Medical amnesty bill approved

Underage drinkers seeking medical care would get legal amnesty.

Meghan Holden

Dan Drill-Mellum  was in a tough position last semester when his friend was assaulted after a night of drinking.

The University of Minnesota marketing freshman brought his friend to the hospital at the risk of receiving a citation for underage drinking. His friend refused to report the assault to police for the same reason.

Drill-Mellum, a member of the Minnesota Student Association, and two other University students testified Tuesday for a bipartisan bill that would provide legal immunity for underage drinkers seeking medical care.

The bill was passed by two legislative committees Tuesday.

Voting almost unanimously, the House Public Safety Finance and Policy Committee passed the bill. It was then referred to the House Judiciary Finance and Policy Committee .

The Senate Judiciary Committee also voted in favor of the bill.

Opponents of the bill on the House committee said minors who are drinking underage could use medical amnesty as an excuse to get out of trouble if police came to a party.

“I just don’t see that happening,” said Rep. Michael Paymar, co-author of the bill and Public Safety Finance and Policy Committee chair.

MSA President Taylor Williams said the bill doesn’t provide amnesty for people breaking other laws while they are drinking underage.

Rep. Diane Loeffler, DFL-Minneapolis and co-author of the bill, said medical amnesty is important because it can help people, like Drill-Mellum’s friend, in medical emergencies.

“I think that anytime we can prevent people from losing their lives or suffering long-term disability, we ought to step up and do it,” she said.

Williams said he has talked to women throughout the state who said they were sexually assaulted while drinking underage but refused to report it for fear of getting in trouble.

“That’s just not right,” he said.

Matt Forstie, chair of the Minnesota Student Legislative Coalition, said they will continue to address the concerns brought up in Tuesday’s hearing.

Forstie said that the bill will continue to be “one of the top priorities of student government” until it’s passed.