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ND Senate repeals UND nickname

BISMARCK, N.D. - With barely an echo of the passion and debate that marked the North Dakota Legislature's adoption earlier this year of a mandate that the University of North Dakota keep its Fighting Sioux nickname and logo, the Senate voted 39-7 Tuesday for a bill that would repeal the mandate.

The repeal bill, which carries an amendment stipulating that UND is not to adopt a new nickname or associated logo until Jan. 1, 2015, goes now to the House, where it is likely to come up for a floor vote today.

The House and Senate education committees, meeting jointly earlier Tuesday, each had voted unanimously to recommend adoption of the amended repeal bill.

Rep. Corey Mock, D-Grand Forks, a member of the House Education Committee, sat through the brief Senate debate and vote. He said he expects a similarly comfortable margin when the bill reaches the House floor.

The bill was introduced Monday through the Senate Delayed Bills Committee by Sen. Lonnie Laffen, R-Grand Forks, but Sen. Donald Schaible, R-Mott, carried it on the Senate floor and set a wistful tone for the brief debate to come.

The issue, he said, "has created much emotion for the people of North Dakota and for the students, staff and alumni of UND."

The education committees, which had heard many hours of impassioned testimony from both sides when the bill requiring UND to keep the name made its surprise appearance during the 2011 regular session, also was the subject of "good testimony, for and against," on Monday, Schaible said.

The original bill embracing the Fighting Sioux name was passed "with every intention of doing what's right for North Dakota," he said, but "now it's time to do what's best for the University of North Dakota." Committee members were persuaded, he said, that continuing to require UND to use the nickname "could possibly destroy the athletic program" at the university.

Haga is a reporter for the Grand Forks (N.D.) Herald. The Bemidji Pioneer and Herald are both owned by Forum Communications Co.