Bill to ban alcohol at collegiate athletic events introduced
BISMARCK -- Chuck Damschen didn't expect to win any popularity points when he proposed banning alcohol at North Dakota collegiate athletic events, but the Republican state representative from Hampden said he's been surprised by the rancor he's st...
BISMARCK -- Chuck Damschen didn't expect to win any popularity points when he proposed banning alcohol at North Dakota collegiate athletic events, but the Republican state representative from Hampden said he's been surprised by the rancor he's stirred up in the public.
The talk radio crowd has not been kind, he told the Herald.
House Bill 1212 is better known as the bill to ban tailgating among lawmakers -- "We'll be tailgating this afternoon," one said. "Will there be refreshments?" another replied -- but this annoys Damschen, because he told the House Education Committee Tuesday that he's not targeting tailgating.
He's targeting all drinking.
A member of the Human Services Committee, he said he's heard a lot of testimonies about the dangers of underage drinking. To prove the point, he launched into a reading of the highlights of these testimonies. After about 10 minutes, he said there's more the committee could find on the Internet.
Damschen told the Herald that he's concerned so many associate athletic events with alcohol. It's unfair to young people, he said, that they're inheriting this attitude from their elders just by their elders' example. "We influence our kids when we least expect to."
He himself no longer drinks, he said, though he used to. "I just outgrew it," he said, adding that he didn't quit because of alcoholism.
If his bill were to pass, it would ban alcohol sale and use at collegiate athletic events not only at the venue, such as UND's Ralph Engelstad Arena, but also at any adjacent property belonging to the entity that owns the venue, such as the arena's parking lot.
So, no beer inside, no beer outside. Tailgating is out.
Members of the Education Committee asked some questions, but Chairwoman RaeAnn Kelsch, R-Mandan, held off on any major discussions until today's committee meeting. She said she's in no hurry to get a "do pass" or "do not pass" recommendation from the committee.
Citing an informal survey by an officer of Wholesale Beer Association Executives of America, Kelsch said 21 of 50 states that responded had no laws restricting alcohol sale at collegiate events, leaving the decisions up to individual institutions. Most institutions that do not allow alcohol still do allow it in tailgating areas and suites.
In North Dakota, UND, North Dakota State University, Minot State University and Dickenson State University have some sort of alcohol restrictions. UND, for example, allows it in The Ralph, home of the hockey team, but restricts it to the parking lot and concourse area of the Alerus Center, home of the football team. NDSU does not allow alcohol in the Fargodome, home of its football team, but does allow tailgating.
For Kelsch House Bill 1212 is another example of lawmakers seeking more control of state universities. Other bills headed in that direction include ones requiring UND to retain its Fighting Sioux nickname and one that would require the UND president to seek permission to use the old Ralph Engelstad Arena from the director of a nearby research lab who is his subordinate. The state constitution generally delegates power to the State Board of Higher Education, and board policy is to delegate to the presidents of individual universities.
Several members of the Education Committee, while neither expresses support or opposition to Damschen's bill, praised him for trying to address underage drinking, which many see as a big problem for the state. Some, like Rep. Corey Mock, D-Grand Forks, wanted to know why he only addressed collegiate sports and not others, such as minor league sports. Some like Rep. Phillip Mueler, D-Valley City, wondered why he didn't address concerts at university venues.
Damschen said he had to draw the line somewhere. Collegiate athletics are supported by taxpayers and, he said, people tend to get rowdier at sporting events, which then sets a bad example for the kids.
Rep. Joe Heilman, R-Fargo, who represents the district that includes NDSU and the Fargodome, said he worried constituents not allowed to tailgate would just go elsewhere and make a mad dash to the game. Isn't Damschen worried about the "whiplash effect?" he asked.
"If people have to have several beers to enjoy the game," Damschen said, "then just skip the game or don't drink."