AK State Rep. Proposes Lower Drinking Age for Troops

Alaska State Rep. Bob Lynn has proposed a bill that would allow military members under the age of 21 to drink while on base in his state.

“It’s outrageous that a member of our military can be subjected to the horrors of war, but can’t legally have a beer or smoke a cigarette,” he wrote on his blog last week.

As Aliyah Shahid reported in the New York Daily News, “Defense Department rules mandate that all U.S. military facilities follow the 21 drinking age, but U.S. bases abroad can drop their drinking age as low as 18 based on the host country’s laws.” Lynn’s proposal would change the drinking age for service members in his state.

Read the full report here.

Update: The full text of Rep. Lynn’s press release is below.

Rep. Bob Lynn (R-Anchorage) has sponsored HB 210, a bill that would enable all active duty warriors in our U.S. Armed Forces to be treated as adults.  HB 210 permits active duty service members under age 21 to consume alcoholic beverages and use tobacco products in Alaska.

“Alaska has more residents in the military per capita than any other state, and we have the second highest number of veterans,” Lynn said.  “We should be leading the way when it comes to military and veteran-friendly policies, but once again federal overreach precludes us from pursuing common sense solutions at the state level.”  The federal government does not have the constitutional authority to govern state alcohol policies, but has managed to enforce a nationwide legal drinking age of 21 by threatening to withhold federal highway funds.

According to Rep. Lynn, “Alaska cannot be a ‘laboratory for democracy’ if we allow ourselves to be bought off by federal dollars every time our policy preferences conflict with the busy bodies in D.C.”

“I’ve decided to draw the line at treating our brave servicemen and women as adults.  I think they deserve it, and I hope Alaskans will stand with me against the heavy hand of Washington.”

You can download a copy in PDF here.

28 Responses to “AK State Rep. Proposes Lower Drinking Age for Troops”

  1. Ajax the Great Says:

    That’s an idea that deserves a 21-gun salute.

  2. Ajax the Great Says:

    Of course, I would prefer it to be 18 across the board, but that’s a start.

  3. Edwin Says:

    My comments must not be censored by Choose Responsibility. I support Bob Lynn’s bill which would lower the drinking age for soldiers in Alaska to 18 and lower the smoking age to 18 for soldiers in that state. I classify MADD as an ageist organization because it hates debate on the drinking age because that organization is so ageist. Alaska is a state which is separated from the contiguous United States so this is one more reason for the bill to become law. Like Ajax the Great said, the bill deserves a salute.

  4. Anthony Rhodes Says:

    This better go through.

  5. Ajax the Great Says:

    If it does go through, it will be a great stepping-stone for further change. It will also be the first test of the 10% highway funding penalty since Louisiana in 1996. It’s 2011 and it is starting to feel like 1971 all over again. Remember, Alaska was one of the first states to lower the drinking age (to 19) in 1970.


  6. John Searles Says:

    Wanna bet? $50 million (what they would lose in Federal Highway funds) says this bill is DOA.

  7. Ajax the Great Says:

    And look at how dependent the lower 48 states and Hawaii are on Alaskan oil. They can always retaliate by threatening to cut off 10% of oil to the rest of the nation.

  8. John Searles Says:

    Ajax, um… this is the UNITED States of America. We are ONE nation remember? You should also remember that Federal law supercedes state law. Do you really think that lowering the MLDA is THAT important to Alaskans (see Gallop and Nationwide polls for the answer to this question)?

    WOW you really are getting desparate.

  9. Ajax the Great Says:

    Federal law only supersedes state law when the former is “pursuant to” the Constitution. Otherwise the power in question is reserved to the states and/or the people. And nothing in the Constitution gives the federal government the right to set a national drinking age, certainly not one so high that it requires the Bill of Rights to be abridged in order to adequately enforce it. Take a look at the Ninth, Tenth, and Fourteenth Amendments.

    As for oil, it is primarily owned by Alaska, not the feds. Hence the Alaska Permanent Fund.


  10. John Searles Says:

    The Federal government did not set a minimum drinking age. That was done by each state as is their constitutional right.

    As I said, do you really think Alaskans want to lower the drinking age, lose $50 million, then retaliate against the Feds? (See Gallop and Nationwide polls for the answer). This is not a hot button issue for most people, present company excluded.

