Let’s pass on another round of drinking bill

Posted

The “drinking with Dad” bill that was killed in committee last week made for lively conversation around water coolers and dinner tables. We don’t mind that it failed — we are gripped by so many other matters at the Statehouse — but we stop short of calling the bill ridiculous.

The failed notion — sponsored by state Sen. Greg Brophy — would have allowed parents to share alcoholic drinks with their 18-to-20-year-old children at restaurants or bars, ideally preparing them for the responsibilities of becoming 21.

While it was pointed out several other states allow the practice, the committee gave little ground and defeated the measure 4-1.

We agree with an oft-mentioned counterpoint that restaurant servers would face the onus of verifying parents and children before serving the 18-to-20-year-olds. The extra duty could put the servers in a tough spot as noted by state Sen. Evie Hudak, D-Westminster. Maybe it would be a big pain or maybe not, but for now we agree with keeping a clean line of law in the public arena concerning the drinking age of 21.

And we side with those who say it’s enough that parents have the legal opportunity to serve and teach their children about alcohol at home. Home is an excellent place to cover alcohol and responsible drinking.

Further, it’s a fine place to learn how to prepare for the public arena with good skills in assigning designated drivers, as well as being aware one drink — depending on factors such as beverage and weight of the person — can put someone on the wrong side of the mark in a Breathalyzer test.

As for the other side of the argument, we certainly accept the valid view of state Sen. Ted Harvey, R-Highlands Ranch. As the only vote for the bill, he said when his son turns 18, he will be able to fight in Afghanistan but will not be able to have a drink with his parents at a restaurant. That is a tough shot.

Harvey’s comment echoed a debate that has decidedly diminished since the National Minimum Drinking Age Act of 1984. This strong-arm bill passed by the Congress subjects states with a minimum age for drinking that is below 21 to a 10 percent decrease in annual federal highway funds. It was a brilliant way for proponents to keep the age at 21 because most states, like Colorado, so need transportation dollars for highways and aging bridges.

But it’s simply not right. The drinking age, at its core an issue of individual liberty, should not be held hostage to the pocketbook issue of transportation dollars.

Interestingly, incongruent laws that put voting and military service at 18 and drinking alcohol at 21 crudely reflect the true nature of coming of age where attaining maturity doesn’t happen on a certain birthday or day for each individual.

But just maybe someday these laws will better align to clearly and legally mark adulthood while surrounding responsibilities and efforts — such as reducing drunk driving — are just as vigilant as ever in striving to balance our safety with our liberties.