Mascot Bill Delayed at Last Minute

Credit file

UPDATE 04/15/15 - The House passed the bill; it's expected to fail in the Senate.

ORIGINAL POST 04/14/15: Democrats in the House unexpectedly delayed a vote on an American Indian mascot bill after they realized Republicans had enough votes to kill it.  

House Bill 1165 [.pdf] would set up a state commission to review American Indian mascot names associated with high school and college athletic teams. Without approval, schools would have to switch their names or face steep fines.

“You cannot honor people based off of words that derive from racist intentions,” said bill sponsor Representative Joe Salazar (D-Thornton). 

If a mascot doesn’t get approved, schools would have two years to change their names or face a fine of $25,000 each month. 

“That’s potentially two teachers at some of my rural schools,” said Representative Tim Dore (R-Elizabeth). He also said schools in his district aren’t using American Indian names to be hurtful.  He said it’s about the pride they take in their school and the history of it.

If the bill reaches the Senate, Democrats said they would work on modifying the punitive fines. Meanwhile, the party thought it had enough votes to easily pass the measure on Tuesday, up until Representative Ed Vigil (D-Alamosa) said he would be a no vote. He also objected to the fines, and said the measure would hurt economically depressed parts of the state and should be a local decision.

“I believe it’s probably a good thing that they should go. I just believe that those school boards are moving towards that, but I think it’s the cost involved and the timing,” said Vigil.

It takes 33 votes for a bill to pass. Democrats hold a 34-31 majority. But with one lawmaker absent, and Vigil’s no vote, it would have failed. Democrats quickly pulled the measure from the calendar and delayed a final vote. Even if it eventually passes, it’s expected to fail in the Republican controlled Senate.