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Published January 11, 2011, 10:31 PM

ND Attorney General says Logo Bills Unconstitutional

A legislative effort to save the Fighting Sioux logo and nickname might be unconstitutional. Three different bills are aimed at reversing the plan to retire the controversial trademark.

A legislative effort to save the Fighting Sioux logo and nickname might be unconstitutional.

Three different bills are aimed at reversing the plan to retire the controversial trademark. The bills have a lot of support from very powerful legislators including Republican majority leader Al Carlson. But, can they supersede the decisions of the board of higher education?

It's been a busy winter for the traditions and history task force group as they prepare to make a recommendation to UND President Robert Kelley.

"The State Board of Higher Education has dictated we retire the nickname and logo by August 15th, 2011," task force co-chair Kris Compton said.

Now three nickname bills introduced in the house might be way to help the Fighting Sioux Logo come out on top.

"It appears this bill not only will have legs, but the support of legislators," political analyst Phil Harmeson said.

If passed, the bill would prevent UND and the board of higher education from retiring the storied 80-year-old logo.

"I don't think this is the end of the trail here. This might be the very beginning," Harmeson said.

But it could be a long trail. North Dakota Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem says making legislation on this issue would be unconstitutional.

"The provision in the Constitution gives to the Board of Higher Education the authority to control the colleges and universities in North Dakota. It would appear to me that this is one of the decisions they're entitled to make," Stenehjem said.

"There is an opportunity to take care of that flaw with the legislature going through the Constitution revision committee and having a bill passed that would ensconce this into the constitution," Harmeson said.

Still, establishing this as amendment is easier said than done. It would require overwhelming support and Stenehjem says the matter wouldn't make the ballot for a statewide vote until 2012, more than a year after the nickname and logo retirement. Stenehjem, an ardent supporter of the Fighting Sioux, says it might be time to put it away.

"We've had a lawsuit, we've had a settlement, we had a pathway that would've provided a way to continue the use. But, the time ran out," Stenehjem said.

So, the traditions and history task force is moving ahead with their directive from the board.

Phil Harmeson says legislators are feeling pressure to pass these bills because it's what some of their constituents want.

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