Jan 11, 2010 Doug Campbell Uncategorized
Newly proposed social host legislation wouldn’t necessarily be a sweeping change to local law, but rather another tool in local law enforcement’s “toolkit” against underage drinking, village board members said at a public hearing Jan. 4.
“What we’ve tried to do is make a law that’s very simple and starts with the basic premise that no other adult should be serving your underage child, your minor, alcohol without your knowledge or consent,” Deputy Mayor Kurt Wheeler said at the outset of the first public hearing to focus on an actual draft of the proposed local law.
Under the social host legislation, anyone knowingly hosting a party at which underage drinking is occurring could be charged with a violation and a strict fine.
Community members in attendance were concerned that the new law would lead to fewer penalties for those allowing underage drinking; if there is already a state law, why give offenders a “way out” of stricter, criminal charges in the state law?
Village Trustee Rich Huftalen explained that the state law is much harder to enforce than the local law would be, with a much greater burden of proof.
“Having this legislation in place makes it more likely that something will happen instead of less likely,” Huftalen said.
Wheeler addressed concerns about the possibility of being charged if a party is hosted on property without the owner’s knowledge.
“This has been a frequent comment,” Wheeler said. “The verbiage of the local law, it’s very succinct: ‘Knowingly permit.’ If someone’s on your back 40 and you don’t know they’re there, you’re not culpable.”
Some were concerned that having the legislation enacted only in the village would not be an effective deterrent, and would encourage minors to take their drinking to a new location outside of the village. While similar legislation is being considered by the town of Cazenovia, Village Trustee Amy Mann expressed concerns that it might not pass at that level.
“I’m still skeptical as to whether that’s going to happen. They have different issues, they have more open land,” Mann said. “I’m also still wrestling with the fact that this could draw my child to get in the car and go to the home of someone that lives in the town.”
Community members also criticized approaching the law at a local level, which some said could lead to “patchwork” legislation from municipality to municipality.
Ted Bartlett, of Cazenovia, asked if the legislation could be enacted at the county level.
“BRiDGES felt that the chances of getting county-wide action would be much greater if there was some positive result at the local level,” Wheeler responded. “If we don’t pass at the local level, there’s almost zero-percent chance that the town is going to act.”
The public hearing was continued to 6:45 p.m. Feb. 1. A copy of the draft legislation is available at the village Web site, at villageofcazenovia.com/info/minutes.php.