Rep. Andrew Maragos’ bill to lower the drinking age for service members – HB1225 – failed in the House today by a fairly wide margin, 23-67.
Originally the bill would have only allowed service members to drink on-base and with the permission of their commanding officers. It was amended before the floor vote to allow for a more broad sort of exception to the drinking age:
Rep. Diane Larson (R-Bismarck) carried the House Judiciary Committee’s “do not pass” recommendation for the floor. “Although we have the greatest respect for our military we do not feel that supplying them with alcohol is the best way to demonstrate that,” she said.
Rep. Jon Nelson (R-Rugby) was the only lawmaker to stand up and speak in favor of the bill. Larson had made the point that perhaps picking up the lunch tab of military members would be a better way to honor them. Nelson pointed out that since service members between the ages of 18-20 can’t go into bars, it would be pretty hard to pick up their lunch tabs there.
Really, this legislation never had a chance. I agree that people 18 years and older are adults, and that it makes no sense to deem those who serve in the military mature enough to be entrusted with weapons to fight for their country not mature enough to have a beer, but North Dakota has a strong prohibitionist streak (we actually entered the union as a dry state before prohibition).
If we’re going to change the law, though, we ought to change it for everyone. Either you’re an adult at 18, and can do all the things adults can, or you’re not. Plus, I can’t imagine the nightmare this would create for bar/restaurant owners who are unfortunately tasked with having to figure out who is and is not legal to drink. Creating exceptions only complicates that task which is already fraught with liability.