North Dakotans sounded off against a bill introduced by Rep. Chuck Damschen (R-Hampden) that would have banned alcohol sale and consumption at collegiate events, including the surrounding areas of the facility. This included parking lots, garages and other outdoor areas tied to the events, or used for event purposes. The bill labeled, House Bill 1212, failed to receive the required 15 votes to become law. Thirteen members decided against the measure that, they felt, universities and higher educational institutions should be in control of.
“You’re going to have to make that decision whether you think it’s the Legislature’s role to govern or micromanage our campuses,” said Chairwoman RaeAnn Kelsch (R-Mandan) before the committee members were due to vote on the bill. “Perhaps this one is not worthy of our governance at this point. It does seem the campuses are handling this very well at this time.”
Rep. Chuck Damschen introduced the measure to safeguard against underage consumption and the exposure of youths to alcohol at these collegiate events. The institutions were the focus of the bill, primarily, because they receive federal funding. Representative Larry Bellew (R-Minot) and Senator Robert Erbele (R-Lehr) also cast their votes against allowing alcohol at college events. The proponents offered their support to the measure citing how underage drinking was an issue, offering that a mandate tightening control by the Legislature may curb the issue.
However, opponents to the bill felt that the bill infringed on the rights of the local universities and colleges to implement and enforce their own rules and policies. Opposition groups to the bill may have also felt that it was an attempt to ban alcohol sales and consumption, while restricting fans who tailgate. North Dakota State University had already banned alcohol from inside the arenas and event facilities, but allows fans to have alcohol while tailgating outside the Fargodome. NDSU does have a policy that restricts tailgaters to only certain areas. The University of North Dakota has its own alcohol policies but the venues stance on alcohol are namely due to the fact UND does not own the venues in which their teams play, including Ralph Engelstad Arena which is operated by their ownsership group. This is the arena where the UND Men’s and Women’s hockey team calls home. The Football team play at Alerus Center, which is owned and operated by the City of Grand Forks.
North Dakota does have laws in place that make underage drinking illegal, and both North Dakota State and University of North Dakota have regulated the areas in which alcohol consumption is tolerated. This defeat of the anti-alcohol at college arenas may have a ripple effect on NCAA Division I and III schools, particularly college hockey programs. The issue may shed light on other institutions to revamp their own policies on alcohol service inside or nearby their facilities whether privately owned and operated, or through school funding.