  11. Ajax the Great Says:

    We’ll see what Alaskans want when the time comes. And the feds’ little pharisaical end-run around the Constitution clearly violates the spirit of the Constitution even if its letter was not. Most of the states raised the drinking age under duress, plain and simple. And even worse, that set a precedent for the feds to coerce the states on other things later on by tying them to highway funding and other types of federal funding. Though one could say the real precedent was the 55 speed limit in 1974, at least that was directly related to highway safety, and was done during a crisis. But now the feds tend to use their “crisis powers” for non-crisis situations.

    And yes I have read the polls. We have actually made gains since ten years ago, up to 35% in favor in one poll, though we are still in the minority. However, Samuel Adams (the American revolutionary) had this to say about majorities:

    “It does not take a majority to prevail … but rather an irate, tireless minority, keen on setting brushfires of freedom in the minds of men.”

    And we are approaching a critical mass as we speak, at least partly due to the Amethyst Initiative.

  12. John Searles Says:

    So, according to Gallop in 2001 77% of the population opposed lowering the drinking age to 18. In 2007 the number (gasp) again 77%. In 2008 the Nationwide Insurance poll showed that….78% did not want to lower the drinking age. Where does the 35% come from?

    The Amethyst Initiative is dead. When you can only get 3% of your fellow college presdidents to endorse even just having a conversaton about the MLDA, that cannot be considered successful.

  13. Ajax the Great Says:

    The 35% comes from an April 2009 Rasmussen poll. 30% want it lowered to 18, 5% want it lowered to 16.


    We’ll see whether the Amethyst Initiative is really dead.

  14. John Searles Says:

    Yes we will see. At their present rate of growth, the Amethyst Initiative will be up to 6% of college presidents in only another 135 years.

  15. Anthony Rhodes Says:

    If it takes that long, then so be it. I’ll just take comfort in the fact that yours truly will end up on the right side of history.

  16. Anthony Rhodes Says:

    truely. again, sorry about the misspelling. If anyone cares.

  17. Anthony Rhodes Says:

    Or maybe I had it right the first time…….

  18. Ajax the Great Says:

    It was right the first time.

  19. Anthony Rhodes Says:

    Only 10%? I’d go for 30%.

  20. Anthony Rhodes Says:

    Our enemies need to be starved out.

    John, about Ajax’s proposal of raising the beer tax, if buying beer is costing you an arm and a leg, perhaps you need to cut back. Care for more cheese with your wine?

  21. John Searles Says:

    Oh, I am totally in favor of raising taxes on all alcohol products. I am also realistic enough to know it isn’t going to happen because of tremendous industry pressure and no political will to raise ANY taxes. FYI, I went to school near Napa Valley, so, yes, I would like a little more wine with my cheese.

  22. Ajax the Great Says:

    How do you boil a frog? You don’t throw it in boiling water–you put it in room temp water and gradually turn up the heat. An alcohol tax hike can be phased in over a few years if necessary. And exempting microbrewers (whose products are expensive enough already, and thus not preferred by most alcohol abusers) would be a good way to get them on board since it would make their products more competitive. And if Anheuser-Busch whines about how they may have to cut jobs, like they recently threatened in NY, we need to call their bluff. When Bush I raised the beer tax in 1991, the wholesale trade employment actually grew despite the recession, and manufacturing jobs in the industry were already on the decline before the hike. And interestingly the craft beer industry is thriving in Alaska, the state with the highest beer tax. Ditto for many parts of Canada.

    For the record, I support raising taxes on all alcoholic beverage categories, and taxing them at the same rate proportional to alcohol content. And I would support it regardless of whether there was a highway funding penalty. The 1991 inflation-adjusted value of the liquor tax, or the approximate 1951 value of the beer tax, would be a good eventual goal. That raising and equalization would add approximately $1 to the price of a fifth of liquor, $1 to the price of a fifth of wine, and $1 to the price of a six-pack of beer. Not enough to hurt moderate drinkers, but heavier drinkers (especially younger ones) would clearly feel the pinch. And traffic fatalities and other alcohol-related problems would likely drop as a result.

    As for the gas tax, a good idea for that would be to raise the tax by a penny each week until it is a dollar more than it is now. You can call it “a penny for progress”. That’s another thing that will not only bring in much-needed revenue (especially for infrastructure), but would also likely save lives (not to mention the environment) through reduced and less aggressive driving. I would actually prefer that there NOT be a prebate for drivers over 21, but doing so may sweeten the deal for those on the fence.

