Medical Amnesty passes House

The bill, which is expected to be heard in the Senate Friday, protects underage drinkers seeking emergency help.

Cody Nelson

A bill to protect underage drinkers seeking emergency help is one step closer to becoming law in Minnesota.

Thursday, the state House passed medical amnesty legislation, which would provide legal immunity from the possession or consumption of alcohol for underage drinkers if they seek help for themselves or others.

“We want to encourage responsible choice,” said Rep. Tina Liebling, DFL-Rochester, the bill’s author.

Some Minnesota colleges already have medical amnesty policies, but student organizations, including the Minnesota Student Association, pushed legislation to make it a statewide policy.

With a 124-8 vote, the House bill passed with bipartisan support, but a few dissenters had issues with the bill’s necessity and scope.

Rep. Ernie Leidiger, R-Mayer, said the measure “legislates common sense.”

“When it comes to saving a life,” he said, “isn’t it common sense that we’re supposed to [seek help] first?”

Supporters, however, said the bill is necessary because it will make minors more likely to seek emergency medical help.

“This bill does not legislate common sense,” Liebling said. “It just removes one of the barriers to common sense.” 

Others questioned the measure’s scope, but Liebling answered them by clarifying the bill only provides exemptions.

“The bill itself is very, very narrow … it has to be someone calling 911 for a medical emergency,” Liebling said, adding that the bill “strikes a good balance” in its scope.

The Senate is expected to hear its medical amnesty bill on Friday.