DENVER — Native American mascots would be prohibited at Colorado schools unless a tribe approves, under a Democrat-sponsored bill that passed the House by just one vote Wednesday.
The proposal passed 33-32, with all but one Democrat voting in favor. Every Republican was opposed.
"We have a large, large Native American community here in this state," said Aurora Rep. Jovan Melton, one of the bill's sponsors, noting the racism some students face.
"And then having to go to a school where your mascot is named after a derogatory name. I can't even imagine trying to be able to focus under those pressures," he said.
The measure now heads to the GOP-led Senate, where its chances of passing are slim.
The bill would direct schools to get permission from a panel of tribes to use or continue to use Native American mascots. Schools that don't get permission would have to stop the use within two years or face a fine of $25,000 a month.
Schools and lawmakers opposed to the bill have cited the costs of switching mascots as a major concern. Lawmakers altered the proposal so the state won't use tax dollars to assist schools that have to change signs and uniforms.
Some school officials who testified against the bill last month in committee also told lawmakers they take pride in the names they use to adorn their schools and sport uniforms, and their intent is not to disrespect Native Americans.
Rep. Paul Lundeen, R-Monument, said schools are moving away from using Native American mascots on their own, and the matter should be left to local officials.
"We don't want those to exist," Lundeen said of the mascots. "But they should be stamped down, snuffed out, eliminated by virtue of the elected individuals from those communities, as opposed to being bossed around, if you will, by an appointed task force."
Rep. Joe Salazar, a Thornton Democrat also carrying the bill, responded that "bossing people around" was only one way to view the proposal.
"Another way of looking at it is that we're protecting children. ... The psychological effects on Native American children are negative," he said.
The movement to ban the use of Native American mascots has gotten greater public attention because of the push to get the NFL's Washington Redskins to change its team name.
At the college level, the NCAA warned more than a dozen schools in 2005 that they would face sanctions unless they replaced Native American logos and nicknames.
Online: House Bill 1165: http://bit.ly/1CfwQRo
Associated Press writer Kristen Wyatt contributed to this report.