State Representative John Frey (R – Ridgefield) applauded Governor Malloy for his signature of approval for a bill that would help keep alcohol out of the hands of minors.
HB 5360 – An Act Prohibiting Certain Persons From Allowing Minors To Possess Alcoholic Liquor In Dwelling Units And On Private Property will improve current state law by holding parents and property owners more accountable for any underage drinking that takes place in their home or on their property.
State Rep. john Frey introduced and became the leading proponent of the bill after a series of alcohol related motor vehicle accidents which have taken place in Ridgefield over the past few years – several of which resulted in the tragic deaths of young adults from Ridgefield who were seen beforehand drinking at a private residence while the property owners or other adults were present.
Rep. Frey built a bipartisan coalition of nineteen House and Senate legislators including leadership of the General Law, Public Safety, Transportation and Judiciary Committees. On May 5th the House of Representatives passed the bill 135-0 and on May 9th – with four minutes remaining in the legislative session – the State Senate passed the bill 36-0.
During the initial committee process, Frey urged members of the Judiciary Committee to enhance HB 5360 by including additional language that would make property owners, parents and other adults more legally responsible for underage drinking during their social events. Rep. Frey also fought to increase the penalty for a first offense of breaking social hosting laws from an infraction to a Class A Misdemeanor.
According to Frey, the additional language was designed to further prevent and discourage any social event that would potentially host underage drinking.
“This legislation places stricter punishments upon anyone who would knowingly, recklessly or with criminal negligence endanger minors by letting them drink on their property,” said Frey. “With more households hosting parties during the upcoming summer months the passage of this bill comes at a crucial time.”
While Rep. Frey was pleased the pre-emptive legislation was passed with full support from his colleagues in the legislature and the Governor, he expressed that the legislation can only go so far and acknowledged that most of the responsibility lies with parents to make sure the proper precautions are taken to prevent any underage drinking.
“Parents and other adults are in the best position to deter and prevent underage drinking parties, but some fail to take reasonable steps to do so,” said Rep. Frey. “Well publicized social host laws can be effective at encouraging more parents and adults to step up their responsibility – enforcing underage drinking laws and keeping youth and the public safe is a collective responsibility.”
Rep. Frey also explained for purposes of this bill, a minor is defined as someone under the legal drinking age of 21. It does not change current statute permitting parents to serve alcohol to their own children.
Rep. Frey thanked the Ridgefield Community Coalition Against Substance Abuse, and specifically Ridgefield First Selectman Rudy Marconi and Ridgefield Police Chief John Roche for advocating for the bill, including testifying in Hartford before the Judiciary Committee. In addition, he thanked the Division of Criminal Justice and Chief State’s Attorney Kevin Kane for assistance in drafting the final language of the legislation that was adopted.