Louisiana’s legal drinking age will remain 21, after a state senator Tuesday shelved his proposal to let some younger people buy alcoholic beverages if they’re educated about the risks before imbibing.
Sen. Eric LaFleur said he was trying to promote mature behavior and education about the damaging effects of binge drinking with the approach offered in a bill he called the Louisiana Responsible Adult Consumption Act.
The measure would have created a certification program allowing 19- and 20-year-olds to buy beer, wine and liquor if they take education courses about the harmful effects of alcohol. He said that because alcohol is off-limits, people under the age of 21 sneak around, overindulge and drink in dangerous ways.
“There is a way to do it responsibly. This is what we’re trying to promote in this bill,” LaFleur, a Ville Platte Democrat, told the Senate Judiciary B Committee. “We don’t need them hiding out anymore.”
Those who completed the program for 19- and 20-year-olds would have gotten an alcohol consumption certificate they could present to buy and drink alcoholic beverages.
LaFleur’s colleagues seemed sympathetic in a state often known for its joie-de-vivre attitude, extensive festival and parade culture, and embrace of alcoholic beverages.
“It’s really about responsibility. It’s really about education. And it’s really about keeping them out of the shadows,” said Rep. Gary Smith, a Norco Democrat and chairman of the committee.
But LaFleur ran into a wide array of concerns and criticism – including from Gov. John Bel Edwards’ administration – since he filed the proposal, and he announced Tuesday that he was pulling the measure from consideration.
“We’re not going to proceed any further with the bill,” he said.
Louisiana State Police Col. Kevin Reeves suggested reticence based on public safety concerns. Alcohol and Tobacco Control Commissioner Juana Marine-Lombard and Transportation and Development Secretary Shawn Wilson outlined concerns the measure could cost the state millions in lost federal aid for roadwork and highway safety programs.
“That is certainly, certainly a concern,” Smith said. “We’re all for education and we’re all for responsible individuals when it comes to this. But the dollars are very, very important to our state.”
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