Legislature(2009 - 2010)CAPITOL 106
03/16/2010 08:00 AM STATE AFFAIRS
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* first hearing in first committee of referral
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SB 194-MINORS: ALCOHOL VIOLATIONS/ I.D. CARDS 9:37:23 AM CHAIR LYNN announced that the final order of business was CS FOR SENATE BILL NO. 194(JUD), "An Act relating to penalties and civil damages for certain alcohol violations." 9:37:36 AM CHRISTINE MARASIGAN, Staff, Senator Kevin Meyer, Alaska State Legislature, introduced SB 194 on behalf of Senator Meyer, sponsor. She paraphrased the sponsor statement, which read as follows [original punctuation provided]: CSSB 194 increases civil damages from $1,000 to $1,500 for three alcohol violations. 1) Minors who knowingly enter or remain in premises licensed to sell alcohol. 2) People who purchase or deliver alcohol to persons under the age of 21. 3) Persons with restrictions on purchasing alcohol who knowingly enter or remain on premises licensed to sell alcohol. Additionally, CSSB 194 may also require a person who is under 21 years of age and convicted of the aforementioned offenses to pay for and enroll in a juvenile alcohol safety action program or similar education or treatment program if one is available. Underage drinking is a problem in Alaska. According to the State of Alaska's Plan to Reduce & Prevent Underage Drinking (October 2009), 11 percent of all treatment admissions for alcohol abuse in the state were youth aged 12-20. There are currently 2,133 alcohol restricted licenses issued in the state. An increase in civil damages would reinforce the message to youth that underage drinking will not be tolerated. The increased civil penalty would also be a financial deterrent for those who purchase alcohol for minors as well as adults holding a restricted license who are tempted to purchase alcohol. Passing CSSC 194 will encourage licensees to continue their enforcement of underage and restricted license drinking laws. This bill will also serve as a deterrent to underage and restricted consumers of alcohol. MS. MARASIGAN said many underage youths get their alcohol from adults. She said the increased civil penalty would help offset the cost of "tracking down and pursuing civil action for the licensees." She relayed that licensees like this program, because it discourages those who should not be purchasing alcohol from even trying. The proposed legislation would help enforce Alaska's laws while helping the licensee protect his/her license by discouraging those under the legal drinking age from trying to acquire alcohol. 9:42:35 AM MS. MARASIGAN, in response to Representative Seaton, said current law addresses the three situations previously outlined in the sponsor statement; the proposed legislation would increase the civil penalties for occurrence of those situations. She offered an example of a minor entering a bar and trying to get served alcohol, and she said in that instance, the licensee could "take a civil action against" the minor. REPRESENTATIVE SEATON described a hypothetical situation in which an adult buys alcohol from a store and later gives it to a minor. He asked whether - if it is established in a criminal proceeding that the adult purchased the alcohol at a certain store - the licensee of that store, based on that criminal proceeding, could "get a judgment of $1,500" against the adult who bought the alcohol. MS. MARASIGAN responded as follows: This is more sort of like an on-site civil penalty that people try to enact. I can't imagine that somebody would be following so closely to every single proceeding that they would track somebody who bought for a minor in a criminal proceeding, because they'd already be in such big trouble that I don't know that anyone would then end up going back and then bringing a civil [action], but it certainly is possible. 9:46:05 AM OTHAL C. MADDEN III, Director of Operations, Brown Jug, Inc., testified in support of SB 194. He said Brown Jug, Inc., has used the aforementioned civil penalty statutes for over 10 years to prevent underage drinking. He said the law deters minors from coming in the door to make the purchase in the first place. In the event the minor does come in, the law gives the establishment some means by which to "go after him." Mr. Madden related that when a Brown Jug, Inc., employee is successful in collecting a civil penalty from a minor, the establishment awards that employee a bonus of $270. He said Brown Jug, Inc., also offers the minor involved an opportunity to wave [the civil penalty] by completing a two-day alcohol education training through the Crime for Life program handled through Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) and sexual assault awareness training through Standing Together Against Rape (STAR). MR. MADDEN said one of the great aspects of the civil penalty program is that it gets the family involved with the minor. Before the program, many families never found out that the minor had been caught. Now, the family gets a letter in the mail saying the family owes Brown Jug, Inc., $1,000 for "illegal entry into the store," and that gets the attention of the family. Mr. Madden said since the first civil penalty was enacted in 1998, Brown Jug, Inc., has pursued actions against over 2,000 minors who have been caught. He said although the company has not been successful in collecting against all 2,000, at least the process has initiated family involvement. Mr. Madden said Brown Jug, Inc., has also used the civil penalty program to address the problem of adults buying alcohol for minors, and to seek civil damages against the minors who wait outside to solicit adults to buy alcohol for them. 9:49:23 AM REPRESENTATIVE SEATON asked if the civil penalty has been used against "someone that is very much removed from your premises." MR. MADDEN responded, "There may have been a couple of situations with kegs over the years, where the police actually let us know that an adult had bought a keg from us and provided [it] to minors, but [in] most cases the licensee would have no idea that that ever occurred, or that those events were ever related to the business." 9:50:44 AM REPRESENTATIVE SEATON expressed appreciation for the work that Mr. Madden has been doing regarding these civil penalties. He opined that everything that is done to stop underage drinking is a benefit to the entire state. 9:51:09 AM SENATOR KEVIN MEYER, Alaska State Legislature, as sponsor of SB 194, said related city ordinance was passed by the Anchorage Assembly in 1997, and Fairbanks adopted a similar ordinance. The aforementioned statute followed in 2003, he said. The proposed legislation would address the need to raise the amount of civil damages, which have not been raised since the statute was enacted. 9:52:04 AM REPRESENTATIVE P. WILSON asked if Senator Meyer has considered increasing the amount to $2,000 for people who purchase or deliver alcohol to person under the age of 21. SENATOR MEYER responded that the criminal penalty for adults who supply alcohol to minors is effective. He stated, "The civil side is handy more for the kids who are trying to buy it." He explained that sometimes when Brown Jug, Inc., gets a minor's identification and calls the police, the police are too busy to do anything; however, the consequences to the licensee are great if they are caught selling alcohol to a minor. He continued: So, ... the licensees ... [are] taking action on behalf of the state by going through civil court, because there really isn't much done on the criminal side for the minors. For adults trying to purchase [for minors] there ... [are] some consequences on the criminal side and whatever we can do on the civil side. So, we're really trying to discourage adults from even buying for the kids, by ... [utilizing both] the criminal and the civil side. REPRESENTATIVE P. WILSON explained she is considering whether or not other businesses would have more incentive to get involved if the fine was higher. 9:55:11 AM SENATOR MEYER concurred that there are some places, like Brown Jug, Inc., that have a reputation for catching minors trying to buy alcohol. He said the Cabaret Hotel Restaurant & Retailer's Association (CHARR) will "take this action" on behalf of smaller organizations. In response to a follow-up question, he confirmed that CHARR has been following through with quite a few civil actions. 9:56:51 AM REPRESENTATIVE GATTO noted that according to Mr. Madden's testimony, if the option for having $700 waived if a minor takes part in one of the aforementioned programs is used, then the establishment only gets $300 of the current $1,000 amount. Under the proposed bill, if the option for having $700 waived is taken advantage of, then the establishment would only get $800 of the $1,500. He asked Senator Meyer if it is his intent to "just get the liquor store owner a higher award." SENATOR MEYER reminded Representative Gatto that that option is the policy of Brown Jug, Inc. He stated, "Each establishment has kind of different policies and costs associated in implementing this program." 9:58:22 AM REPRESENTATIVE SEATON moved to report CSSB 194(JUD) out of committee with individual recommendations and the accompanying fiscal notes. There being no objection, CSSB 194(JUD) was reported out of the House State Affairs Standing Committee.