Julia Sherman Contrasts "Brown Jug" Bill With Alaska Law

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Julia Sherman Contrasts "Brown Jug" Bill With Alaska Law

Premiere Date: 
September 20, 2013

UW Law School's alcohol policy expert describes how the bill differs from the Alaska law.

 

Episode Transcript: 

Frederica Freyberg:

I spoke with Scott Stenger earlier today. One of the state’s top experts on alcohol policy watched this bill take shape in Alaska and now in Wisconsin.  She says, the devil is in the details, particularly when curbing underage drinking. She says the two measures are not alike. Julia Sherman is the coordinator with the Wisconsin Alcohol Policy Project at the UW Law School. She provided written testimony at the hearing on the Brown Jug Bill. Ms. Sherman joins us now. Thanks very much for doing so.

Julia Sherman:

My pleasure.

Frederica Freyberg:

So I understand that you believe that this bill would not be effective in Wisconsin in curbing underage drinking. Why not?

Julia Sherman:

There are several aspects of this program as it operates in Alaska that are simply not present in the bill that’s before the legislature. Underage drinking has decreased in both Alaska and Wisconsin. But we don't know if the Brown Jug was the reason underage drinking decreased in Alaska. They have alcohol age-compliance checks, they jacked their beer tax up way high.

They’ve done a number of other things that will reduce and prevent underage drinking. Just looking at the Brown Jug, this bill simply creates a right of action, the ability of a licensee to go to small claims court and collect $1,000 from someone underage, or their parents if they’re under 18, if that young person tries to buy alcohol. The program in Alaska is very, very different.

In Alaska, while you have the right of action, the recovery is a fracture of what the licensee pays for if they are convicted to selling to underage. And in Wisconsin you can't suspend a license for selling to underage drinkers, and in Alaska you get a suspension for seven days. So there is that dichotomy right there. But in addition, what you have in Alaska is you have-- The recovery is divided. Part of it goes as a bounty to the clerk. That's not present in this bill. Another portion goes to an external organization that provides alcohol education and administerses the program. That's not present in the bill. And the third part is donated to charity, it doesn’t go to the retailer. In Wisconsin, bounty goes to-- The whole thing goes to the retailer.

Frederica Freyberg:

The Tavern League suggests this bill in Wisconsin would be deterrent, because it would be posted in the bar or in the liquor store. You could face $1,000 lawsuit. They think that will help keep these kids with these fake IDs out of these establishments.

Julia Sherman:

Overall, just greater penalties doesn't create a greater deterrent. We’ve learned that in Wisconsin with impaired driving. We jack up the penalties, we increase them, many believe they should still be higher, but that doesn’t necessarily deter the behavior.

Frederica Freyberg:

What does?

Julia Sherman:

We’ve discovered that the best way, the evidenced-based way, to prevent and reduce underaged drinking is a program of alcohol age-compliance checks like they have in Alaska.

Every year, every Alaskan retailer has got a alcohol age-compliance check with a youth decoy accompanied by law enforcement, attempts to purchase alcohol. If that entity sells to the youth, the clerk is fined and the licensee gets his license suspended for seven days. That's not possible in Wisconsin.

Frederica Freyberg:

We have some of those compliance checks, but not enough?

Julia Sherman:

Wisconsin, sadly, defunded. It terminated all state support for alcohol age-compliance checks a few years ago. Many communities still conduct them, but it's on the property taxpayer now and fewer communities actually hold them. In places like Dane County, where the Dane County sheriff was conducting it for many of the communities outside of Madison, they’re no longer to do it.

Frederica Freyberg:

The Tavern League told us, when we spoke with them earlier, that-- When I asked them what would be the best preventive method of keeping underage drinkers out of the bars and from drinking, they thought that lowering the drinking age would be the best idea. What's your response to that?

Julia Sherman:

Well, changing the law so that it makes it legal would reduce the number of citations, but it will make the problem worse! The goal here isn't to cite more people, or to not write more tickets. The goal is to prevent and reduce underage drinking. And the minimum legal drinking age has saved thousands of lives. It's gotten alcohol out of our high schools, and it's probably one of the best public health moves we have made in a century.

Frederica Freyberg:

We need to leave it there. Julia Sherman, thanks very much.

Julia Sherman:

You're more than welcome.


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