Expanding a deterrent for drinking

Several community members are continuing to advocate for the passing of social host ordinances in Hamilton County as a statewide bill goes to Iowa Governor Terry Branstad.

Mickie Shubin, prevention specialist at Community and Family Resources in Webster City, was one of five members of the Strategic Prevention Framework State Incentive Grant, SPF SIG, committee that met on Tuesday afternoon. The committee has talked with city councils across the county to encourage them to pass a social host ordinance. Shubin said the social host ordinance can penalize those who knowingly allow underage drinking on their property.

“Some people think that the issue is the access to alcohol. The issue with social host is we’re trying to address the people that are providing the place for them to consume the alcohol,” Shubin said.

Both the Iowa House and Senate have passed a bill similar to the social host ordinances the committee has pushed for. Under the bill, the owner or renter of a property who hosts a party with alcohol where youth under the age of 18 are present could be charged with a simple misdemeanor and face a $200 fine, according to Shubin.

However, unlike the ordinances they have advocated for, the state bill does not address legal adults who are not able to legally drink between the ages of 18 and 20. Still, Shubin said the bill allows communities who have an ordinance on the books to continue to enforce it as is. The bill may be signed by Branstad by July 1. Shubin said that despite the differences between the state bill and local social host ordinances, both function as a good way to stop underage drinking.

“It makes it harder for young people to drink alcohol, so they will drink less and there will be less harm,” Shubin said. “That’s the main thing that we’re trying to accomplish.”

Webster City passed a social host ordinance in 2011. Randall passed it in September of 2013. The committee is looking to get other communities in Hamilton County to pass an ordinance which includes more restrictions than the state bill. Webster City Police Chief Brian Hughes was scheduled to be at the meeting, but was not able to attend. Shubin said that in a prior conversation with Hughes, he said the Webster City Police Department had charged people under the social host ordinance about five times. Shubin said that Hughes said it has helped officers in several cases and has been a beneficial ordinance for the city.