Dalrymple mum on Fighting Sioux BillGov. Jack Dalrymple said Thursday that he’s asked Lt. Gov. Drew Wrigley, a former U.S. attorney, to “thoroughly” study a bill in the North Dakota Legislature that would require UND to retain its Fighting Sioux nickname. But he’s keeping mum about what he will do if the legislation gets the approval of the Senate and comes to his desk for a final signature.
By: By Ryan Johnson, Forum Communications Co., The Jamestown Sun
Gov. Jack Dalrymple said Thursday that he’s asked Lt. Gov. Drew Wrigley, a former U.S. attorney, to “thoroughly” study a bill in the North Dakota Legislature that would require UND to retain its Fighting Sioux nickname.
But he’s keeping mum about what he will do if the legislation gets the approval of the Senate and comes to his desk for a final signature.
He told the Grand Forks Herald’s editorial board that he needs to know “exactly what it does” before making a final decision. House Bill 1263, which easily passed the House in a 65-28 vote last Monday, could be changed in the Senate.
Another issue is that the North Dakota Constitution doesn’t allow the governor to threaten a veto, he said.
Dalrymple said he told Wrigley to look over the legislation and study the issues behind this bill as it heads to the Senate.
“I want him to totally understand all of the legal arguments on both sides and keep an eye on it,” he said. “But we think that it’s very possible that we could see an amendment or two in the Senate. I’m not going to say anything about it until I see what I’m being asked to sign.”
HB 1263 states UND athletic teams shall be known as the Fighting Sioux and would prohibit the university and the state Board of Higher Education from discontinuing the use of the nickname or logo.
The bill also would require the attorney general to consider filing a federal anti-trust claim if the NCAA tried to penalize UND for using the nickname.
Sen. Tim Flakoll, R-Fargo, said the Senate Education Committee will hold a hearing on the bill Monday that could include discussion on amendments to the House bill.
“I think there are a couple of amendments pending,” he said. “Whether they’re offered up or accepted, that’s another question.”
Flakoll said it’s still “too early” in the process to know what kind of changes may be suggested in the Senate. But there are some big questions among legislators that could shape the final bill, he said, including how much the state should be willing to spend on legal actions prompted by this legislation.
“The big unanswered question is: What would happen if the bill were to pass?” he said.
Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem has said HB 1263 would face a significant hurdle if approved — the North Dakota Constitution includes a provision granting the Board of Higher Education full authority over the state’s public institutions, including UND.
But legislators could propose a constitutional amendment to override that provision.
Flakoll said many people in the state have preconceived notions about the Fighting Sioux nickname controversy, a topic that’s been in the news for years.
“But talking with all my colleagues in the Senate, they’re trying to keep an open mind about what’s best here,” he said.
Dalrymple also discussed other higher education efforts in the Legislature, including a proposed constitutional amendment that would abolish the state Board of Higher Education and eliminate the state superintendent of public instruction as an elected office.
If approved, a new Department of Education would oversee all public education administration in the state. The governor would choose the agency’s director and an 11-member advisory board.
“This is the model that many states are trying to get to,” Dalrymple said. “The accountability of both K-12 and higher education has become a focus point. I think a lot of it is trying to get at if we can focus the blame somewhere.”
But he said most states go through this kind of administrative change because the old system “comes to a crisis,” something that isn’t happening in North Dakota.
“If someone thinks we need to do this because they’re in a crisis, I think they’re wrong,” he said.
Dalrymple said the legislative session is at the halfway mark — the first real chance for state leaders to see how the budget is shaping up after the “tough talk” of legislators makes way to proposals and specific funding amounts.
While the budget has, so far, largely followed his own budget recommendations from January, Dalrymple said the House Appropriations Committee “took a pretty good whack” at higher education funding.
He said it was a “huge mistake” for representatives to cut funding meant to limit tuition increases and said the House went too far when it pulled $10 million of equity funding for higher education institutions.
But he said representatives seem to be “positioning” themselves to have more power during negotiations with the Senate at the end of the session, and said even the House’s vote last week to abolish the Centers of Excellence program seemed to be a way to get more leverage.
“They’ve got some things they want, and in order to get some of what they want, they needed a strong negotiating position.”
Ryan Johnson is a reporter at the Grand Forks Herald, which is owned by Forum Communications Co.