INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — A Republican lawmaker has proposed a measure that would ban the changing of any Indiana city names in the wake of Native American protests that forced the renaming of professional sports teams.
No efforts have emerged seeking to change the name of Indiana or Indianapolis along the lines of those that prompted recent decisions to rename the NFL’s Washington Redskins and the Cleveland Indians baseball franchise.
“I call it a preemptive measure,” said bill sponsor Sen. Jack Sandlin of Indianapolis. “People know Indianapolis worldwide. ... Losing our identity could have a significant economic impact.”
The bill being considered by a state Senate committee would prohibit the four cities named in the state Constitution — Indianapolis, Clarksville, Vincennes and Evansville — and some 140 cities referenced in state laws from name changes, The (Northwest Indiana) Times reported.
The state of Indiana is named in recognition of the Native American tribes that lived in the area for centuries before the arrival of European and American settlers.
Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb said in July there’s no chance Indiana will be renamed.
Sandlin, at first, said during a Senate committee hearing Thursday that the bill was necessary because allowing the renaming of cities would require too much work to update the Indiana code or amend the state Constitution.
Democratic senators said they believed the proposal was another attempt by Republican legislators to usurp the authority of city governments, such as GOP-backed prohibitions in recent years on local minimum wage increases, gun regulations and plastic bag bans.
“I think we’re overstepping our bounds,” said Senate Minority Leader Greg Taylor of Indianapolis.
The sports team name changes followed a national movement, which gained momentum in the wake of widespread civil rights protests last summer, to have prejudicial names and symbols removed.
A Republican senator from far southwestern Indiana said he believed a city name-change ban might be warranted.
“Let’s not fool ourselves — we’ve seen a lot things going on in the last 10, 11 months,” said Sen. Jim Tomes of Wadesville.
The committee chairman, Republican Sen. Jim Buck of Kokomo, said he allowed a hearing on the bill because he was concerned about wasting tourism promotion money if cities could change their names for any reason.
He didn’t call for a vote on the bill Thursday to give Sandlin time to consider revisions.