BISMARCK â€“ A Wyndmere lawmaker wants North Dakota to adopt a â€œsocial hostâ€ law to crack down on underage drinking parties.
Senate Bill 2257 states someone who possesses or controls private property may not knowingly allow minors to drink on that property. They must also make a reasonable effort to stop the underage drinking, including calling the police.
Those who violate the proposed law would face a $500 fine, said bill sponsor Sen. Jim Dotzenrod, D-Wyndmere.
â€œWeâ€™ve got adults out there that are encouraging, participating, hosting these things, in a way encouraging it, and that has been frustrating for law enforcement. They feel this (law) would be a tool,â€ Dotzenrod said.
The bill is the result of meetings in the Wyndmere area, where some residents are exploring solutions to underage drinking, he said. They reviewed state laws and city ordinances in other states relating to social hosting and created this proposal.
â€œThis was more to fix the responsibility for underage drinking on those people that are hosting these events. A lot of them are really rural area beer parties,â€ Dotzenrod said.
Some of his fellow lawmakers expressed concerns about the bill on Monday and the liability for property owners. Sen. Carolyn Nelson, D-Fargo, asked if apartment managers were supposed to monitor all of their units to see if there was underage drinking.
Dotzenrod said the law wouldnâ€™t add responsibility for monitoring, but would make them halt a violation if they know about it.
Sen. Curtis Olafson, R-Edinburg, said North Dakota already has laws dealing with contributing to the delinquency of a minor. He also expressed concern about increased liability for pasture owners if the bill passes and minors are caught drinking in fields.
Dotzenrod emphasized the bill says â€œmay not knowingly allow,â€ but said he is aware of the concern.
â€œIf you all in your judgment think this is going to operate that way and itâ€™s going to become a liability exposure, then you may not want to pass this,â€ he said. â€œI certainly, as a sponsor, am not intending that to be one of the consequences.â€
Sen. Stan Lyson, R-Williston, said proving a property owner gave permission to underage drinkers is â€œalmost unheard of.â€
â€œPretty soon, we better start putting the burden on the people that are drinking and the parents,â€ he said.
He suggested charging every person at the party with trespassing if law enforcement canâ€™t prove the owner had knowledge the minors were there.
The bill also worries Sandy Clark of the North Dakota Farm Bureau. It isnâ€™t landownersâ€™ responsibility to do law enforcementâ€™s job, she said.
â€œWe in no way condone underage drinking. We donâ€™t want these parties on our land, either,â€ she said. â€œBut we donâ€™t think this billâ€™s going to stop partying one little bit. All itâ€™s going to do is put an undue burden on the landowner.â€
The Senate Judiciary Committee did act on the bill on Monday.