MADISON, WI (WTAQ) - Democrats said Wisconsin took a step backward in race relations Tuesday, when the Assembly voted to make it harder to force schools to drop their Indian team names.
The Republican-controlled house passed the measure 52-41. All Democrats voted no along with three Republicans -- Scott Krug of Nekoosa, Jeff Mursau of Crivitz, and Ed Brooks of Reedsburg.
Democrats spent two-and-a-half hours decrying the bill. South Range Democrat Nick Milroy said Indians are real people, not mascots. He urged his colleagues to, "Stand up for human rights and human dignity."
Whitewater Republican Steve Nass authored the bill, after he failed to scrap the 2009 complaint system for dropping Indian mascots. Nass went to bat for the Mukwonago School District, which is fighting a state order to change its long-standing nickname the "Indians."
He said the current law is too biased toward those who complain about those names -- and it does not give schools enough of a chance to defend themselves. The new bill requires Indians to prove they've been hurt by school mascots, instead of school boards proving it doesn't happen.
Complaints would only be considered if petitions are filed with signatures equal to 10 percent of a school's enrollment.
The state Senate is expected to take up the bill in November. Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald wanted a vote Wednesday, but Democrats wouldn't give him the two-thirds majority needed for that.