Students from Iowa State University were at the Capitol Thursday lobbying for a bill they believe will save the lives of underage drinkers on college campuses.
The bill is designed to get young people to seek help when someone is incapacitated from too much alcohol.
ISU Student Body President Cole Staudt recalls returning home with a drunken friend who was borderline unresponsive.
“I thought to myself, probably he should see someone, but I'm 19 years old,” Staudt recalls. “If I get in trouble with the law my world is over.”
Fortunately Staudt was still awake when he heard the sound of his friend throwing up. He was able to clear the friend’s airways, but he believes it could have turned out very badly.
“It’s possible my friend wouldn't be with us today,” Staudt concludes.
Students are now lobbying for a bill that would allow an underage drinker to call for help while remaining protected from prosecution for alcohol violations, such as underage possession or public intoxication.
“We've been working with chiefs of police at certain universities and certain towns in Iowa who are fully in favor of this bill,” said Montana Crow, Director of Government Affairs for the Government of the Student Body at ISU.
The students explain that the immunity does not extend to anyone else involved, and does not cover other non-alcohol crimes the students may have committed.
“It only applies to the person calling and the person called for,” Staudt said.
Action on the bill was deferred after an official with the Iowa Department of Transportation warned that if the bill becomes law, Iowa could lose federal highway dollars. However, backers say 36 states have passed similar laws.
The bill has already passed the Iowa Senate. Initially, it included similar protection for someone calling for help in the event of an opioid overdose.
That provision was removed from the bill.
“One way to save some of these people and make sure they get help would be to enact medical amnesty for that issue as well,” said Rep. Mary Wolfe (D-Clinton.)