  23. Ajax the Great Says:

    As long as we’re talking about alcohol taxes, take a look at the following study by Ponicki et al. (2007).


    While it is one of the pro-21 studies, it actually suggests that the beer tax and the 21 drinking age reduce each other’s effectiveness. Put another way, if the beer tax is high enough, the model predicts that lowering the drinking age to 18 would either have no effect or even decrease traffic fatalities. And of course the beer tax itself was found to independently reduce fatalities.

  24. Ajax the Great Says:

    As for the oil supply cut I discussed, 10% in the first year and 30% for each additional year would probably be the best. 10% could be easily made up by dirtier sources like shale oil extraction, tar sands, and coal-to-liquids, 30% not so much.

  25. John Searles Says:

    To paraphrase a famous exchange: “I know Paul Gruenewald (of Ponicki, Gruenewald, & LaScala). Paul Gruenewald is a friend of mine. I have even published with Paul Gruenewald. You, sir, are no Paul Gruenewald.”

    You have misrepresented what was stated in the article. They suggested that their model needs work in particular because:

    “While the results strongly support the existence of such interdependence, the interaction approach is clearly too simplistic. For example, simulations suggest that if beer taxes are already very high in a given state, raising
    MLDA could actually increase youth fatalities; in such cases the negative interaction term more than compensates for the positive coefficient on the uninteracted proportion who can legally consume beer. This troubling feature of the results is more pronounced in the alternative
    models using semi-log and double-log functional forms. Future studies may be able to employ more-flexible models of this interaction to avoid this drawback.”

    This was a technical mathematical problem having to do with variable transformation scenarios they pointed out.

    Their overall findings were quite clear as stated in the abstract:

    “The analyses showed that raising either MLDA or beer taxes in isolation led to fewer youth traffic fatalities. As expected, a given change in MLDA causes a larger proportional change in
    fatalities when beer taxes are low than when they are high.”

    This of course, makes perfect sense, since higher prices already suppress consumption. This study described the interactive effects of alcohol taxes and the MLDA.

    Paul Gruenewald is a strong supporter of MLDA-21

    Your fantatastical Alaska retaliation idea is totally absurd. Although it might make for an interesting TV movie. As for raising taxes on alcohol and gasoline, these are not politically tenable ideas right now. The alcohol industry spends hugh amounts on lobbying to prevent any tax increases on thier products.

  26. Ajax the Great Says:

    What the authors said about their model is a good example of what psychologists call “cognitive dissonance”. Anyway, as I have said before, I don’t believe there is any long-run net benefit to the 21 drinking age. But if there were such an effect, whether short- or long-run, higher alcohol taxes would likely reduce it to irrelevance or at least compensate for it. Again, it looks like we will have to agree to disagree on this point.

    It is interesting how Big Booze spends so much lobbying against even modest alcohol tax hikes, but they are either silent even or supportive of the 21 drinking age. Even in the 1980s before it was a done deal, they did not put up a significant fight. Kind of goes to show the relative effectiveness of each of the two policy measures at reducing consumption (and thus sales). Hmmmm.

    And the Alaska oil retaliation idea may sound absurd now, but then again, so did the idea of OPEC retaliating against us before 1973. In fact, that crisis plus the fact that oil in the lower 48 peaked in 1970 were the primary reasons we drilled in Alaska and built the pipeline in the first place.

  27. John Searles Says:

    The alcohol industry has a very sweet deal concerning taxes. They don’t want any increase because it would set a precedent. And they certainly are not interested in supporting anything else but MLDA-21. If you would like to absolutely codify MLDA-21, have the alchol industry come out in support of MLDA-18. These are not stupid people.

    Last I checked OPEC was not part of the US, so that arguement won’t fly. Alaska is not a sovereign nation. There is, however, a movement for secession in Vermont. Perhaps we will withhold 10% of our maple syrup production.

  28. Ajax the Great Says:

    We’ll see what Alaska does. It is their oil, after all. As for Vermont, that would be a great state to test the feds as well. Unfortunately, the rest of the country can just get their maple syrup from Canada, LOL.

    Seriously, though, Vermont is another good choice. They are already one of the most free states overall–some states hate gays, some states hate guns, but Vermont likes both. Now all they gotta do is lower the drinking age and perhaps legalize cannabis, and they would be truly deserving of the title Freestate Vermont. And New Hampshire’s motto would fit them better than the state that currently has that motto.