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Oklahoma State Senate
Senator Debbe Leftwich
Senate District 44

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For Immediate Release: May 13, 2008

Sen. Debbe Leftwich
Sen. Debbe Leftwich urges House Speaker Chris Benge to give her Social Host Bill a hearing in the House.  Youth groups from around the state joined Leftwich to show their support.

House Leadership Continues to Refuse Responsible Plan for Oklahoma Children

Leftwich’s “Social Host” Proposal Will Help Deter Underage Drinking

A plan by State Senator Debbe Leftwich that would hold adult providers accountable for hosting and providing alcohol to teens at social gatherings is being denied in the Oklahoma House of Representatives by Republican leadership. Even though the plan received overwhelming bi-partisan support and was approved on 48-0 vote in the Oklahoma State Senate, House Republican Leadership, lead by Speaker Chris Benge, is refusing to let the plan be heard. Currently, the Leftwich plan, which targets adults overseeing the dangerous and illegal consumption of illegal substances by minors, is attached to House Bill 2963 in a conference committee report.

Joined by Oklahoma City area high school students, Leftwich said it is “irresponsible” to sit back and allow the continued practice of adults overseeing the dangerous consumption of illegal substances by Oklahoma minors.

“I call upon the House Leadership today to do the right thing for our children, help protect them and make keep them safe from unscrupulous adults ,” Leftwich. “We pledge to advocate for all Oklahomans when we take office as a state policymaker, including the young and vulnerable. Every legislative session there are articulate and well-coined phrases about how “pro-life” the House Republicans are. But when given an opportunity to truly defend the rights of a child and to truly be “pro-life”, Speaker Benge and his leadership shrink from their moral responsibility.”

Lisa Collins, a senior at Yukon High School, it is “easy for minors to get alcohol and the consequences for those providing without the social host law aren't strong enough to deter someone from providing."

Fellow Student Amanda Seigler, a freshman at Southeast High School, said she wants a safe environment for her friends to socialize.

“Holding adults accountable for their actions is the right thing to do. They should be teaching young people against the dangers of drinking, not providing them the drinks,” Seigler said.

Alcohol is a factor in most deaths among young people ages 10 to 24, including automobile accidents, unintentional injuries, accidental deaths and even suicide.

Leftwich said persons providing the location for underage drinkers should be held accountable and issued a citation and a fine. Under her plan, offenders will be given misdemeanor citations for a first and second offense and a felony citation for a third violation. Each citation comes with monetary fines and possible incarceration. A first time offender can be fined up to $500 and a second citation would be a fine up to $2,500, while a third conviction is a fine up to $5,000. First and second time offenders could be sentenced to a year in jail and third-time offenders up to five.

“Monetary fines and potential jail time will help community law enforcement officials as they seek to protect minors,” Leftwich said.

Leftwich said her proposal also makes supplying low-point beer, the favorite drink of teenage drinkers, to minors against the law. She said there are provisions for people hosting teen parties who have taken all reasonable steps to prevent consumption.

Kent Mathers, Assistant Superintendent of Yukon Public Schools, said too many adults, both parents and non-parents, are willing to provide alcohol to minors.

“Statistics indicate this creates an extremely dangerous situation, not only for underage drinkers but for society in general,” Mathers said. “This law makes penalties for those providing alcohol to minors stiffer and we believe the stiffer penalties will mean fewer adults will provide the alcohol."

Currently, 34 municipal communities have similar social hosting laws, including Altus, Alva, Arnett, Bixby, Broken Arrow, Buffalo, Claremore, Clinton, Cordell, Duncan, Edmond, Elgin, Elk City, Enid, Granite, Kingfisher, Laverne, Lawton, Mangum, Marietta, McAlister, Midwest City, Moore, Mustang, Norman, Owasso, Ponca City, Shawnee, Tecumseh, Tishomingo, Tulsa, Watonga, Weatherford, and Yukon.

“We have a responsibility to protect Oklahoma minors from the consequences of underage drinking,” Leftwich said “The consequences of underage drinking are immediate and long term.”

The plan was endorsed by the Governor’s Task Force on Underage Drinking and the Oklahoma Prevention Policy Alliance.

For more information contact:
Sen. Leftwich's Office:  (405) 521-5557

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