Lisa Meier, R-Bismarck; Rep. Joe Heilman, R-Fargo; Rep. Brenda Heller, R-Beulah; Rep. Dennis Johnson, R-Devils Lake; Rep. Karen Karls, R-Bismarck; Rep. Karen Rohr, R-Mandan; Rust; Schatz; Rep. Lyle Hanson, D-Jamestown.

NAY: Rep. Mark Sanford, R-Grand Forks; Rep. John Wall, R-Wahpeton; Rep. Bob Hunskor, D-Newburg; Mock; Mueller.

Carlson talks more about Fighting Sioux bill

House Majority Leader Al Carlson talks more today about the Fighting Sioux nickname and the bills to keep it. Find the video here.

Carlson told me that he’s received 200 e-mails on the matter, with only five of them negative. He said it’s legislators’ responsibility to respond to constituents, and the e-mails that he’s received are saying, “Why don’t they listen to the people?”

Dalrymple, Dayton bet on hockey game

Gov. Jack Dalrymple and Gov.-elect Mark Dayton have placed their food bets on the hockey game between the University of Minnesota Duluth Bulldogs and the University of North Dakota Fighting Sioux.

If Duluth wins the game, Dalrymple will send a case of North Dakota-made Dreamfields low-carb spaghetti to Dayton. If UND wins, Dayton will send a thermos of Duluth’s Jitters Coffee.

Dalrymple and Dayton also plan on getting together for an introductory meeting to discuss issues of importance to both states. The meeting has not yet been scheduled.

Today’s Ask Your Government

Dear Teri,

Is it true that 50 percent of students that attend UND have tuition waivers? Does this infer that only 50 percent of UND students pay tuition?

Richard Skavlem

Grand Forks

Thanks for writing! I contacted the University of North Dakota. This is what Peter Johnson, executive associate vice president for university relations and media relations coordinator, said:

“No, it is not true. The number of University of North Dakota students who receive a tuition waiver is substantially lower than the question suggests.

“Moreover, in many cases, the waiver does not cover 100 percent of the tuition. According to North Dakota University System reports for the 2008-09 fiscal year, the most recent year that numbers are available, 14,102 students (an unduplicated count) attended the University of North Dakota.

“Of those 14,102 students, 1,969-just under 14 percent-received some form of tuition waiver.”

Do you have a question for a North Dakota state government official or agency? Send us your question, and we’ll do our best to find an answer.

E-mail politics@wday.com (Subject: Ask your government).

You may also write to Teri Finneman c/o Forum Communications, Press Room, State Capitol, Bismarck, N.D. 58505.

Please include your name, town and a phone number to reach you for verification.

Gephardt to speak at Great Plains Energy Expo

BISMARCK – Former presidential candidate Dick Gephardt is a keynote speaker Tuesday at the Great Plains Energy Expo and Showcase here.

The event begins Monday at the Bismarck Civic Center Exhibition Hall. Other featured speakers include Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D.; Clarence Cazalot, president and CEO of Marathon Oil; Arun Majumdar, director of the Department of Energy’s Advanced Research Projects Agency; and retired U.S. Air Force Gen. Charles Wald.

“This is a great lineup of energy leaders who will provide important insight to our discussion about how we boost domestic energy production, reduce our dangerous dependence on foreign energy, continue to reduce emissions and provide more clean energy jobs at home,” Dorgan said in a statement.

“I’m encouraging everyone in the region interested in energy issues to attend this premier event and hear from these world-class speakers.”

Keynote presentations and exhibitor showcases are open to the public. Registration for workshops and more information about the event can be found at www.bismarckstate.edu/gpee.

Legislative week ahead

Four state legislative committees are scheduled to meet this week as lawmakers begin wrapping up their interim work.

  • The Water-Related Topics Overview Committee meets at 9 a.m. Monday in the Roughrider Room in the Capitol.
  • The Employee Benefits Programs Committee meets at 9 a.m. Tuesday in the Harvest Room in the Capitol. The committee will discuss bill drafts related to the Teachers’ Fund for Retirement and the Public Employees Retirement System.
    Lawmakers will also hear a bill draft related to Public Employees Retirement System medical benefits coverage for autism spectrum disorders.
  • The Budget Section meets at 9 a.m. Wednesday in the Senate chamber. Lawmakers will hear about the status of the general fund.
    They will also hear a presentation by the University of North Dakota regarding a request to use $220,000 of unrestricted gift funds as local matching funds for the O’Kelly Hall renovation project.

    There will also be a presentation by representatives of the North Dakota University System regarding the status of the UND School of Medicine and Health Sciences Bismarck Center for Family Medicine capital project.

    Lawmakers will also hear about the status of the Veterans’ Home construction project.

  • The Public Safety and Transportation Committee meets at 9 a.m. Thursday in the Roughrider Room in the Capitol. The committee will hear a report regarding the use of state, federal, emergency and other highway funding.
    Lawmakers will also discuss bill drafts related to oil-impact-related infrastructure development grants and appropriations from the permanent oil tax trust fund to the highway tax distribution fund and state highway fund.

Complete agendas can be found at www.legis.nd.gov/council/interim/meetings.

Youth suicide webinars

Three experts on youth suicide will be featured this fall in a series of webinars from Well Aware, a national prevention program for school administrators and education policymakers.

The webinars discuss school-based strategies for suicide prevention, information on helping youth who lost a peer to suicide, and crisis response for schools and communities in the wake of a youth dying by suicide.

The webinars are offered from 2:30 to 3:30 p.m. on Sept. 29, Oct. 12 and Nov. 3.

Participants can register at www.wellawaresp.org/webinars.php. The webinars are free and open to adults who interact with or influence policy affecting youth.