Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Military Minors Get A Beer In Wisconsin?

A Wisconsin lawmaker has proposed a bill that would allow the sale to and consuption of alcohol for 19 and 20 year olds who reside in Wisconsin and belong to our armed forces.

State Rep. Mark Pettis, a Republican who served in the Navy, is pushing a bill that would drop the drinking age to 19 for Wisconsin soldiers — but only if the federal government agrees it will not yank an estimated $50 million a year in highway aid.
A federal law ties federal highway dollars to compliance by the states with the required drinking age of 21.

"We're treating these young men and women as adults when they're at war. But we treat them like teenagers when they're here in the states," he said.

There are three problems here for me.

One, there is no reason to limit the law's application to Wisconsin resident soldiers. I suppose a 21st Amendment question could come into play here, but generally discrimination against non-residents except in things arguably related to tax dollars paid in (e.g., in state college tuition) is not permitted.

Second, I agree entirely with the rationale. We let 18 years olds vote and enter into binding contracts that could ruin their financial life. There is no justification for excluding adults from alcohol. So why is the law limited to soldiers? While they might deserve special treatment, they shouldn't get it here. Everyone should be treated the same.

Third, the problem with the bill, as stated in the quote, is that it might cause Wisconsin to lose Federal highway money. This is the result of the Supreme Courts' questionable (to me) decision holding that Congress could use the spending power in the Constitution to black mail states into passing laws that Congress could not pass directly. South Dakota v. Dole needs to be overturned and Congress' abuse of the spending power curtailed.


At 10:06 AM, Blogger spd rdr said...

I've seen some dumb legislation offered in my day, and this is right up there. It's probably a "mail box bill" - no hope for passage, but looks good on a re-election flyer. ("I support our troops right to drink!")

In the (unlikely) event of passage, the bill would be in court in a Milwaulkee minute on a equal protection v. 21st Amendment claim, and, given the Court's recent reluctance to strengthen the states' 21st powers vis a vis the dormant Commerce Clause, it's a guaranteed loser agains the 14th Amendment.

I'm with you as far as the Dole decision. The "power of the purse" is an extraordinary power ripe for abuse and represents nothing more than a usurpation of state authority.

Nearly as stupid as the residency provision is the reasoning of MADD's argument against the bill:

The Wisconsin chapter of Mothers Against Drunk Driving has lobbied against the bill. Its executive director, Kari Kinnard, said statistics show there have been fewer highway fatalities, injuries and other problems associated with alcohol since the mandatory minimum went into effect in the 1980s.
Arguing backwwards from statistics is a dangerous thing. There are any number of reasons that alcohol related fatalities are down: low BAC levels, stepped up education, stricter enforcement,higher seat belt usage, airbags, etc. The argument should be:"there are X percentage less alcohol related fatalities caused by individuals under the age of 21 since the age limit was raised." To which I might reply: "What a shock, seeing as they can't drink. But those who do are driving around drinking because they've got no place to drink otherwise." At which point I'd be stoned as a heathen and my (responsible) children removed from my home.

[Kinnard]also said research shows the brain has not fully developed until people reach age 21. "It's for their own protection," Kinnard said.

Jeezus, lady, they're soldiers fergodsake! They are protecting you!

At 11:42 AM, Blogger Jehane said...

Quantity, quality... you've got it goin' on counselor.

Everything I said yesterday :) Nice post. You are really hitting your stride - now the rest of us just need to catch up with you.

At 2:45 PM, Blogger Pile On® said...

I hate posturing. This guy knows this doesn't have a bats chance, he is just doing it so he can say he tried.

Don't waste our time. This country is not ready of a meaningful debate on the topic.

At 8:49 PM, Blogger Pile On® said...

But all this is irrelevant considering the Astros kicked the Braves butts in the post-season last year.

Oh, and there is a war going on somewhere.

At 9:10 PM, Blogger KJ said...

That is true. It is irrelevant to both those "facts" (butt kicking is a bit of hyperbole in a 3-2 series, but I'll let it slide).

BTW, don't blame the messanger. I didn't write the primary article, and I said something nice about two of the Killer Bs.


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