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Lawmakers asked to crack down on under-aged drinking

The proposed law carries fines for minors and also adults who provide alcohol

DES MOINES — Iowa lawmakers are being asked to crack down on those who provide alcohol to minors.

A House subcommittee began work Wednesday on House File 396,which would make it illegal for the owner, lessee or person who has control over a property that is not a licensed premises to allow a person under the legal drinking age of 21 to consume or possess an alcoholic beverage on their property.

A person of legal age who permits such an action would be guilty of a serious misdemeanor punishable by a minimum fine of $500.

The bill also would expand underage drinking laws to include consumption, with the first offense being a simple misdemeanor punishable by a $200 fine. A second offense would carry a $500 fine, while subsequent offenses would result in a $500 fine and suspension of the violator’s driver’s license for up to one year.

Rep. Lee Hein, R-Monticello, said he filed the bill to address problems associated with underage drinking at house parties in college towns, “keggers” or alcohol-related events “at the back 40” of a farmstead.

“It’s just another one of the tools in the toolbox to help in the enforcement of underage drinking,” he told members of a three-person House panel assigned to consider the bill.

Representatives of law enforcement, county attorneys and others spoke in favor of the measure, but conceded there might be problems associated with proving consumption of alcohol took place.

Corwith Ritchie of the Iowa County Attorneys Association said his group previously had pushed for social hosting or premises liability legislation but it stalled each time.

Jessica Harden, a lobbyist representing Iowa City, said officials there would welcome any part of the bill becoming law. “Overall, they support anything that gives them more tools to help them control alcohol locally,” she said.

Rep. Kim Pearson, R-Pleasant Hill, a subcommittee member, said she was concerned that the bill, as drafted, could cast “a big net” in attempting to police underage drinking.The subcommittee agreed to gather more information and look at alternative language before reconvening to consider the proposal.

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