SA seeks to make good samaritan bill into law

Nick Lowrey

It’s Saturday night and like any other weekend evening students are being students. One of them has a little too much fun and winds up convulsing on the floor, eventually every one else stops laughing and starts to realize there’s a serious problem. That’s when they leave, and the roommate is left with two options: call for an ambulance and risk a minor consumption ticket or hope and pray their friend wakes up in the morning.

It’s scenes like this that have the SDSU Students’ Association heading for Pierre to lobby in support of Senate Bill 86, a bill that would allow underage drinkers to call for medical help without fear of prosecution.

The bill is intended to encourage underage drinkers to seek help when needed. Under current law, if an underage person who has been drinking calls 911 to help someone else, they can be prosecuted. SA and other supporters of the bill say the current law only discourages people from calling for help when they need it.

Last year the bill sailed through the Senate, coming just one vote shy of passing unanimously. The bill then went to the House where it was killed in committee. This year the bill will again start in the Senate, with Senator Larry Tiedemann as its sponsor. Representative Mark Kirkeby is the bill’s House sponsor.

SA President Mark York, who spent two years as a Community Assistant in Young Hall, has seen firsthand what the current laws can lead to.

“Under the current system people are afraid they’ll be punished for doing the right thing,” he said. “They don’t want to drive to the hospital so they’ll put someone in the hall and call the cops or they’ll just wait it out.”

The Good Samaritan Law, as it is currently called, is intended to encourage people who need medical help to get it.

“It’s about getting [students] to call in before the cops even arrive on the scene”, said Jameson Berreth, SA’s State and Local Government committee chair.

SA members will be going to the state capitol in an effort to win support not only for the Good Samaritan bill but also for other bills that could benefit students and the University. One bill with the potential to have the most impact is HB 1051, the 10-year capital improvement plan for the Board of Regents.

Both SA and the BOR are supporting the bill, however, the BOR will do most of the lobbying. HB 1051 has the potential to authorize SDSU to build several new academic buildings, including a new facility for architecture, mathematics and engineering.

Another bill SA is supporting is Governor Daugaard’s budget proposal, which, among other things, authorizes faculty to get a pay raise for the first time in three years.

“It’s a pretty good year for students,” Berreth said. “It looks like the Opportunity Scholarship is doing fine and most of the stuff that has been at risk in the past hasn’t been brought up at all. Basically, as far as money goes, we’re looking pretty good.”

According to Berreth, SA has been working locally to promote student issues as well. Last semester they effectively lobbied the Brookings City Council in support of the new Buffalo Wild Wings being built near campus.

York said SA is also looking at creating an Energy Efficiency Revolving Fund. This idea would add a small amount to the General Activity Fee, which would then be put aside for use on energy efficiency projects. Once enough money has been collected, the addition to the fee would be removed.

“It would save money in the long run but the university doesn’t have enough money to pay for it right now,” York said.

According to York, Berreth and SA Senator Kaytlin Pelton, this semester SA also plans to restart the conversation about a campus wide smoking ban that was proposed last year.

“We’re starting to get ready to get more student involvement on that,” Pelton said.

According to Pelton, SA is also working to interact with students more and increase student involvement. The idea is to let students know they can have an impact on decisions that directly affect them and the money they spend on tuition.

“We want to let people know that this is where change happens,” Berreth said.