Friday, the Senate approved SB 1509, and Gov. Kitzhaber said he will sign the bill, if it clears the House without changes

by: MOLALLA PIONEER FILE PHOTO - The image of the 'Indians' school mascot displayed on the Molalla High School girls soccer field A decision by the Molalla River School Board Thursday to send board members to the state capitol to support SB 1509, the school mascot bill, came one day before the measure was approved unanimously in the state Senate Friday.

“Our real choice is to support the bill they have sent to the floor or to keep our mouths shut,” school board member Craig Loughridge told the board Thursday

Since the bill still needs to go before the House for approval, the school board’s decision to lobby for the bill is still timely.

SB 1509 would relax the state Board of Education’s 2012 ban on depicting Native American mascots in their nicknames and imagery.

Following the Senate approval of the measure Friday, Gov. John Kitzhaber said he will sign the bill, under certain conditions, after state lawmakers address concerns that led him to veto a similar measure last year.

“I’m pleased that everyone stayed at the table and worked toward a bipartisan compromise that will increase awareness, respect, and communication between tribes and neighboring communities,” Kitzhaber said in a statement.

The governor’s spokeswoman, Rachel Wray, said Kitzhaber will sign the bill if it clears the House without changes.

Schools would be allowed to keep Native American mascots under certain conditions, including the approval of an appropriate tribe and the Board of Education.

Sen. Jeff Kruse, R-Roseburg, and Rep. Sherrie Sprenger, R-Scio, revived the mascot issue this year with Senate Bill 1509, which is identical to the bill Kitzhaber vetoed last year, Loughridge told the school board Thursday.

by: MOLALLA RIVER SCHOOL DISTRICT - Craig LoughridgeLoughridge, who has attended and given testimony at senate and house hearings on the bill, told the school board Thursday that Sen. Kruse created an amendment to the bill, and that members of the confederated tribes met with the governor to find a compromise, but the governor still gave every indication earlier in the week he would veto the bill.

“So the committee came out with a new version of the bill today,” Loughridge said Thursday. “It’s still the same bill, except that it leaves the state board of education as the ultimate arbiter. The bill allows the school district to enter into an agreement with the tribes. The committee moved today to send the bill to the senate for a vote, recommending approval.”

Loughridge asked the board Thursday if it would send a letter to the governor’s office, requesting that Kitzhaber not veto the bill. The board also discussed sending three members to Salem to lobby the board’s position.

Board member Liz Cruthers  suggested that the board contact senate and house members immediately.

“We should say something,” Cruthers said. “This issue directly affects us and our students. The board needs to say if it supports the amendments to the bill. We are lacking a lobbyist to speak on our behalf.”

The board agreed to grant Loughridge the authority to speak on behalf of the Molalla River School Board in support of SB1509 and whatever amendments he thinks are appropriate.

“We put time into supporting the effort to keep the mascot, so we should make a stand,” said board chairman Ralph Gierke.

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