MN House passes bill to protect underage drinkers - KMSP-TV

MN House passes bill to protect underage drinkers who call for help

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ST. PAUL, Minn. (KMSP) -

Amid all the bills that did not pass the House Thursday, one did. The Medical Amnesty Bill.

Representative Schoen, co-author of the bill, says he helped push it through the House because he does not want young people who partake in underage drinking to stop themselves from reporting a medical emergency, just to stay out of trouble. The bill would waive the $120 underage drinking ticket for young people who call 911 to report an alcohol related medical emergency or assault.

"The bottom line is people make bad choices, we all have," explains Representative Dan Schoen (Cottage Grove-DFL) as one of the reasons for co-authoring the bill.

The Medical Amnesty Bill passed in the House Thursday by a majority vote 124-8.

"We need kids to be able to understand that it's okay to ask for help," stated Rep. Schoen.

University of Minnesota graduate, Taylor Williams, a University of Minnesota Junior, and Matt Forstie, a University of Minnesota Junior are behind the bill's creation.

"Students when in underage drinking situations are uncertain if they should get medical help because of the fear of a state prosecution or getting a fine," Williams stated.

Forstie says another big push for the bill is to encourage young people to speak out against sexual assault. The U of M junior believes the amnesty will make young people who survive an alcohol related sexual assault less hesitant to actually report the incident to police. "You never know when a 911 call is going to save a life."

According to the University of Minnesota Office of Student Affairs, less than 5% of college rape survivors report their assault to police. The aurora center reports approximately 500 men and 1,300 women experience unwanted sexual contact at the U every year. This is of reported instances.

"We also don't wait for young people to wait until they've sobered up before reporting a sexual assault because time is of the essence," said Williams.

The Medical Amnesty Bill would also protect underage callers reporting on behalf of a friend, who have had a drink or two themselves.

"If you're that underage person and… the caller for a friend and you've also been drinking, that amnesty extends to you because you had the good heart to ask for help," noted Rep. Schoen.

There are those that disagree with Schoen. Representative Tony Albright (55B-R), released this statement to FOX 9 regarding the bill:

"I believe state government should be promoting the laws we have in place regarding alcohol consumption. I'm uncomfortable with condoning this type of behavior on college campuses and I worry what message it sends. This is about encouraging safe communities and safe institutions for our kids, this sends a mixed signal to these young people during a critical juncture in their lives."

Yet and still, Schoen and Williams insist, the bill would not create a get out of jail free card for underage drinkers.

"They have to call 911 and request help, police can't show up at a house party and have someone tell them oh I need help now," said Schoen sternly.

"[The bill] will save lives. I think it's extremely important that this bill passes," nodded Williams.

The Medical Amnesty Bill hits the Senate floor for a vote on Saturday.

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