Iowa representatives give proposed social hosting bill a chilly reception

'The consequences of legislation like this is unimaginable'

Rod Boshart
Published: March 6 2014 | 12:51 pm - Updated: 1 April 2014 | 9:14 am in

A Senate-passed bill seeking to crack down on adult social hosts who knowingly allow people under the legal drinking age to consume alcoholic beverages on their property was not hospitably received by a House subcommittee on Thursday.

Rep. Rick Olson, D-Des Moines, said he was concerned Senate File 2310 would cast a new misdemeanor net that would catch young people who served in the military or young married couples, while Rep. Joel Fry, R-Osceola, worried it could cause rental-property landlords or religious communion services held in homes to run afoul of the proposed law.

“The consequences of legislation like this is unimaginable,” Olson told fellow House Public Safety subcommittee members Fry and Rep. Jarad Klein, R-Keota, who was chairman of Thursday’s meeting.

Klein said he supports the measure and hopes it clears full committee next week to beat a funnel deadline requiring non-money bills to clear one legislative chamber and a committee of the other to stay eligible for consideration this session. He said he planned to offer an amendment that would lower the covered age from 21 to 18 to help mollify some of the concerns raised Thursday.

“I wanted to sign off on it to make sure that people know that it still has life and might still advance,” Klein said. “We will know by the end of next week whether or not it’s going anywhere.”

As passed by the Iowa Senate on a 48-0 vote, Senate File 2310 provides that social hosts who knowingly allow people under the legal drinking age of 21 to consume alcoholic beverages on their property could face a simple misdemeanor punishable by 30 days in jail and a fine of up to $650.

During Senate debate on Monday, Sen. Rob Hogg, D-Cedar Rapids, 22 counties and 26 cities in Iowa have ordinances that prohibit adults from hosting events where alcohol is illegally consumed by underage persons. The proposed legislation would not preempt local ordinances, but it would provide for enforcement of violations statewide.

Klein said he was “more comfortable” lowering the covered age. He told reporters after the meeting he shared some of the concerns raised Thursday, but added “at the same time I want to make sure we’re not having a lot of abuse going on out there where parents of other kids are allowing big beer parties to occur on their property time and time again.

“We have legislators in here who have just terrible horror stories about these sort of things where they’ll go out and they find that there are parents feeding booze to other kids without their parents’ knowledge. This happens over and over again,” he added.

“We hear from law enforcement how they pull up on some of these parties and the parents were the ones who bought the keg for the kids. That’s what we need to be aware of. This is a problem to address if they’re knowingly doing it. If the parents are instigating the trouble, that’s what we need to address,” Klein said.

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