Archive for August, 2009

Former SD Attorney General: 21 is “Bad Law”

Monday, August 10th, 2009

Over the weekend, the Sioux Falls Argus Leader published an op-ed written by Mark Meierhenry, the former South Dakota Attorney General who started the process of challenging the National Minimum Drinking Age Act in court during his tenure. Meierhenry’s successor, Roger Tellinghuisen, ended up pursuing the case all the way to the Supreme Court, where the constitutionality of the law was determined in South Dakota v. Dole.

In this weekend’s op-ed, Meierhenry offered unequivocal support for Representative Tim Rounds’ proposal to alter the drinking age in South Dakota, arguing that the current practice of discrimination against 18-20 year-olds does more harm than good:

We have disgraced the idea that 18-year-olds have the right to vote, to be executed, to go to war, but they can’t drink a beer. We have pushed these young people in some ways to drink harder liquor because if they’re disregarding the law anyway and might as well get vodka, and we have a new phenomenon: binge drinking.

Meierhenry concluded with some words of praise for Rep. Rounds: “Good for state Rep. Tim Rounds bringing the subject up for a possible change of a bad law.”

[CR] Week in Review

Friday, August 7th, 2009

If you live in South Carolina, you’ve no doubt heard by now about three different court cases across the state that could clarify the laws regarding possession and consumption of alcohol for 18-20 year olds. At issue is whether or not it will be legal for 18-20 year olds to possess and consume alcohol, since state laws explicitly prohibit only the purchase of alcohol by people under 21. Rick Brundrett at The State wrote a lengthy piece in Monday’s edition of the paper about the cases in Aiken and Richland counties, and he published an update on Thursday that sketches out the details of a similar case in York County that will soon be decided by Judge Lee Alford. Diane Gallagher of CN2 News in Rock Hill spoke with 16th Circuit Solicitor Kevin Brackett, who maintained that these cases are likely to be appealed to a higher court. [CR] has released a statement regarding these rulings, and if you’re looking for more of the coverage that has blanketed the state so far, check out the Myrtle Beach Sun-News and WAGT-TV in Augusta. Commentary on these cases is available in-state at Carolina Politics Online (whose author characterized the federal restriction on highway money related to the drinking age as “blackmail”) and out of state at the popular legal blog Volokh Conspiracy. We’ll keep you posted as these events play out – here are some other newsworthy items from this week:

Stories this week:

The Sioux Falls Argus Leader editorial board thinks state representative Tim Rounds’ proposal to adjust the drinking age in licensed establishments is worth considering: “it’s difficult to determine that elusive point when young adults are deemed responsible enough to handle drinking in a mature way. Already, this country has decided that 18-year-olds can decide for themselves whether they’re willing to face possible death by choosing military service. It’s hard to say to those same youths that they can’t legally have a beer.”

Speaking of editorials in support of the drinking age debate, the editors of the Patriot-News in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania wrote about Penn State’s latest designation as the #1 party school in America and warned that college administrators need more tools at their disposal to combat toxic drinking. They argued that Legal Age 21 simply isn’t good enough: “Perhaps the ‘party school’ moniker will renew discussions about underage drinking at Penn State and beyond. It is a difficult issue for students, parents and university administrators to tackle. We need to recognize that raising the drinking age has not solved this problem, and we need to look at new ideas for this age-old problem.”

The Utah Senate Education Committee is calling for public input as it investigates the issues of hazing and toxic underage drinking, according to Wendy Leonard of the Deseret News in Salt Lake City. The investigation stems from concerns about a case at Utah State University in which a fraternity pledge died after a night of hazing and drinking rituals last November. College students: hazing rituals are dangerous to begin with, but they can become even worse when they’re fueled by alcohol. Have you experienced these types of problems on your campus?

In other news…

Administrators at the University of Minnesota will implement a new program, called Check BAC, in order to discourage binge drinking and rowdy behavior during football games at the new stadium on campus. According to the new rules, drunk and rowdy fans at TCF Stadium will be kicked out of the stands, and then will be required to pass a breathalyzer test the next time they come to the stadium to attend a game. Tim Post of Minnesota Public Radio spoke with Ervin Cox, Director of Student Assistance and Judicial Affairs at the University of Wisconsin, where a similar program was implemented recently. He said that the program was not a “teetotal, prohibition-style sweep” that attempts to keep the stadium dry – it’s in place to keep students and fans safe from dangerous behavior: “Jane or Joe Student comes to the game, they’ve had a couple of beers and a bratwurst and they’re fine, and they’re not disruptive, they’re not in any kind of danger to themselves or others, no problem.” As Post noted, the University has also banned the sale of alcohol inside the stadium.

David Kesmodel of the Wall Street Journal took note of a battle that’s emerging between some health-advocacy groups and producers of caffeine-laced alcoholic energy drinks. The critics are calling for tighter FDA regulations on these drinks because the drinks may increase the risks of alcohol-related injury. What’s your take on these regulatory efforts? Have you seen young drinkers consume these beverages in a dangerous manner?

If we missed something this week, be sure to let us know in the comments. Enjoy your weekend!

More Coverage of Rulings in SC

Wednesday, August 5th, 2009

If you’ve been looking for more information on the recent rulings by local Magistrates in South Carolina that struck down possession and consumption laws for 18-20 year-olds, we’ve compiled a list of recent coverage. You can also read a statement from [CR] to get our take on these decisions.

Myrtle Beach is a popular destination for college students during Spring Break, and yesterday Claudia Lauer of the Myrtle Beach Sun-News wrote about how local officials are watching this debate with interest.

Do you find yourself wondering which section of the South Carolina constitution deals with the age of majority? WAGT-TV dug into the relevant constitutional details.

Be sure to check out Friday’s Week in Review for more coverage of these rulings.

Argus Leader Editorial: “Drinking Age Merits Debate”

Monday, August 3rd, 2009

You may remember last week’s news about a legislator in South Dakota who is considering a change in the drinking age that would allow 18-20 year olds to consume alcohol in licensed establishments. One of the papers that covered the story, the Sioux Falls Argus Leader, followed up with an editorial addressing the need for debate about the proposal. The editors wrote, “This country has decided that 18-year-olds can decide for themselves whether they’re willing to face possible death by choosing military service. It’s hard to say to those same youths that they can’t legally have a beer.” They agree that the idea “deserves a thorough discussion” in the state legislature.