House committee tables social host legislation

The bill would extend a social host law already approved by 39 cities.

James Nord

A House committee tabled a bill Thursday attempting to unify MinnesotaâÄôs patchwork of municipal âÄúsocial hostâÄù laws and enhance existing penalties, but its author said it might make an appearance later this session. Under the bill, it would be a gross misdemeanor if a property owner permitted a minor to consume alcohol to the point of intoxication. This same penalty would apply to purchasing alcohol for minors or providing it to them. The billâÄôs chief author, Rep. Dean Urdahl, R-Grove City, said alcohol use among minors is a growing problem in the state that his legislation attempts to solve. For instance, in Minnesota, 30 percent of 12-20 year olds reported they consumed alcohol in March when surveyed by the Department of Health and Human Services, Urdahl said. Additionally, in 2008, there were 16 deaths caused by intoxicated underage drivers, 530 DWIâÄôs issued and 6,359 arrests made for liquor law violations. âÄú[Does] the current situation merit a greater deterrent? I think it does,âÄù Urdahl said. âÄúPeople are dying, people are having accidents, it is a big problem.âÄù Urdahl said he introduced the legislation at the behest of a family whose daughter died while attending school in Mankato; he said he also consulted police on the subject of underage drinking. Although 39 municipalities had put social host ordinances in place by February, according to a Minneapolis city council report, Urdahl said a more uniform approach is necessary âÄî state legislation. However, members of the HouseâÄôs Public Safety, Policy and Oversight Committee questioned if increased penalties would actually deter minors from consuming alcohol. They also raised concerns over the effects a gross misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in jail and a $3,000 fine, would have on a personâÄôs long term record. âÄúIf we are going to try to stem a growing problem, [then] we should increase the penalty,âÄù Urdahl said. The committee didnâÄôt vote on the bill, but Urdahl said he will attempt to attach it to a different bill on the HouseâÄôs floor later this session.