BISMARCK â€“ 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.
Wednesdayâ€™s recommendations come three weeks after the committee listened to several hoursâ€™ worth of testimony from nickname supporters and opponents.
During the committee discussion, Rep. Phil Mueller, D-Valley City, said heâ€™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 itâ€™s time to move on.
â€œI guess Iâ€™m of common mind with them about that. This isnâ€™t going to go away,â€ Mueller said. â€œI donâ€™t think that the Standing Rock people are going to decide this is all fine and the NCAA is going to be happy.â€
The NCAA has deemed the Fighting Sioux nickname and logo â€œhostile and abuse.â€ 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 stateâ€™s colleges. He said UND has higher numbers than other campuses, and he didnâ€™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.
â€œIf 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 didnâ€™t happen,â€ 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.
â€œMore importantly, thereâ€™s no other nickname or logo that has the repercussions that this bill has on its student athletes,â€ he said.
UND has decided to move on, and the bill takes away local control, he said. Mock said he couldnâ€™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.
â€œWhat we decide as the state of North Dakota about this issue is what itâ€™s going to be,â€ he said. â€œIâ€™m very much in favor of this bill.â€
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.