'Social host' bill defeated again

Sen. Larry Lucas’ second attempt to pass a bill punishing adults who provide space for underage drinking fared no better than his first, but he said he was upbeat over an “olive branch” offered by an opponent to the bill.

Lucas’ Senate Bill 225 made it a misdemeanor for adults who keep or maintain a place for underage alcohol consumption. Dubbed the “social host” bill, it had the support of Attorney General Marty Jackley but ran into a wall on the Senate State Affairs Committee.

Such a bill, Lucas said, is necessary to deter underage drinking, which he argued is a major problem in South Dakota. Many parents provide spaces for their children to hold parties with alcohol, he said. SB 225 would deter that, and, by extension, underage drinking, Lucas argued.

But members of the committee disagreed. They worried the bill was poorly worded and would expose property owners where underage drinking occurred without their knowledge.

"We have a clearly identified problem in South Dakota that needs to provide a solution," said Sen. Larry Rhoden, R-Union Center. "I don’t believe this is a solution."

Six of the nine members of the committee voted to kill SB 225 Monday. But before the vote, Rhoden offered another route for Lucas — a legislative study this summer examining the broader issue of underage drinking.

Lucas, who said education is key to combatting underage drinking, said he appreciated that suggestion and would pursue such a study.