Elgin_Social host laws won't end underage drinking, but some Oklahoma state lawmakers hope to curb it. A new "Social Hosting" bill is on its way to the Oklahoma House Floor. The bill would hold the "host" of gatherings accountable for illegal consumption of alcohol and drugs by minors. The bill passed unanimously in the Senate Criminal Jurisprudence Committee.
Fines will be a lot harsher in the proposed state legislation. If the House approves the bill, a first offence could be $500, plus jail time. A third offense would be $5,000 and five years in prison. Some say no punishment is harsh enough when lives are lost, and the City of Elgin is no stranger to the tragedies of underage drinking.
Elgin Mayor Larry Thoma remembers the recent deaths of teens who fell victim to the dangers of alcohol - sixteen-year-old Dakota Johnson and sixteen-year-old Trenten McIntosh. "If you've ever had to knock on a door and inform an adult that their child has been taken away, it'll wake you up very quickly," says Thoma. "It's happened too many times, one kid is too many times...and it may not happen to your kid, but your kid may be riding in the car with someone, and then it's just too late."
Thoma worked to pass the Social Host Ordinance last November, to hold the "hosts" of gatherings accountable. It's an ordinance that municipalities across Oklahoma have passed, including Lawton and Duncan. Now, it's at the state level. "It should have been done a long time ago and I'm glad they're doing it," says Thoma.
Duncan's City Manager Clyde Shaw says his city's council sometimes sets an example for other communities. "At times its good and at times its not, but Duncan and our council has been at the forefront of many things through the years," he says. Now, cities such as Duncan, Elgin, and Lawton are at the forefront of setting an example - an example that even the state of Oklahoma is noticing.
The "Social Hosting" bill passed the Senate Tuesday, and goes on to the House where lawmakers will have the opportunity to make any changes. Senator Debbie Leftwich of Oklahoma City sponsored the bill.