SA?s alcohol policy goes to committee

Tony Gorder

Tony GorderEditor-in-Chief

South Dakota may soon see a new law that originated from a push within student government.

The South Dakota Senate Judiciary Committee will hear testimony and vote Feb. 17 on whether to bring S.B. 141 to the Senate floor. S.B. 141 is what’s commonly referred to as a Good Samaritan alcohol law. The bill grants immunities and forgiveness for certain alcohol related offenses if someone under 21 years old contacts authorities to save the life of another person or themselves.

SA passed a resolution on Sept. 7 supporting the pursuance of passing a Good Samaritan alcohol law. Afterward, members of SA and Student Federation, a student government body made up of representatives from schools that fall under the Board of Regents, lobbied legislators and tried to find sponsors to introduce the bill.

“We actually ended up getting all of our sponsors on one of the first days of session,” SA Sen. Mark York said. “We went out to Pierre and just talked to them all in the halls, wherever we could find them.”

Sen. Larry Tidemann, R-Brookings, is a sponsor of the bill.

“He was really excited about it,” York said. “We’re happy to have him.”

Tidemann could not be reached for comment.

Sen. Craig Tieszen, R-Rapid City, a retired Rapid City law enforcement officer of 32 years, is a co-sponsor of the bill and chair of the Judiciary Committee. He said he is a supporter of the idea, but has some reservations due to problems of clarity.

“I support the concept,” he said, “I’m concerned that the bill as it’s currently written may be flawed in that the current bill doesn’t make it clear that only minor consumption tickets can be forgiven.”

The bill currently states that immunity is given from “certain alcohol consumption related offenses.”

Tieszen said he is unsure if the bill will pass.

“We have lots of different thoughts here in the capitol. There are people that want to make sure that everyone who can go to jail does go to jail,” Tieszen said. “I know that the legislators I’ve talked to seem to understand the concept and think the greater good will result if we forgive an offense to save somebody’s life.”

York stressed that the idea behind the law is not to get people out of trouble.

“I just think a law that encourages people to leave their seriously ill friends alone in the hall or drive drunk is something that should be look at and changed,” he said.