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Tu-Uyen Tran / Forum Communications Co., Published January 19 2011

North Dakota bill to ban alcohol from college athletics 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 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 targetting tailgating.

He’s targetting 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 Grand Forks 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.

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.”

Tran writes for the Grand Forks Herald