Caz: Village board passes local law to fight underage drinking

The Cazenovia Village Board Tuesday, March 1, passed a Social Host local law to fight underage drinking. Mayor Thomas Dougherty, Deputy Mayor Kurt Wheeler and Trustee Rich Huftalen voted in favor, and Trustees Amy Mann and Peggy van Arnam were opposed.

"I'm in support of this whole law," said Dougherty, who remarked that he does not take making new laws lightly. "I don't like change very much," he said.

The board had made recent changes to the proposed law to address concerns of enforcement and intent, therefore, Huftalen said, "codifying what I think is a reasonable minimum standard."

Wheeler defined the basic intent of a Social Host law at the board's February meeting.

"The goal of the social host law, which is just a violation, is to give local law enforcement sort of a middle ground between doing nothing and going for criminal prosecution. Which makes it more likely that, as appropriate, something will be done instead of nothing," Wheeler said.

Wheeler said the current law offers no middle ground.

"If law enforcement becomes aware of a violation of existing state laws, they're in a situation where they have to go to the D.A., seek prosecution of a criminal offense, which results, potentially, in jail time," he said. "And they have to decide between doing nothing -- essentially a warning -- or going all the way and seeking criminal prosecution."

Van Arnam supported the intent of the law, but said she believed social issues should be addressed through education, not legislation.

"While I wholeheartedly applaud the intent of the law, I don't feel I can support this law," van Arnam said.

Mann was concerned about unintended consequences of passing the law.

"If you think other communities are watching us now, wait until this law gets called into effect," she said.

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