ST. GEORGE — Following news that a bill moving through the Utah Legislature to drop ‘Dixie’ from the university’s name came into doubt Thursday evening, Dixie State University sent St. George News an official statement regarding the issue.
The statement started by saying the name change recommendation was “never intended to erase our great history but to create a brighter future for our students.” It continues as follows:
In that spirit, University administration strongly feels this bill deserves to be discussed publicly on the senate floor to fully understand the intent, purpose, and impacts of this recommendation on our students, school, and state. The recommendation has been thoroughly vetted and received overwhelming support by the hundreds of experts in higher education, business, and government who are tasked with watching out for the best interests of our schools and students, including a veto-proof majority vote from the Utah House of Representatives. The University is grateful for the many individuals who have weighed in on this difficult topic.
As originally reported Thursday by St. George News, rumors surfaced that the proposed legislation was effectively killed in a closed meeting of Utah Republican senators.
The bill, Name Change Process for Dixie State University, designated HB 278, passed through the Utah House of Representatives Feb. 10 in a 51-20 vote. It was received by and introduced in the Senate Wednesday, and its last location was the Senate Rules Committee.
According to a source who asked to remain anonymous, during a closed-caucus meeting Thursday, Republican senators, citing the Hastert rule, voted not to hear the bill on the Senate floor.
The unwritten Hastert rule is a House of Representatives rule that, according to information from the Congressional Institute, states that “the Speaker will only bring a bill to the floor ‘if the majority of the majority‘ supports it.”
St. George News was unable to confirm if Republican senators did indeed invoke the Hastert rule in their caucus meeting or clarify how it, as a House rule, could be used in the Senate, but Southern Utah Rep. Brad Last said the following in a text:
“Well, nobody will talk about what happens in a ‘closed caucus’ but after their caucus today, Senators have said that it doesn’t look like they plan to hear the bill.”
Last was the only Southern Utah representative to vote in favor of the name change when it was brought to the House floor.
Southern Utah Rep. V. Lowry Snow was also contacted and said the following via text regarding the outlook of the bill in the Senate:
It has been rumored for some time now that senate leadership is not allowing the bill to move forward. That rumor continues but I have no knowledge of it being killed through a Hastert rule or otherwise. The reality is however, that with only two weeks of the session remaining, if senate leadership refuses to allow it to proceed, it will die of its own accord at midnight on the last day of the session.
Dr. Jordon Sharp, Dixie State vice president of marketing and communications, said in a text to St. George News that the decision was unfortunate.
“I’m not getting details like I’d hoped, because this was a closed caucus meeting today,” Sharp said of a Thursday night phone call he had with legislators regarding the bill. “We have simply learned that the senate at this time is not planning on taking it to the floor. This is unfortunate because we are confident we have sufficient support if this gets to the floor.”
At the time of this report, attempts to reach Washington County Sens. Evan Vickers and Don Ipson as well as the bill’s floor sponsor Sen. Michael K. McKell and the Senate Rules Chair Sen. David G. Buxton have gone unanswered. Vickers is the majority leader.
St. George News reporter Mori Kessler contributed to this report.
Updated Feb. 19 at 9 a.m. to include statement from Dixie State University administration.
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