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Members of ASMSU plan to testify in support of amnesty bill

October 13, 2009

Members of ASMSU will visit Lansing today to champion a bill that would protect minors from prosecution if they seek medical help for alcohol overconsumption.

Staff from the group’s Governmental Affairs department, as well as several officials from ASMSU’s Student Assembly, will testify before the House of Representatives Judiciary Committee in support of the medical amnesty bill.

ASMSU is MSU’s undergraduate student government.

The bill, sponsored by state Rep. Mark Meadows, D-East Lansing, would protect minors from receiving a minor in possession, or MIP, if medical attention is sought due to overconsumption.

“We’ve been working for about a year now to gain support and … we’re feeling pretty confident about the committee meeting,” said Marvin Yates, ASMSU’s director of governmental affairs.

Meadows, who chairs the House Judiciary Committee, said he is happy the bill is being brought before committee. He said he did not believe any of the committee’s members oppose the bill.

“I’m expecting it to go very smooth,” he said.

Meadows said some of the bill’s original language has changed because of concerns about the potential for minors to abuse its provisions. He said the changes were necessary to maximize support for the bill.

“Virtually every piece of legislation could be abused by someone,” he said. “We lessened that concern with some minor language changes.”

Three weeks ago, the East Lansing City Council unanimously adopted a resolution expressing support for the bill. ASMSU, which first introduced a Good Samaritan bill of its own late last year, also asked East Lansing officials to adopt an ordinance preventing minors who overconsume from being cited when they seek help.

East Lansing police Chief Tom Wibert, who supports the bill, said the city was unable to enact an ordinance because state law requires police officers to issue citations any time minors consume alcohol. Although drafting an ordinance would be illegal, Wibert said his department’s policy has been to seek medical help before issuing MIPs.

“We don’t want (fear of repercussions) to prevent people from calling,” Wibert said.

Kirsten Lamb, a senior Russian major, said she has mixed feelings about the bill because there is no legal precedent to help determine the impact it might create.

“I think that people should be able to get the medical treatment they need, but does that necessarily waive breaking the law, as well?” she said.

Paul Goldblatt, director of MSU’s Department of Residence Life, said he supports the bill.

He said although he did not know specific numbers regarding students who don’t call for help when they should, mentors have told him it happens. If the legislation becomes law, he said Residence Life will continue to address underage drinking from an educational standpoint.

“For me, the primary concern is getting students the help that they need,” he said.

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