WDAY: The News Leader

Published March 06, 2011, 09:56 AM

ND Legislature: Tough issues to be addressed this week

Bismarck, ND (Forum Communications) - The North Dakota Legislature is taking up some of the session's most controversial issues this week.

By: Teri Finneman, WDAY

Legislators are starting the week with a bang by taking up the Fighting Sioux nickname bill right here at 8 a.m. tomorrow. By then, senators on the Education Committee should have gone through this huge stack of testimony from the last hearing and they expect to make their own decision on the school nickname soon.

Whether the state should force UND to keep its Fighting Sioux nickname isn't the only hot button issue scheduled Monday. A proposal to allow minors in bars has created lengthy debate this session, and the idea barely passed the House.

Minors would be allowed in bars if they are there to eat, if the bar serves tabletop food prepared in a kitchen with at least an indoor grill and if the bar is smoke-free. Supporters say bars are the only places to eat in some small North Dakota towns.

Opponents call the proposal "a nightmare" for law enforcement, parents and bar owners. The Senate is now taking up the issue.

Also this week, the state's universities will again present their budget requests to legislators, and you can bet they're hoping the Senate adds in money cut by the House. It's a week of big issues and there are more to come in these final weeks of the legislative session.

A Grand Forks lawmaker says the Fighting Sioux bill will probably pass, but not without changes. State Representative Eliot Glassheim voted no on the bill. He says it's too polarizing.

STATE REP. ELIOT GLASSHEIM - (D) Grand Forks: "As it is, it sets up a fight; a constitutional battle between the Board of Higher Education and the Legislature. The Attorney General is very uncomfortable with the bill as it stands now."

If amended, the bill goes back to a house committee.